Apparently, the tension within the Houston Astros organization was just too much to bear.
This morning, the team announced the firings of manager Bo Porter and bench coach Dave Trembley after numerous reports about problems within the organization last week. Here’s a summary of the tension between Porter and Luhnow.
The Astros have relieved Bo Porter of his managerial duties. Tom Lawless named interim manager.
— Houston Astros (@astros) September 1, 2014
For the Astros and owner Jim Craine, it came down to a decision between Luhnow, an analytics-based GM, and Porter, a former player. The two clearly saw the game differently and couldn’t work together. Crane released this statement after the announcement.
Jim Crane in statement: “This was not an easy decision to make. We wish Bo nothing but the best in the future. Jeff has my full support” — Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) September 1, 2014
I think the Astros made the right decision here. Luhnow has done a nice job building this team and should have a chance to finish what he started. He has certainly made his mistakes (for example: this year’s bullpen, the Brady Aiken situation, etc.), but he was left with the difficult task of cleaning up a huge mess left behind by Drayton McLane and Ed Wade.
All of that is not to say Bo Porter is a bad manager. He did a decent job with the talent he was given. Last year’s roster was pretty bad and the team has shown a lot of improvement in his second season. Porter also handled the Mark Appel situation very well and Astros players really enjoyed playing for him. However, his problems with the front office began making national headlines and it was obvious he was going to get fired eventually.
In the end, the Astros just couldn’t keep both Porter and Luhnow beyond this season. An organization can’t function properly with that much tension at the top. Now, the front office needs to show some stability and rally behind Luhnow. The Astros have been associated with dysfunction the last few years and need a culture change badly.
In March 2013, Luhnow said Porter “could be one of those guys who is an Astros manager for decades, not just years.” However, the two were never really on the same page. The GM reportedly second-guessed a lot of Porter’s moves during games because he thought he was a little overmatched for the job. (So, why hire him in the first place?) However, I still think this move was more personal than performance-based. Luhnow mostly felt disrespected by Porter’s complaints to Crane, so the Astros will now have the month to evaluate internal options to replace the manager.
Luhnow in statement: “I made this decision because I believe we need a new direction in our clubhouse.” — Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) September 1, 2014
Luhnow in statement: “I recognize that our win-loss record is largely a product of an organizational strategy for which I am responsible.” — Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) September 1, 2014
However, the pressure is now on Jeff Luhnow to perform well. Fans and media are comparing the Astros situation to the Mets when they fired Bobby Valentine and kept Steve Phillips. (That situation is not something any team wants to be associated with.) If Luhnow is unable to clean up this mess, he will be the next to go because he really doesn’t have any more excuses if the team continues to fail.
I hope Porter gets a chance to manage somewhere else because he’s a great guy, but it was never going to work out for him in Houston. Even with the Astros winning the Sliver Boot this weekend and playing much better since July 1st, it was obvious changes needed to be made. In the end, I think it was the right decision to go with Luhnow, but it’s now time for him to prove it.