Harassment Problems from baseball Spread Well Beyond Jared Porter
Women suffer indignities throughout the game that their male counterparts barely even acknowledge. The abhorrent treatment of a reporter by Porter is just the latest case.
Jared Porter didn't give the Mets any preference. Late Monday night, Porter was as good as gone, after ESPN reported the lurid details of his lecherous pursuit of a female reporter in 2016. Up to 8 a.m. Steven A. Cohen, the owner of the Mets, fired his newly hired general manager on Tuesday.
It was Cohen's brief ownership of the Mets' first crisis, and he managed it swiftly, without error. While any other decision would have defied logic, it was refreshing. You put out the fire if your house is on fire. The more it burns, the worse it is going to get.
This makes it two Januarys in a row before spring training, in which the Mets fired a newly hired top decision-maker. Carlos Beltran was dropped as manager last year for his role in the Houston Astros' cheating scandal. Porter has now texted his way out of a dream position as top lieutenant to Sandy Alderson, who in the interview process heard only rave reviews about Porter.
"There was really no voice of dissent," said Alderson, the president of the squad, who later admitted that he was not asking any women about Porter. "I was surprised from my point of view. That eventually gives way to irritation and a little bit of resentment. To us, this was a complete surprise.
Alderson said, citing his confidence in the rest of the front office and being in the late stage of the off-season, the Mets will continue without a replacement for Porter. Another finalist for the position of general manager, Zack Scott, was hired by the team in December as senior vice president and assistant general manager.
Yet this isn't a Mets story, actually. When Porter insulted the reporter, sending her a picture of a penis, another of a bulging crotch, and a torrent of 62 texts without a response, he worked for the Chicago Cubs and worked for the Arizona Diamondbacks when he was hired by the Mets.
The most troubling part of this saga is how the garbage that many women experience when working in and around baseball is graphically depicted.
"It's so exhausting," said author Molly Knight, an athletic senior writer who has been covering baseball for 15 years. "They're executives, they're athletes, they're P.R. Guys, they're authors. Everywhere it is. It's the culture there.
Knight said that the first time she interviewed a player, he repeatedly asked her for the name of her hotel. A Spanish-speaking player made sexually suggestive remarks about her to a teammate another time, she said, not understanding that she understood the language.
Each woman in the organization has similar stories and grapples with concerns that most male peers never have to consider. The motives of a source must be weighed by all reporters, but the issue is particularly fraught when the source might end up making sexual openings. It also forces women to choose between job responsibilities and personal comfort or protection.
"I didn't go to events or games or press conferences that would have helped my career, or helped a story I was working on, 100 percent, because I didn't want to run into someone who was creepy with me, and I know that I'm not alone," Knight said. You wonder how many people quit the organization because, particularly if they're young or just starting out, they didn't want to deal with it. "They might have an incident, and they might think, "Yep, it's not for me.
Their assistant general manager, Brandon Taubman, heckled female reporters in the clubhouse after the Astros won the 2019 American League Championship Series, gloating about the team's acquisition of pitcher Roberto Osuna, who was serving a suspension for domestic abuse when the Astros traded for him. Initially, the team supported Taubman and questioned the reporter's account before firing him three days later, which was confirmed by numerous witnesses.
As an assistant, Taubman was for the Astros, mostly in the background. Porter was positioned as general manager to be a public face of the Mets organization, a regular presence for news media alerts and explanations. Many reporters are trying to develop a close working relationship with the general manager, and the past of Porter would have made that difficult.
Holding Porter would have been a tacit confirmation for women in baseball of the sometimes hostile work climate. Alderson said that he recognized that actions like Porter's is all too prevalent.
"I think it is the industry's indictment, but more broadly, it is our society's indictment," Alderson said. "I think this is happening in a lot of places, and in too many places it is tolerated."
Porter was in the reporter's place of authority; she did not work for him, but in his role as the Cubs' experienced scouting officer, he may have assisted her as a source. His actions evidently took advantage of that, and displayed an appalling lack of judgement and common sense. Perhaps the prestige of Porter was largely a product of being in the right position at the right time, with the Cubs and the Boston Red Sox gathering a package of championship rings. As the Mets thought, he was not as sharp.
"A cultural shift, for one, is what we've talked about most," Porter said when he was hired on Dec. 14. "Adding good people, improving the organizational culture, to the organization."
Porter isn't going to be part of the culture. While Cohen's hedge fund firm, Point72 Asset Management, faced allegations of sexual assault and a lawsuit last summer about gender discrimination, Cohen tweeted Tuesday that he had "zero tolerance" for actions such as Porter's. Before his hiring, Alderson said in a meeting with Cohen that he wanted their office to be a source of pride.
My vision had a very important focus on honesty, ethical conduct, moral courage, since we were trying to build an atmosphere that could thrive, but would be remembered for how it worked," said Alderson." "And with that strategy, Steve was completely on board. He insisted, in truth, on it.'
Porter's shooting was the right move, and the only move. Yet his ascension sent an equally disturbing signal to women in baseball about the continuing cultural struggle.