Are Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter on the same page? The short answer is, yes. But to even the most attentive fan it may not always seem that way.
The first thing we need to understand is that managers and general managers have their own unique set of priorities. Although they share the same ultimate goal of winning, they have different ways of going about their daily responsibilities.
The manager is under pressure to win now or risk losing his job, whereas the general manager (especially on a rebuilding team like the Astros) must look at things on more of a long term basis. At the same time, both men must be able to understand each others positions and remain in constant contact. I’m pretty sure that Luhnow and Porter are doing all of those things.
I believe Porter is indeed trying to win. A perfect example would be his handling of Erik Bedard’s no-hit bid. When it became obvious that Bedard had hit the wall, Porter went to the mound to check on him. Not every manager would have done that, considering the circumstances. Porter then made the call to the bullpen, which was the right move to make in an effort to win the game.
The problem for Porter this season is the fact that he simply doesn’t have the horses to work with. Sure Luhnow has beefed up the farm system, but the big league roster leaves much to be desired. Porter is trying to do the best he can with the tools he has been given. He is also a rookie manager who is still learning on the job — more on that later.
Recently, Porter had inserted Carlos Pena into the leadoff spot. His reasoning being the fact that Pena possessed good on-base skills and made pitchers throw a lot of pitches. When Pena wasn’t batting leadoff, we saw Jake Elmore in that spot. Elmore is one of the only other players on the roster with above average on-base skills. This seems like a pretty sound strategy to me. But…
Yesterday’s flurry of roster moves effectively stripped Porter of the two players that he had been using in the all-important leadoff position – prompting the aforementioned question in the title of this post. Pena was designated for assignment and Jonathan Villar was brought up to be the everyday shortstop, relegating Elmore to a utility role.
I actually have less of a problem with the roster moves than I do with some of Porter’s lineup decisions. First of all, Jake Elmore should have never been playing shortstop. As I have stated before, I believe shortstop is one of the most important positions on the field when it comes to defense. I don’t care if my shortstop hits .215, as long as he is a good defender (see Adam Everrett).
With Marwin Gonzalez in AAA, Ronny Cedeno was the best defensive shortstop on the roster. But instead of playing Cedeno at short Porter went with the inexperienced Elmore. To further aggravate me, Porter used Cedeno in the DH role. Trust me — Luhnow didn’t sign Cedeno to be a DH! With Cedeno also designated for assignment yesterday, we don’t have to worry about that happening any more.
Villar is now the everyday shortstop and Porter has him in the leadoff spot tonight. I’m glad to see the upgrade defensively but I’m not a big fan of putting the youngster in the leadoff spot. It conjures up too many memories of the failed Robbie Grossman experiment. I’d rather see Villar eased in at the bottom of the order with Altuve batting leadoff. The managerial decisions can be made quite easily while sitting here at my keyboard. I get the feeling that pulling the strings from the actual dugout is a little bit harder.