Not the First Time: A Call for Accountability
By: Max Greenfield
Baseball is facing an issue that the sport has long ignored, the treatment of women in the sport. Following the firing of Jared Porter for his sexual harassment of a reporter, women in the sport came forward with their stories. Yet, these stories aren’t the only issue, baseball is facing that the people who are making the decisions on the team are dominated by white men. The people covering the game are also dominated by white men who can oftentimes miss the nuance of these issues. And when faced with pressure, many of them are not holding themselves and others accountable. I would know, I am one of them. It’s time that I and others started holding each other more accountable in the way we act around all women, improving the diversity in the front offices, and how we cover the game of baseball.
Lack of Accountability
While Porter was fired for his horrible actions, there has been a lack of accountability from people throughout baseball. Sandy Alderson, the Mets President of Baseball Ops, revealed the country that the reporter was from during his press conference. This information was intentionally left out of the ESPN report because it was meant to protect the woman. Alderson has faced zero reported repercussions from this. Steven Cohen could have disciplined Alderson without reporting on it, it’s yet to be known. What Alderson did cannot happen. It puts the victim in potential danger and is sensitive information. To move forward with this issue, Alderson must face some form of repercussion for this issue. We need to know that this mistake didn’t go unnoticed within the organization.
Alderson’s blunders didn’t stop there as he admitted that when doing background on Porter, they didn’t talk to any women. Alderson tried to make it seem that Porter didn’t work with any women which is a lie. There’s no reality in which that is true. Porter had to have worked with women at points during his career. There are people who you could have asked. This more represents the fact that baseball doesn’t value women’s inputs. For better or for worse, most definitely worse, men act differently around women than they do men. Not asking a single woman is a failure from the Mets perspective, but they are likely not alone. Which is the problem. How can baseball try to claim to be moving in the right direction if they aren’t valuing what women have to say?
The report about Porter also stated that the reporter told the Cubs about his actions, but the Cubs denied they knew. This deserves more attention than it’s been given. Are you going to tell me that the woman lied to the Cubs? They had to have known about the issue but just brushed it aside because they were protecting one of their own or just didn’t see it as a big issue. You pick which one is worse, but both are bad and unacceptable. Now it is possible that the Cubs had it get lost in translation and then new people came in and they didn’t know. That is still not good enough. Whenever anyone comes forward with their story, we need to believe them.
A Media Problem
While the issue of power dynamics, manipulation, harassment, and abuse are major issues, how the media covers these issues is a big problem too. Just recently, Ken Rosenthal wrote an article about the Mets’ pursuit into Trevor Bauer. In the article, Rosenthal briefly described Bauer’s online harassment of women while naming some of the victims in the article. Rosenthal was rightly being slammed on Twitter for his lack of care in protecting the women involved or accuracy describing the situation. We were talking about accountability though, and that doesn’t end here. Not one of the Athletic’s writers called out Rosenthal for his struggling reporting. Rosenthal has struggled in recent weeks calling a Brad Hand signing to the Mets and jumped the gun on Michael Brantley to the Blue Jays. But once you’re established in the industry, you are above criticism from your peers publicly it would seem.
Perhaps nobody exemplifies this more than Bob Nightengale. Nightengale is notorious for his misspellings, mixing up players, getting details wrong, incorrectly predicting events, and struggling in the industry. During the 2020 season, he incorrectly reported that Alex Dickerson’s wife had covid and might have given it to the Giants clubhouse that paused their game against the Dodgers. Days later Dickerson, fighting back tears and frustrated revealed the harassment he and his pregnant wife had faced because of the story. Not one person called for his job, or even a suspension, or any form of punishment whatsoever. His incorrect reporting had real consequences on Dickerson and his family.
A large part of this is baseball has long been seen as the white man’s game. Rosenthal and Nightengale can avoid some criticisms because they are straight white men who have been in the industry for a long time. Them being white plays a large role in the lack of accountability they face. If a black reporter/minority reporter/female reporter made the blunders they did, it could be career-ending. The standards, the criticism, and the treatment of women and minority reporters are stronger and harsher. It’s not fair but it’s reality. How do we change it? White people being better on their own accord is a start.
Diversity Is Not the Only Move Forward
While baseball seriously lacks diversity in front offices, on the field, and in those who cover the game, providing more diversity is not the only answer. Having more black players on the field will help grow the game of baseball. The more people can see themselves in a sport, the more likely they are to play the sport. The work of the Players Alliance in the off-season has been tremendous. Future Hall of Famer, CC Sabathia has helped lead the charge for the organization. Making these players visible helps communities connect with the players and build relationships and motivations that will drive them toward the game of baseball.
Carrying that same attitude into the teams. There is a desperate need for more voices in those rooms. While I am again no stranger to this as someone who is trying to work in the front office of a major league baseball team, I can tell you that the decision-makers are not nearly as diverse as they should be. Their voices are important because it can offer a perspective counter to the ones that are so dominant in the rooms today. These people are already in the organization and are just sitting there waiting for an opportunity. Kim Ng was the first woman to become a GM. And the first Asian American to become a GM as well. She was hired by the only black owner in the sport. While that is a win for the game of baseball, it shouldn’t have taken this long to hire a woman and an Asian American. Recognizing that isn’t a slight against Jeter and the rest of the owners, but it needs to be said to grow the game.
With all of that said, hiring more diversity will not just lead to better behavior or fresh thoughts. If you’re relying on them to make you more aware of race, gender, and the privilege involved in those things, then you are part of the problem. It should be on us, white men, to recognize those things ourselves. Once again, we need to hold each other accountable. Hiring a few women, a few black people, and people of color isn’t going to be the thing that stops the Jared Porter’s of the world from working in baseball. Do you know what will stop them though? Being transparent and admitting that we have work to do and we will make mistakes.
I want to give credit where credit is due. Jeff Passan had a poorly worded tweet about the passing of Henry Aaron. While Jeff meant well, people rightly told him that his wording had negative effects on the racism that Aaron endured, and black people endured during the time and to this day. Passan apologized and recognized his failure. He held himself to a high standard and realized he was wrong. That might have not happened without all of the black fans and writers telling him how his words were downplaying the racism he went to. I also want to give credit to Ken Davidoff. Davidoff wrote an article about how the Mets should not sign Trevor Bauer because it would make them look like hypocrites for his harassment in the past. Davidoff is the only reporter to recognize the issues Bauer brings to a team and understand the moment for the Mets in particular. I respect both of them for doing what they did.
There are dozens of black writers on Twitter who understand the intricacies of race in baseball better than I do. You should be following people like @curlyfro, @_beewilly @clintonyates, @MzCSmith, and @pamsson. Their perspective and voices help me check myself and my privileges on baseball. There are also women who can better describe the feeling of what it’s like to be a woman in sports and the harassment they face. All women in sports deserve our respect. Just a few of them are @lindseyadler, @chelsealadd, and @megrowler. The only way forward is for people like me, to be honest with themselves about their roles in all of this and continue to keep ourselves in check. There are plenty of voices that can already be heard, we need to do more than listen to them, we need to actively promote them. I will continue to better myself and hope others do the same.