Terry Francona better be right.
The Cleveland Indians’ manager ideally put a lot of thought into his response to Tuesday’s report from The Athletic. He was hopefully as truthful as possible when addressing claims that Cleveland knew more about the lewd behavior of former pitching coach Mickey Callaway than it initially indicated, that team president Chris Antonetti lied when saying he never received complaints about Callaway’s conduct.
Because when you respond to a story like that the way Francona did Tuesday, insisting that nobody with the Indians has “ever deliberately covered up for anybody,” you do so knowing that claim will be investigated further. You do so with the understanding that you’ll be held to such a statement if it turns out to be deceitful.
After all, that’s what brought us this latest report in the first place.
When responding to The Athletic’s February 1 story on Callaway -- which featured multiple women detailing numerous unwanted advances from him -- Antonetti claimed no complaints had ever been raised about his former coach’s behavior. In hearing this statement, multiple people who interacted with Callaway while he was in Cleveland reportedly reached out to The Athletic to call Antonetti’s bluff.
Had he not said this, would we have learned about the incident with Callaway in 2017? The one that involved him sending "pornographic material" to a woman he was having an affair with? The one that was brought to Antonetti and Francona’s attention by calls from the woman’s husband?
Many fans responded to this story by highlighting the fact Callaway’s relationship with the woman was reportedly consensual, insisting this puts Cleveland in the clear.
But the nature of the relationship isn’t the concern here. The concern is Antonetti saying he never heard any complaints about Callaway’s behavior, only to have that claim deflated less than a month later.
Which brings us back to Francona.
In responding to Tuesday’s story, he opened his media session by first deciding now wasn’t the right time to answer any questions about it. Only after pressed further did he utter the above quote, the insistence that there have been no deliberate cover-ups within the organization.
If that’s the case, great. Francona has nothing to worry about. The truth is on his side.
Again, though, he’s answering questions about a story that surfaced primarily in response to a similar statement from Antonetti. If enough people were motivated to contact The Athletic after hearing him say he never received complaints about Callaway, it’s not a leap to assume the same could happen after the manager insists Cleveland never covered up for its former coach.
That’s what makes Francona’s response so risky. He was tasked with discussing a recent team claim that had just been debunked, and attempted to do so by offering a response that could potentially meet the same fate.
The subject of these reports is a former member of his staff, one who was reportedly blatant in his unwanted pursuit of multiple women. In Cleveland, these women felt uncomfortable about the idea of reporting Callaway’s advances. They felt the only realistic response was to warn others about him, to give them a heads up about “the Mickey treatment” they may receive.
These women are now coming forward, in part to stand up against the look-the-other-way nature Callaway was allowed to operate under for years. Knowing that, if there’s any falsity behind Francona saying that Cleveland never tried to cover up Callaway’s conduct, it won’t be long before we find out.
So, once again, he better be right. There better not have been any additional knowledge of Callaway’s disgusting behavior before these stories came out. And there better not have been an attempt by the team to prevent it from coming to light.
If there was, Francona’s response to this story will only end up making it worse. For him, for Antonetti and for the entire organization.
It’ll also further insult the women Callaway relentlessly pursued for years without consequence.