The first thing is this: Steve Cohen got this 100-percent right.
Cohen had been enjoying this extended honeymoon as much as anyone possibly could. He was officially approved as the Mets’ new owner on Nov. 6 and for the next 73 days he enjoyed every perk, every advantage, every fringe benefit that goes along with replacing an unpopular owner.
He mingled with fans, both on Twitter and at CitiField. Every now and again he would show off his first-time/long-time fan chops. He showed a sense of humor. In every way he projected exactly the kind of mindset and attitude you’d like to think you would project if you had a couple of spare billions at hand to buy your favorite sports team.
And the first major move on his watch – the Mets acquiring Francisco Lindor – was greeted with almost universal approval by a fan base not generally known to agree on anything except shared annual disappointment.
That, it turns out, was the easy part.
The hard part arrived just past 11 o’clock Monday night, when ESPN’s story about Jared Porter’s string of harassing text messages sent to a reporter – the coup de grace reportedly being a picture of male genitalia – posted. The first few seconds of this, in typical 2021 fashion, were spent making sure the social-media account wasn’t a fake. That’s how crazy it was. But, sure enough: there was a blue check mark. If you clicked the story, you realized it was legit.
Soon Sandy Alderson was acknowledging that he’d talked to Porter, the Mets GM barely on the job a month, and that Porter admitted that the story was accurate (though he also apparently tried one of the more desperate last-ditch attempts to salvage a ruined career by assuring Alderson that the money shot was not, in fact, a self-portrait).
In essence, Porter’s career was over by about 11:15.
In reality, it was officially 7:55 Tuesday morning when Cohen issued his verdict on Twitter, after what was surely a sleepless night of conferring with lawyers and what was almost certainly his own sense of fury and betrayal:
“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 of this type of behavior.”
It was at that moment when Steve Cohen officially became the Mets’ owner, owning not only the team but the hard and sometimes impossible impediments that go along with the job. Being glib on Twitter is easy; doing the right thing in real life isn’t always quite as simple, even when something this egregious emerges. He was swift, just and direct.
There was a second thing that was hard to shake, though.
Sixteen years ago, the Diamondbacks hired Wally Backman to be their manager. Not long after, newspaper reporters dug up that Backman had been arrested for both DUI and domestic-violence issues, and had declared bankruptcy. Four days after hiring him, Arizona dismissed him. Immediately, there were questions of exactly what kind of due diligence the D-Backs had done if a couple of reporters had been able to find out what the team certainly should have.
In the aftermath, someone in baseball wondered if, in the future, an essential question in a job interview should be this: “Have you ever done anything that would bring shame to you and this organization if it hired you?” Backman’s transgressions were easily findable if you wanted to find them. Some things are not so obvious.
What if the Mets had asked Porter that very question? What if, for some reason, they even specified it: “Have you ever sent inappropriate text messages?” Porter would be left with two options; admit to it, and automatically eliminate himself from contention; or lie, and hope a news outlet like ESPN hadn’t been sitting on the story for three years.
Either way, absent evidence or even an inkling this kind of thing were possible, what could the Mets have done? The answer: nothing. Of course, because the Mets have a colorful history of often having odd, bizarre things happen to them – the roster is too long to list – this immediately, if temporarily, became a “Mets gonna Mets” narrative on social media and elsewhere.
Cohen did his part to alter that narrative; he is too smart to allow something like this to impede what he wants for the Mets, and for himself. Let the record show the carefree honeymoon lasted 73 days, until 7:55 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. On Day 74, Cohen officially took ownership of everything the Mets are, and everything they have been. And he got it right.