This past season, baseball finally showed signs of improving diversity in the game. There was a large push to create social change following the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, culminating in the cancellation of games following the murder of Jacob Blake. It was a year which saw the highest number of black players drafted in the first round in a long time, which ultimately will be good for diversity within the game itself. Furthermore, the Cleveland baseball team announced that they will remove their racist team name after this season. When a homophobic slur was caught on air, action was taken immediately, and several players spoke up about how baseball is a game meant for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.
Arguably the biggest change over the past season, and well into this offseason, was the number of women in baseball. It started last season, as Alyssa Nakken became the first [gay] woman to coach in a Major league game. After 30 years of working in baseball, Kim Ng reached the highest platform for an executive, as she was hired as the General Manager for the Miami Marlins. The Boston Red Sox hired Bianca Smith to coach one of their Minor League teams, making her the first black woman to be hired as a coach. Finally, probably the most well known agent in baseball right now is Rachel Luba. It even seemed that over the past year more female journalists and writers got to higher roles in baseball, although this is a mere observation and not a proven fact.
This progress, especially for women, came shattering down on Monday with the news that the now former Mets GM Jared Porter sexually harassed a journalist in 2016. This journalist has since stepped away from baseball because of what Porter did. I will spare the horrifically disgusting details here, but they can be found in the attached tweet.
The New York Mets fired Porter Tuesday morning, which was a good first step. However, an investigation into whether or not the Mets knew about this at the time of the hiring is still needed, as well as if the teams that employed him prior to the Mets (Cubs and Diamondbacks) knew about this as well. As a Mets fan, this incident is a massive stain on the organization I root for. As a baseball fan, this incident is a massive stain on the game I love.
It would be naïve to believe that this is an isolated incident. While there may not be any news on this forefront for a while, it doesn’t mean that this doesn’t happen at all. It took four years for this journalist to feel comfortable enough to have the texts come out, even though ESPN has had them since 2017. This is rape culture, and baseball needs to do a better job of making sure women feel comfortable enough to not have to worry about their jobs due to their gender. This applies to journalists to front offices to everything in between. Even with Rachel Luba, there have been insinuations that she has only made it this big or that she only got her job because she was sleeping with Trevor Bauer. Firing Porter will not make women feel more comfortable in the game that they love. Despite all the progress made, MLB still feels stuck, or even going backwards at times. And when one domino falls, others usually follow. The progress made with racism, homophobia, and social change may just come crumbling down as well.
The expected fallout from this is the investigation previously mentioned and maybe a more thorough background check during employment. However, this is not enough. This story covers up a much bigger issue in baseball, and it is why I actually think baseball is moving backwards in a way. The Mets just fired one harasser, but still employ another one in Jeurys Familia, who was arrested on counts of domestic violence. Aroldis Chapman got off with a slap on the wrist suspension, which really is the only punishment first time abusers get. A 15 game minimum suspension is nothing more than a joke, and even if players get a larger suspension like Robert Osuna’s 75 games, it is still basically nothing. They lose pay for not even half a season, and can still go on to have long careers. This offseason has seen the largest consideration for invoking the character clause for Hall of Fame voting, although several players are having their domestic violence accusations overlooked. Having this issue overlooked still sends the message that women aren’t necessarily safe in the game of baseball.
If MLB really wants women to feel safe in baseball, as well as people of all genders, races, sexual orientations, religions, etc., they need to root this out completely from the game. The immediate actions surrounding this incident are good, but MLB shouldn’t pretend that this is the end of the story. The progress made in diversity and inclusion surrounding the game and fanbases is amazing. Progress, however, isn’t a zero-sum game. MLB needs to put a stake in the ground, stop going backwards, and use this incident as a stepping stone to move forward and make baseball a game everyone can truly love.
Featured Photo: Patrick Breen/The Republic