Linda: Baseball has a serious culture problem. We’ve seen it. We’ve acknowledged it and yet nothing changes. Porter is the latest flashing light on the marquee advertising “there is no place for you here.” This whole offseason has been reporters bemoaning the fact they have to vote for Omar Vizquel despite the fact he is a domestic abuser. They write articles about it, make TV appearances about it, which makes it all about a privileged man and how awful it is for them instead of a victim who suffered at the hands of her husband. It’s Fantatics advertising they have nice, shiny new Lindor jerseys and none available in women’s sizes. It’s the entire baseball world propping up Rachel Luba and Trevor Bauer, who have no issue perpetuating the culture that makes it so hard for women to break into, thrive in, and at the very least feel welcome in. It’s Howie Rose taking to Twitter to tell women they are wrong when they speak up about Luba and Bauer so even when we do find our voices there is a man there to shut us down. Flashing light after flashing light after flashing light saying you aren’t wanted.
Porter is just the latest. Obviously he felt he could sexually harass a reporter and feel no repercussions. Brandon Taubman clearly felt the same and the only way he felt consequences was because there were too many witnesses around. Trevor Bauer can continually harass women on Twitter and is still free to do whatever he wants just because he has a woman as an agent. The culture allows these men to feel emboldened to treat women however they want. When the Astros traded for Roberto Osuna there was outrage around baseball that a team could directly take advantage of a domestic violence suspension.
That occurred in 2018. Has there been a rule change to prevent that? That would be a big old nope. You know what rules have changed? A runner on second in extra innings. Shortened double headers. The three batter rule for relievers. A temporary DH in the National League. Cutting minor league teams. I see you baseball. I see your priorities. Women are not and will never be a priority for baseball. Porter worked for Theo Epstein who is now in the Commissioner’s office. The same Epstein who gave Addison Russell the benefit of the doubt and traded for Aroldis Chapman. I am so damn tired. Nothing changes. There will be outrage for one news cycle and then the DH will be adopted by the National League and everyone will become distracted and nobody will talk about the real issues anymore. The marquee keeps flashing at me and eventually I will finally take the hint to keep on walking by instead of loving something that will never love me back.
Allison: Distilling this incident into a simple “LOLMets” is to ignore the pervasiveness of this problem both across baseball and in society at large. It’s truly hard to sit down and find the words to write about this because what new things are there to say about it at this point? There are a lot of adjectives one can use to describe Jared Porter’s conduct: nauseating, horrific, infuriating. But I cannot say it is surprising.
Don’t get me wrong, it is certainly good that the Mets did the right thing in acting swiftly to relieve Porter of his position. But this is the absolute bare minimum. When I woke up in the morning and saw that Porter had been fired, “proud” would not be an accurate descriptor of how I felt as a Mets fan. “Relief” is the better characterization of what I felt. We should not be handing out medals for simply not indulging abusers, which the Mets have a history of doing. We should not be pinning gold stars on the lapels of male industry members for not sending unsolicited pictures of their genitals to their female colleagues. Now is not the time for “not all men” rhetoric. Now is not the time to continue to uphold Rachel Luba as a “girl boss” and bastion of progress, as she willfully represents one of the worst serial harassers in the sport, as well as another player accused of sexual battery. Now is not the time to overlook the fact that Steve Cohen and his company have been sued for gender and pay discrimination in the past. The bar should be higher than basic human decency.
Toxic masculinity in baseball is a cancer and excising one tumor, while helpful, is not a cure. Hiring more women (and more non-cisgendered, heterosexual, white men in general), while helpful, is not a cure. It would do us all well to remember that women not breaking through in male-dominated industries is not out of a lack of desire, passion, or competence. It is because they are constantly chased out of the industry by powerful men who abuse their power to maintain the status quo. It took Kim Ng thirty years to get the same job Jared Porter had until a few hours ago. For every report like this we see, there are many more incidents that we know nothing about because they are never reported. Positive progress in fixing this requires radical, top-to-bottom cultural change, which frankly, I am not confident in baseball’s ability to pull off.
To the cries of “cancel culture,” I have this to say in response: This is not cancel culture. This is accountability. This is consequences for one’s actions, which can be hard to swallow if one is not used to facing them. I am not concerned about Jared Porter. He will be fine, as will all of the “Nice Guys” out there not getting enough praise for simply acting like human beings. I am concerned about victims. To do right by them, firing Jared Porter needs to be the beginning, not the end.
Maggie: I felt a momentary sense of relief when the Mets announced this morning that they had fired Porter, relieved that we were past the “make two or three non-committal statements over an excruciating week before finally falling into doing the right thing” era of Mets PR disasters, but it was only momentary. First and foremost, nothing can undone the harm that was done to Porter’s victim. Nothing can erase the fear and shame and disempowerment that Porter caused. And nothing can restore the career that she lost as a result of his actions.
Porter’s damage is done and consequences levied by the Mets and MLB are just a proxy for restorative justice, a poor proxy at that, and the best we can hope is that the message gets through to the other Jared Porters out there that they do not have carte blanche to harass and intimidate those around them, no matter how much of a “rising star” they are.
Because, make no mistake, there are many Jared Porters and like the Jared Porter of current notoriety, they have little reason to expect they will be caught (most are not) or that they will experience meaningful consequences (most do not). Every time an abuser gets a wrist-slap, the rest of them notice. Every time an abuser is quietly rehired on account of having “learned a lesson”, the rest of them notice. Abusers behave as though there is no disincentive for abuse because that is a largely accurate description of reality.
Firing Jared Porter was just the first step of the long journey to undo this construction of a world framed around enabling and empowering abusive men. Step two is for no other teams to low-key bring him on “in a consulting role” a few months from now in a transparent attempt to rehabilitate his image. Step three is to build a culture that encourages women and other victims of abuse to come forward without fear of retribution, so that people like Porter don’t get to spend years making big money and building a “good guy” network to insulate themselves from repercussions before actually being called to task for their choices. And step four is to do the same thing the next time, whether it’s an all-star player, a “proven winner” executive, or a well-liked sports journalist.
If baseball, and the rest of the world it so frequently distills, truly wants to reduce abuse in its ranks, it needs to be consistent, unwavering, and unhesitant in its response and unwilling to give even momentary consideration to such pathetic defenses as “this is not who I am” or “it was one mistake” (62 mistakes in Porter’s case, that we know of). This morning’s swift end to Porter’s tenure as Mets GM was a good, if ultimately insufficient, start.
Next week, the co-hosts of A Pod Of Their Own will discuss these topics further on the upcoming episode of the show. Be sure to give it a listen when it drops on January 27.