The New York Mets fired general manager Jared Porter Tuesday morning in the wake of an ESPN story published Monday detailing Porter’s texting of explicit pictures to a female reporter five years ago. Porter, 41, was hired by the Mets in December, which at the time was regarded as a franchise-altering move by the team’s new majority owner, Steve Cohen.
In 2016, Porter served as the Cubs’ director of professional scouting and an assistant in a front office led by then-team president Theo Epstein and then-general manager Jed Hoyer. Porter joined the Arizona Diamondbacks later that year as assistant general manager. He previously worked for the Boston Red Sox, where he evaluated talent alongside both Epstein and Hoyer.
The ESPN story detailed how Porter sent more than 60 texts, including 17 photos, to the reporter. The reporter, who had met Porter while in an elevator at Yankee Stadium and had discussed international baseball prospects with him, stopped responding to Porter after his texts became incessant, aggressive and sexually graphic. Porter told ESPN the “more explicit photos”—including one of an erect penis—were not of him but rather “kinda like joke-stock images.”
“There should be zero tolerance,” Cohen tweeted in explaining his firing of Porter, “for this type of behavior.”
The woman whom Porter targeted is described as a journalist from a foreign country, where she was employed by a media company. She moved to the U.S. to cover Major League Baseball, a profession that requires building sources within front offices. The reporter recalled suffering anxiety and sleeplessness as a result of Porter’s conduct. She no longer works in journalism, in part, she told ESPN, because of Porter’s actions and the toll they took on her and her ability to excel in her job. To that point, ESPN had obtained Porter’s texts in 2017 but declined to run a story at the behest of the reporter, who worried her career would be harmed.
This disturbing situation invites an important question: Why did the Mets not know about the Porter scandal before hiring him?
In a statement, the Cubs—Porter’s former employer—claimed the team “was not aware of this incident ever being reported to the organization.” The team also assured that if Porter’s behavior had been reported, management would have taken “swift action as the alleged behavior is in violation of our code of conduct.”
For at least a few reasons, the Cubs’ explanation invites skepticism.
First, according to ESPN’s story, the reporter met with a Cubs employee who was from her home country. The meeting occurred after the reporter had been referred to an attorney. The two discussed Porter’s behavior and the employee repeatedly asked if the reporter planned to sue Porter (and, presumably, sue the Cubs as Porter’s employer). The employee was arguably acting on behalf of the Cubs, which had a clear stake in whether the reporter brought litigation.
In order to believe that Cubs management was unaware of Porter’s sexting, it would mean the employee didn’t report it to their supervisors or the human resources department. It would also suggest the Cubs lacked a culture where employees felt empowered to report allegations brought against team executives for sexual harassment, cyberbullying and indecent exposure. Likewise, Porter’s conduct raises concerns about how well the Cubs trained their executives in regard to appropriate boundaries with journalists.
Second, ESPN knew about the controversy in 2017. The idea that ESPN, a company with no relationship to Porter, knew but that the Cubs, Porter’s employer, did not is intriguing.
Third, Porter had worked with Epstein, whom MLB recently hired as a consultant to the commissioner’s office, and Hoyer for many years. He was hardly an unfamiliar figure. That doesn’t mean they knew about any misconduct, but they likely observed Porter interact with journalists and other media professionals. Did they do enough to monitor and guide him?
The Mets—just like the Diamondbacks in 2016—presumably conducted normal pre-hiring steps before offering Porter an employment contract. Those steps include a background check on whether Porter had been charged or convicted of a crime and whether he faced pending legal matters. Pre-hiring also involves reference checks. While those measures can reveal important information, they can also overlook crucial aspects of a candidate’s history.
The Mets would not have learned about the sexting scandal through a legal history search since the reporter declined to sue. There was no record to read. Reference checks and phone calls to persons familiar with a candidate are also not without limits. In some instances, references worry about being sued for defamation. They are also ordinarily under no legal obligation to share damaging information about someone they know and like.
Porter is the second baseball executive in recent years to mistreat female reporters. In 2019, Houston Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman aggressively praised Roberto Osuna, whom MLB had suspended for alleged acts of domestic violence, while in the presence of a group of female reporters—one of whom donned a domestic violence awareness bracelet. Taubman’s conduct was harshly criticized in a Sports Illustrated story and the Astros fired him.