Mets fire Porter after 38 days for explicit texts in 2016
NEW YORK (AP) — Jared Porter lasted just 38 days as New York Mets general manager, fired for cause Tuesday about nine hours after ESPN reported he sent sexually explicit, uninvited text messages and images to a female reporter in 2016 while he was working for the Chicago Cubs.
Sandy Alderson, who returned as Mets president when Steven Cohen bought the team on Nov. 6, said he was stunned by the report. Alderson said baseball clubs may have to rethink the depth of hiring background checks, although he cautioned information of this age and nature might not have been uncovered no matter the level. He said the onus was on teams, not Major League Baseball, to vet employees.
“This is a wakeup call,” Alderson said during a news conference. “It clearly suggests that something like this can be out there in connection with almost anyone. And we have to do our best to make sure that we know about that information.”
ESPN reported Porter sent dozens of unanswered texts to the woman, including a picture of “an erect, naked penis.” ESPN said it obtained a copy of the text history, and some of the messages and photos Porter sent were displayed in the report online.
Major League Baseball will investigate Porter, a person familiar with its decision said, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made. Porter, 41, could be subject to discipline by MLB that would prevent him from working in baseball for some length of time or ever, depending on the severity.
Porter did not return a text from the AP seeking comment.
His brief term was less than half that of Carlos Beltrán, let go as Mets manager on Jan. 16 last year after 77 days in the fallout for his role in the 2017 Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal.
Alderson, 73, was the Mets’ general manager from 2010-18 in the latter stage of the team’s ownership by the Wilpon and Katz families, then stepped down due to a cancer diagnosis and the team’s poor play. When he returned under Cohen, he intended to hire a president of baseball operations, then abandoned that in favor of bringing aboard a GM. Porter, previously an assistant GM in Arizona, was hired Dec. 13 and given a four-year contract.
Alderson said the team conducted a background check that included references from multiple organizations and individuals, including people who knew him in college.
“There wasn’t really a dissenting voice,” Alderson said. “So, from my standpoint, I was shocked. And eventually that gives way to disappointment and a little bit of anger.”
Alderson admitted the Mets did not consult with any women when Porter was hired. There are few women working in baseball operations departments, and only in November was Kim Ng hired by Miami from the commissioner’s office as the first woman general manager.
“That’s one of the unfortunate circumstances that exists in the game today. There aren’t women in those positions with whom one can have a conversation and develop information or check references,” said Alderson, who added he thought the situation was “more of an indictment of our society than it is just about the industry.”
Alderson learned about ESPN’s upcoming story from Porter at about 5:30 p.m. Monday, and Alderson said the Mets spoke with Porter to get his side. Alderson received a copy of the report at around 10:15 p.m., about 45 minutes before it was posted online.
Alderson had a brief conversation with Cohen at approximately 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, then called Porter to fire him.
“In my initial press conference, I spoke about the importance of integrity and I meant it,” Cohen tweeted around 8 a.m. “There should be zero tolerance for this type of behavior.”
“Those are the kinds of things that this organization, many others find abhorrent and not tolerable in any shape or form,” Alderson said. “So we responded, as I think, quickly as we possibly could, given the fact that we needed to sort out the facts and deliberate on this.”
During a 45-minute news conference, Alderson was asked about a gender discrimination complaint filed last year against Cohen’s company, Point72 Asset Management, with the Commission on Human Rights in Connecticut by Sara Vavra, a former trading group head. The complaint was reported on this month by The New York Times.
Bloomberg reported Shannon Gitlin, who works in Point72’s investor relations department, filed a grievance with that commission last year.
Alderson said that when he returned to the Mets, his vision for the franchise “involved a very significant emphasis on integrity, on ethical behavior, on moral courage” and that “Steve was totally on board with that approach.”
In the future, more in-depth probing may be employed, including FBI-level investigations, Alderson said.
Porter will not be immediately replaced. Alderson will increase his attention on Mets baseball operations and said he is likely to increase the responsibility of Zack Scott, who interviewed for GM and was hired Dec. 23 as senior vice president and assistant general manager.
John Ricco, Alderson’s former assistant and the Mets’ current senior vice president and senior strategy officer, also is part of the front office group advising Alderson along with Tommy Tanous, the vice president of international and amateur scouting; Bryn Alderson, the director of professional scouting and Sandy’s son; Ben Zauzmer, recently hired from the Dodgers for research and development; Joe Lefkowitz, also in Mets R&D; and Ian Levin, the senior director of baseball operations.
ESPN said the woman Porter sent the texts to was a foreign correspondent who had moved to the United States to cover MLB. She met Porter in a Yankee Stadium elevator in June 2016, and she said they spoke briefly about international baseball and exchanged business cards. She told ESPN that was the only time they ever spoke.
After text exchanges that began casually, Porter started complimenting her looks, inviting her to meet him in different cities and asking why she was ignoring him, ESPN said. The woman ignored more than 60 messages from Porter before he sent the most vulgar photo, according to ESPN.
The woman told ESPN she intentionally tried to avoid Porter at a couple of big league ballparks and his texts ultimately contributed to her decision to leave journalism and return to her home country.
Porter texted apologies to the woman in 2016 after she saw the naked picture and wrote to him that his messages were “extremely inappropriate, very offensive, and getting out of line,” ESPN reported.
Alderson said he addressed roughly 400 Mets employees Tuesday about Porter’s firing, on which he said there was “virtually unanimous agreement.”
“Steve has talked about zero tolerance. And I think that for incidents of this type and this magnitude or any incidents that approach this kind of magnitude, that’s the response,” Alderson said.
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