This morning, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported Houston Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter are at odds.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) August 29, 2014
Apparently, Porter has expressed his frustration to owner Jim Crane about numerous issues with Luhnow. For starters, Porter feels Luhnow second-guesses the manager’s in-game strategies too much. Additionally, Porter reportedly wants more input with the front office’s decision-making and doesn’t like how Luhnow only talks to a few people in his inner circle.
“Those critical of Luhnow say that he keeps a small circle, communicating mostly with director of decision sciences Sig Mejdal and others while rarely consulting the team’s on-field staff, executive advisor Nolan Ryan and special assistant to the GM Craig Biggio,” Rosenthal wrote. “Crane could attempt to broker a peace between Luhnow and Porter, and Ryan’s son — Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan — also could play a role in such discussions, sources said.”
Luhnow has been the Astros GM since December 2011 and the organization hired Porter in September 2012. It’s understandable for Luhnow, who is known as an analytics guy, and Porter, who is a former player, to not agree on everything. However, it’s inexcusable for the Astros to have this many problems in their front office. This type of miscommunication and disfunction has kept the Astros in too many negative headlines this season.
The Houston Chronicle also had a report about a “heated battle” between Luhnow and Porter for some of the same reasons Rosenthal mentioned in his story. Apparently, Porter wasn’t informed of Mark Appel’s bullpen session at Minute Maid Park earlier this year, which upset many Astros players. Rosenthal says that situation with the former No. 1 overall pick was a major source of Porter’s frustration.
“An unannounced visit by Appel to Houston prior to his promotion contributed to the friction between Luhnow and Porter, sources said; Luhnow initially did not make Porter aware that Appel would throw a bullpen session for pitching coach Brent Strom,” Rosenthal wrote. “Porter then had to explain the situation to his players, a number of whom were seething, believing that Appel did not warrant his promotion and was receiving special treatment.”
Although the decision to let Appel throw a bullpen session is common with MLB teams, Porter apparently was upset over the lack of communication between him and the front office. Last week, I wrote about Bo Porter’s job security and defended the work he has done in Houston. I liked the way he handled the Appel situation with this players and thought he was doing a great job this season with a much-improved Astros roster.
However, it’s now obvious owner Jim Crane will have to choose between Porter and Luhnow after the season. This type of dysfunction and tension is terrible for any team to deal with. Their personalities were meant to compliment each other’s, but it clearly hasn’t worked out that way. It’s time for the Astros to admit their mistake and move on.
The great question with the Astros going forward is, when is enough enough? How much controversy should a franchise endure before change? — Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) August 29, 2014
So, if you’re asking me to pick between the two, I’ll go with Luhnow. The Astros roster has vastly improved since he arrived and his vision for the team is just starting to take shape. I know some of his moves can be controversial, but he seems to be on the right track overall. Also, it would be a lot harder on the organization to fire Luhnow and adopt a new team-building strategy at this point.
Astros owner Jim Crane by text: “You should direct this to Jeff (Luhnow). I have no comment.” — Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) August 29, 2014
Jim Crane adds on: “I have not discussed any of what was reported with Bo and told the reporter it was false.”
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) August 29, 2014
This Astros team is closer to contending for the playoffs than most people think. Neither Luhnow or Porter has been perfect, but both have done a lot of good things here. In the end, I just think Luhnow deserves the chance to finish what he started. Also, after what the Astros have been through the last couple years, having a new voice in the dugout at manager could turn out to be a good thing.