Mets General Manager Jared Porter sent graphic, uninvited text messages and images to a female reporter in 2016 when he was working for the Chicago Cubs in their front office, ESPN reported Monday night.
Porter sent dozens of texts to the woman, concluding with a picture of "an erect, naked penis," according to the report. ESPN said it obtained a copy of the text history.
The team fired Porter Tuesday morning.
"We have terminated Jared Porter this morning. In my initial press conference I spoke about the importance of integrity and I meant it. There should be zero tolerance for this type of behavior," the team's new owner Steve Cohen tweeted.
New York hired the 41-year-old Porter last month. He agreed to a four-year contract after spending the past four seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks as senior vice president and assistant general manager.
Mets President Sandy Alderson had said in a Monday night statement the team had just learned of the allegations surrounding Porter, and that Porter had "taken responsibility for his conduct." In an updated statement Tuesday morning, Alderson confirmed Porter's termination was effective immediately. Alderson said that Porter had been apologetic regarding the incident, but an apology couldn't save his job.
"Jared's actions, as reflected by events disclosed last night, failed to meet the Mets' standards for professionalism and personal conduct," Alderson said. Later Tuesday, Alderson said he was "shocked" when he learned of Porter's behavior, and that there was no indication from other teams they talked to before making the hire that there was a history of impropriety.
"We got references from a variety of organizations, a number of individuals, people who have known known him for a long time, people who endorsed him who knew him from his earliest days in college — there wasn't really a dissenting voice," said Alderson while talking with reporters virtually. "So from my standpoint, I was shocked. And eventually that gives way to disappointment and a little bit of anger."
Alderson also admitted that during the hiring and vetting process, the organization did not speak with any women, saying the lack of women in leadership positions within the sport is "one of the unfortunate circumstances that exists in the game today."
"Look, this was a wake-up call. It clearly suggests that something like this can be out there with almost anyone, and we have to do our best to make sure that we know about that information," Alderson said, but noted that he doesn't think this incident "reflected a fundamental flaw in the process" of vetting and hiring someone.
"There are limits to what we can actually get, and particularly in a case where information is aged four or five years. It certainly raises questions that we have to reflect upon and decide whether things need to change," he said. "This is a very unfortunate circumstance we wish we had known about."
The woman was not identified in ESPN's report. ESPN said she chose to come forward recently only on condition of anonymity because she is afraid of backlash in her home country.
ESPN said the woman was a foreign correspondent who had moved to the United States to cover Major League Baseball. 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 began complimenting her appearance, inviting her to meet him in different cities and asking why she was ignoring him, ESPN said.
After he sent her a lewd picture, the woman ignored more than 60 messages from Porter before he sent the last vulgar photo, according to ESPN. The woman told ESPN she intentionally tried to avoid him at a couple of big league ballparks and the texts from Porter ultimately contributed to her decision to leave the journalism industry and return to her home country.
Porter texted an apology to the woman in 2016 after she saw the naked picture and wrote that his messages were “extremely inappropriate, very offensive, and getting out of line,” ESPN reported.
ESPN said it contacted Porter on Monday evening, and he acknowledged texting with the woman. At first, he said he hadn't sent any pictures of himself, but when informed the exchanges show he sent selfies and other pictures, he said “the more explicit ones are not of me. Those are like, kinda like joke-stock images,” ESPN reported.
After asking whether the outlet intended to run a story, Porter requested more time before later declining further comment, ESPN said.
It’s another embarrassing development for the Mets, who have energized fans by acquiring star shortstop Francisco Lindor and several other notable players since new owner Steve Cohen purchased the club from the Wilpon and Katz families for $2.42 billion in early November.
Last offseason, under previous GM Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets hired former slugger Carlos Beltrán as manager only to cut ties with him 2 1/2 months later when he was implicated in MLB’s investigation of illegal sign stealing by Houston while Beltrán was an Astros player in 2017.
Beltrán was let go by the Mets — without managing a single game — just more than a year ago on Jan. 16, 2020, following a tenure that lasted 77 days. ESPN’s report was posted online 37 days after Porter was introduced as GM of the Mets, a role he called his “dream job” but one that certainly appears in serious jeopardy now.
“Jared has proven himself at every level and in every position he has held, earning respect from his peers throughout baseball,” Alderson said in a statement when Porter was hired.
Before his Diamondbacks tenure, Porter worked under Theo Epstein with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, winning three World Series championships in Boston’s front office and another with the Cubs. ESPN said he was the Cubs’ director of professional scouting when he sent the messages to the woman.
Not fully familiar with the English language and American culture, the woman received help from an interpreter in constructing a message to Porter telling him to stop sending her “offensive photos” that were “extremely inappropriate” and “getting out of line.” He apologized by text, ESPN said.
She eventually told her bosses and was connected in 2016 with a lawyer and a Cubs employee from her home country, ESPN reported. The woman didn't want to identify the employee publicly because she feared retribution, according to ESPN.
She said the Cubs employee told her Porter wanted to apologize in person but she didn't want to see him. She said the employee pressed her repeatedly on whether she planned to file a lawsuit against Porter and months later got angry when she saw the employee at spring training in 2017 and said she was still considering it, ESPN reported.
ESPN said the employee confirmed Monday he discussed the situation with Porter and the woman, but denied getting angry. The woman did not pursue legal action and told ESPN she doesn't plan to.
“This story came to our attention tonight and we are not aware of this incident ever being reported to the organization,” the Cubs said in a statement released to ESPN late Monday.
“Had we been notified, we would have taken swift action as the alleged behavior is in violation of our code of conduct,” the club said. “While these two individuals are no longer with the organization, we take issues of sexual harassment seriously and plan to investigate the matter.”
New York quickly turned last winter from Beltrán to quality control coach Luis Rojas, who managed the Mets to a 26-34 record during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. They finished tied with Washington for last in the NL East and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year. Rojas is set to return this season.
Cohen brought back Alderson, who was the Mets' general manager from 2010-18, as team president, and he immediately fired Van Wagenen and several of his top front-office aides.
The team initially sought to hire a new president of baseball operations but changed course when it was unable to attain permission to interview several candidates around the majors and at least one did not want to move to New York.
Instead, the 72-year-old Alderson has taken over baseball operations, and the idea was for Porter to potentially grow into that role while reporting to Alderson. Now Alderson, in addition to Assistant GM Zack Scott and others within the organization, will take over Porter's duties.
“I think what we’ve talked about the most is just a cultural shift, for one," Porter said when introduced as GM last month. “Adding good people to the organization. Improving on the organizational culture.”
AP Sports Writer Jake Seiner contributed