Late last night as I was fuming about the Cubs‘ inability to sign Jon Lester to a one-year deal (something I’ll write about later this week) I started getting a steady stream of texts, DMs and messages about now former Mets General Manager Jared Porter. The irony of my texts filling up about a guy who, well, sent a bunch of unsolicited texts to a reporter was not lost on me, but what most people are reporting as a story about the Mets is really a story about the Cubs. And as uncomfortable as it is to start my workweek this way, I think it’s important that we talk about it.
ESPN’s Mina Kimes and Jeff Passan reported late Monday night that when Jared Porter was the Cubs Director of Professional Scouting in 2016 he... well, I’ll just let you read what Kimes and Passan wrote:
The woman, a foreign correspondent who had moved to the United States to cover Major League Baseball, said at one point she ignored more than 60 messages from Porter before he sent the final lewd photo. The text relationship started casually before Porter, then the Chicago Cubs director of professional scouting, began complimenting her appearance, inviting her to meet him in various cities and asking why she was ignoring him. And the texts show she had stopped responding to Porter after he sent a photo of pants featuring a bulge in the groin area.
Porter continued texting her anyway, sending dozens of messages despite the lack of a response. On Aug. 11, 2016, a day after asking her to meet him at a hotel in Los Angeles, Porter sent the woman 17 pictures. The first 15 photos were of the hotel and its restaurants. The 16th was the same as an earlier photo of the bulge in the pants. The 17th was of a bare penis.
At this risk of opening up about some things that I try really hard to compartmentalize I have to say that nothing about this surprised me. If you take some time this week to talk to the women in your life about this story I would imagine it wouldn’t really surprise them either. I don’t have any scientific data to prove that we’ve all been in this reporter’s position, but I’ve had my fair share of conversations that went exactly like this and so have most of my friends. I am not surprised by any of this, I am just infuriated and tired.
I wrote the above for context. I am well aware this isn’t my personal blog and no one logged in today to hear about the pit in your stomach that comes with fielding dozens of unsolicited, inappropriate and escalating messages from people who could be in a position to hurt your career. But I think it’s important context for the rest of this piece, because the Cubs response so far has been inadequate. Again.
For starters, they are going to need to do more than this statement they released to ESPN:
“This story came to our attention tonight and we are not aware of this incident ever being reported to the organization.”
“Had we been notified, we would have taken swift action as the alleged behavior is in violation of our code of conduct,” the team said. “While these two individuals are no longer with the organization, we take issues of sexual harassment seriously and plan to investigate the matter.”
I am not going to go quite as far as this Deadspin piece that was published this morning alleging that the ESPN story “points to the organization being aware of the situation, in contrast to the team’s statement.” Jesse Spector bases that assertion on evidence in the ESPN piece that the reporter talked to a lawyer who put her in contact with a Cubs employee:
The woman and the employee met during the 2016 postseason in Chicago. The woman did not want to identify the employee publicly because she feared retribution. The employee, she said, told her Porter wanted to apologize in person. She said she did not want to see him. The employee, she said, encouraged her to use the situation to her advantage. She said he pressed her numerous times on whether she planned to file a lawsuit against Porter.
In an interview on Monday, the employee confirmed he knows Porter and the woman and that he had discussed the situation with both. When asked by ESPN if he told the woman to use the situation to her advantage, the employee said: “I was just listening to both. I didn’t want to ruin anything. I didn’t want to be on one side.”
That piece continues:
The woman said she remained in touch with the Cubs employee and saw him at spring training in 2017, when she said she was still considering filing a lawsuit. The employee became angry, she said, and they haven’t spoken since. The employee denied getting angry, adding that “whenever I was talking to her, I was basically listening to her.”
This is incredibly messy for the Cubs, because there was clearly an ongoing conversation between this reporter and at least one team employee to try and reach a resolution on an abhorrent situation involving sexual harassment by a member of the Front Office. I don’t think we have evidence that points to a planned, organization-wide coverup, but sexism and misogyny thrive in the space between team culture and full-blown coverup. So we need to take a closer look at this situation because I do think we have pretty solid evidence that the 2016 Cubs just didn’t want to know about certain things, and so, they didn’t.
Remember, this was the best Cubs team in over a hundred years with so much pressure on them to win that they traded for Aroldis Chapman the same year he was suspended under MLB’s domestic violence policy. This was the same team that seemed relieved there wasn’t an in-depth investigation of Addison Russell’s domestic abuse in 2017 before that situation resurfaced in all its horror at the end of the 2018 season and well into 2019. Let’s be clear, Jared Porter was already working for the Diamondbacks by the time the Cubs did an organizational mea culpa, instituting training on domestic abuse and other issues for staff, players and their families. It is entirely unclear based on what we know at this time if that training would have surfaced this story sooner.
What appears clear is that prior to 2018 the Cubs didn’t want to critically examine a lot of things and Porter operated in an environment that allowed him to send 62 unsolicited texts to a reporter including lewd pictures. MLB is planning to investigate the situation further:
The Cubs should also make good on their promise to fully investigate this situation. They should do so in a transparent way with President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer communicating regularly with fans. If that investigation finds any individuals still currently with the Cubs who were engaged in a cover-up of Porter’s actions, those people should be shown the door. It is not enough to say you didn’t know when you clearly had a team culture that didn’t want to know.