Things were a disaster last season. The Astros had yet another brutal year. Rightfully so that is what the focus has been on, but was it really all as bad as it seemed? Late season results must be taken with some level of skepticism, but the Astros were 15-15 over the last month of the season. And one of the individuals that had a lot to do with that deserves some credit and recognition.
There are some positives to be taken from how Houston finished out 2012, and while those results might not carry over as 2013 begins, the foundation is there. Tony DeFrancesco played an important part in that strong finish. After the dismissal of Brad Mills, the first time major league manager was not in a good position to say the least. A lot of major league talent had already been stripped from the team, and there were not many players with defined roles left in Houston. The bulk of the team was made up of either fringe major league players or young minor league players seeing their first extended playing time in the majors.
DeFrancesco was chosen for the promotion in large part due to the following reason. He had managed a lot of these players in AAA so there was a comfort level on both sides. This allowed the skipper to maximize production, but more importantly to continue the growth momentum from the minor leagues that had already been established. However, despite his best efforts both last season and throughout his managerial career, that did not mean that DeFrancesco would be the best choice as manager going forward.
That is where Bo Porter comes into the picture. As Porter develops the team in his image, he has been getting a lot of attention this spring as he should. However as Brian T Smith of the Houston Chronicle points out today, we should not just forget about DeFrancesco like yesterday’s news. He easily could have been frustrated and left the organization after being passed over for Porter, but in fact the complete opposite has been true. And in my opinion this will only serve to benefit the Astros moving forward.
There has been a lot of change associated with the Astros over the past year or two. This can be especially hard on young players still trying to find their way as major leaguers. Having a familiar face such as DeFrancesco around can be a very comforting thing as they grow and develop in their careers. Not only is DeFrancesco returning as the manager at AAA this season to continue the good work he has done in Oklahoma City, but he has been very visible throughout Spring Training and will be for the duration of camp. While in camp he can continue the work he did with players last season as their careers continue to progress.
It would be easy for Porter not to embrace the man he is essentially taking over for being around everyday as he tries to assert his influence, but that has not been the case. DeFrancesco also could have created some friction towards the man who now holds his job (even though he was only an interim manager last season), but again there have not been any problems in that department either.
Porter and DeFrancesco do have similar managerial styles so that does certainly help, but the main thing here is that everyone (at least so far) is buying into a singular vision regarding the Astros. This truly is the best of both worlds. With Porter the Astros get a very motivated and driven manager with major league experience, plus they get to continue the progress they made with DeFrancesco last season. While the 15-15 finish was obviously a positive conclusion to the season, I am more concerned about the development of the players that was cultivated at the AAA level. Thanks to these two leaders working well together and being secure in their roles, that will continue in 2013 and beyond.