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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: May 18, 2021 10:42 am PDT
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Interesting week so far, don’t you think?

New Mets owner Steve Cohen is rapidly learning baseball has more hurdles than he imagined.

And if he doesn’t understand now, let me explain, he needs to get even more involved in baseball and dig deeper knowing the game and its people. There is much to learn.

Baseball is a much different business than finance.

Like all weeks on the calendar, there are lessons to be learned. This week, though, is a little more important than most.

The Mets were at the center of attention for all the wrong reasons.

Brand new GM Jared Porter, only 37 days on the job, was fired for acting despicably toward a female reporter in 2016 when he was pro scouting director for the Cubs. We all know what has been reported by ESPN’s Mina Kimes and Jeff Passan, breaking the news about Porter’s more than 60 explicit, unsolicited texts and images to a foreign female reporter, including sending a penis picture.

Being a baseball writer is not easy.

Being a woman baseball writer is even tougher, especially when there are characters like this running around baseball in high-level positions, positions of power. The woman is no longer in the United States or working in journalism. Her life was turned upside down.

When Jared Porter was hired, I was asked about him on a number of radio shows and podcasts and I took a “wait and see” attitude.

Geez, did we see. Way, way too much.

This week the Mets also lost out on free agent centerfielder George Springer to the Blue Jays, and that’s a big loss. More on Springer later.

For the Mets, the positive news is Cohen acted quickly when the story came out, although I would have gotten rid of the guy immediately after the evening conversation that Sandy Alderson had with Porter.

Whenever I speak to young people about my job or life or baseball, I keep it simple. I tell them don’t ever do anything that would ever embarrass your parents.

It’s a good rule of thumb and easy words to follow. That is your Baseball or Bust tip of the day.

Porter, 41, was quickly removed as GM on Tuesday and Cohen made it clear the Mets are not going to stand for any of that kind of behavior. Alderson and Cohen have been preaching organizational culture from the time they were united. Now they need to start over and make sure their message is heard and adhered to in these strange times.

The Mets are 0-for-2 in the big hiring department for the third week of the month of January. It was at this time last year that a different owner, a different head of baseball operations, fired manager Carlos Beltran as a result of the Astros electronic sign-stealing cheating scandal.

Now Porter the GM is fired the third week of January for his terrible behavior from 2016.

Sandy Alderson will assume some of Jared Porter's GM duties as no interim GM has been named.

Porter met the reporter on an elevator at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, June 26, 2016. They exchanged business cards. That day the Yankees lost to the Twins, 7-1. Their DH went 0-for-3. That would be Carlos Beltran.

Beltran would be out as manager of the Mets in January of 2020 before ever managing a game. Porter would be out as GM of the Mets in January of 2021 before ever being a GM for a Mets game. I was not at that Yankee game on June 26th, I was in Coney Island talking to an apologetic Jose Reyes who was returning from a 52-game suspension following a domestic violence case and playing with the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Baseball has so much work to do to clean it all up.

Luis Rojas replaced Beltran and essentially will be working with his third GM in a year even though Alderson said the Mets are not going to name an interim GM. Alderson will pick up more of the GM load and the Mets will rely on all their front office people doing a little more to make up for a lack of a GM – and that includes the newly hired assistant GM Zack Scott.

The problem I have with the Mets and really most teams nowadays – not just the Mets, is that it seems the same candidates pop up for all these GM jobs over and over, usually pushed by the same people in the media. Jared Porter was a candidate for so many GM openings the last few years and it was the Mets who hired him.

There is no bigger hire these days in baseball than a general manager, so organizations must dig deeper. It’s a much different world now with social media, texting and technology everywhere.

Baseball needs to widen the net. Just because you worked for the Red Sox in their glory years, or for the Cubs or the Rays should not get you a better job because you are supposedly the next coming of a super analytically-driven GM; adored by the MIP crowd, that’s the Media In Power crowd, the king makers.

The GM pool needs to be bigger and more creative and that’s on baseball.

Widen the net of candidates. Make that to include experienced GMs who are looking for another shot, not just new hotshots. It still amazes me that a talented baseball man like Dan O’Dowd is not in the running for some of these jobs. You never hear his name mentioned, but all these assistants to the assistant are considered the next can’t miss candidate.

The Phillies took the experienced route and hired Dave Dombrowski this off-season after screwing up their last hire of a hot new GM prospect pushed by the media, Matt Klentak.

Widen the net to add more people, men and women, who have spent a lifetime in the game or have shown real leadership skills their time in the game. Derek Jeter and Marlins recently hired Kim Ng, 51, as baseball’s first female GM. Jeter knew Ng from their Yankee days and knew her strength of character as well. Knowing someone to that level is key.

Strength of character seems to be lost these days. Whenever we hear about these candidates all we hear is about their strength of analytics or their knowledge of players. That’s what was said about Porter and his ability to rattle off players who once played in the Cape Cod League. Yes, but how did he handle the scouts when he was with the Cubs? What did they think of him?

Let’s dig deeper. The system can’t be perfect, but it can be made better.

Kim Ng

New Miami Marlins Kim Ng. (PHOTO: Miami Marlins)

Being a GM is a difficult job, but you’d better have strength of character.

I’ve met a lot of good baseball people through the years and sometimes they get labeled as good in one position yet surprisingly are not considered for a higher position even though they are doing a terrific job in their current position and are well respected throughout the game.

They get kind of stuck at a certain level.

How about hiring some of those people?

And let’s get this straight, too. Everybody in baseball understands analytics to a degree. It’s not that difficult and it has been around the game in different ways forever – so enough with hearing all about the analytical gurus as your team’s next savior.

Get your head out of your computer and into real life.

Now, of course, there are different degrees of analytics, but give me someone who is good with people, trustworthy, smart – and yes I prefer street smart – and let that person run the show. Man or woman.

There must be more diversity throughout baseball like Sandy Alderson said during his Tuesday Zoom press conference regarding the hiring process and there must be a better vetting process. He admitted the Mets did not talk to one woman in or around baseball about Porter. Would it had made a difference? Who knows, but there are plenty of women in or around the game who can offer an opinion.

I thought Alderson would hire Billy Owens for the GM position, someone he knew well from his days with the A’s. It was not to be, and the Mets and Alderson and Cohen went with the name that was bandied about for a number of jobs. I still think Owens could wind up as the Mets GM at some point. He has a strong scouting background and that helps in this position.

Billy Owens

Billy Owens still may have a shot at the Mets GM job. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)

There are only 30 of these jobs so each GM position is baseball gold.

There are many questions to be asked and MLB is opening an investigation on the Porter situation. We’ll see where that goes in time.

Even if the right question was asked in the interview process or the right inquiries were made to people who worked with and knew Porter, who knows if anything would have bubbled to the surface – but it might have.

Again, Beltran was fired in January of 2020. Porter was fired Tuesday.

As for the Mets’ vetting process, in that Zoom call Alderson was upfront, saying of those two firings, “It certainly raises questions that we have to reflect upon and decide whether things need to change, but I don’t think this reflects a fundamental flaw in the process. I think this is a very unfortunate circumstance that we wish we’d known about but didn’t.’’

There is no bigger hire these days in baseball than a general manager, so organizations must dig deeper. It’s a much different world now with social media, texting and technology everywhere.

When it comes to adding new people, I remember a veteran GM telling me many years ago that before he makes any trade he checks in with as many clubhouse managers across baseball as he can to see if there is anything he needs to be aware of with the player or players he is trying to bring into the organization.

Clubbies know everything. Scouts know. Even reporters know. Through the years many baseball people have asked me about a player’s make-up or about people I knew in the front office. The same goes for front office people. You have to dig deep to understand who you are really hiring to run your club.  And that means contacting as many people as possible to really get a read on someone’s personality. It’s knowledge that should be utilized more often but, this is the key, a recommendation can’t just be a recommendation built on the fact that that person was willing to give you information or that person worked for a successful organization.

Ask around to everyone. What is that person really like?

Alderson said the Mets are going to step up their vetting in the future and that is a good thing. Perhaps it is time to bring private investigators into the process. Certainly, more in-depth knowledge of candidates must be acquired.

This situation happened when Porter was working for the Cubs after spending 12 years in Boston. Clearly, the Theo Epstein connection was a big boost to Porter’s career like it has been to so many other executives. Porter then went out to Arizona to be the assistant GM for the Diamondbacks, working for another Theo disciple in Mike Hazen. Porter was working his way up the ladder and then he reached the top of the ladder with the Mets.

Then his past caught up to him with the publishing of the ESPN story.

In his Twitter announcement of Porter’s firing on Tuesday morning, Cohen wrote, “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.’’

That is exactly right. Baseball needs to take a look in the mirror to see how something like this happened and essentially how Porter just went on with his career after the 2016 incident until the ESPN story broke. Were there no indications anywhere along the line that this man had an issue?

The woman stepped forward to tell her story at this time because she did not want this to happen to anyone else and that was a brave decision on her part. She showed true strength of character and was concerned that someone else would not have to go through what she went through.

Alderson called the whole situation a “wake up call.’’

It sure is and baseball had better wake up.

The Mets also learned this week that they lost the George Springer free agent race to the Blue Jays. The Mets have signed free agent catcher James McCann and traded for All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor, that is a talent-plus gathering this off-season but still, losing Springer hurts.

I have liked Springer since the moment I saw him make that phenomenal catch over his head on a dead-run in centerfield against South Carolina in the Super Regional in 2011, and he was playing that night on a tight hamstring. He showed how good he was all those years with the Astros and it paid off with a six-year, $150 million contract with the Blue Jays. That’s more than the Mets were willing to spend. I think he is one of those players that brings the team together and would have been the “wow factor” addition needed to get the Mets right where they want to be in Cohen’s first year of ownership.

That 2011 draft was incredible – and the Mets could still wind up with free agent Jackie Bradley Jr., the 40th pick of that draft who went to the Red Sox. Gerrit Cole (Pirates) went No. 1 that year. Free agent Trevor Bauer (Diamondbacks) went No. 3 and could be heading to the Dodgers. Lindor was the eighth pick. Anthony Rendon (Nationals) was the sixth pick, Javier Baez (Cubs) was the ninth pick and Jose Fernandez went to the Marlins with the 14th pick.

The Mets grabbed Brandon Nimmo with the 11th pick of that draft.

And, oh yes, in the fifth round with the 172nd pick that year, the Red Sox took Mookie Betts.

44+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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