When Jeff Luhnow came aboard with the Houston Astros in 2012 all we heard about was this “plan.” So far the “plan” has accomplished two 100 loss seasons, two managerial firings, a lost first overall pick, and a few trades that have been borderline wastes. While I do not consider myself a Jeff Luhnow hater, I cannot get myself to forgive him each time because he is Jeff Luhnow. His ideas of reconstructing a broken farm system and bottoming out an already bad organization were correct. No general manager will ever say the plan is to lose games, but if you look at the rosters in 2012-2013 it would be hard to say that was not the plan.
The rebuild hit a new level in 2014 as Bo Porter entered his second year at the managerial job. The Astros were fresh off a 111 loss season, however a lot of key prospects would make their debut. As I write this article the Astros are 59-79, which is far from acceptable. Most Astros fans would agree great progress has been made with individual players. The mumbo jumbo that is sold to the Astros fans is that the losses now will be well worth it in a few years. Was Bo Porter going to be that guy in 2017? Probably not and that is perfectly fine. Did Bo Porter deserve to finish the 2014 season? Yes he did. The team has had a successful August, the starting pitching has been sufficient (outside of Brad Peacock), and Porter has had an impossible task juggling a horrible lineup. I think most of us have been confused by the lineup combinations at times, but you get what you pay for. Jim Crane and Jeff Luhnow will tell us that money should only be spent on necessary resources. They were outbid for Tanaka, Abreu, Choo, and most recently Rusney Castillo. While some of these players have not been realistic acquisitions, why should they not be? The MLB is an uncapped sport in which the Astros play in the fourth largest city in America. But even then the Oakland Athletics have perfected the art of making acquisitions on low cost moves for years. The fourth biggest city in America is constantly told that losing is okay for the future. Look I buy that George Springer, Jon Singleton, Carlos Correa, and Mark Appel can be top fleet prospects. But what will all of this rebuild be for? Do we know the plan?
At the end of the day, it came down to me feeling like at this point going forward, a different leader in the clubhouse was in the best interest of the Astros.
In my opinion Jeff Luhnow broke the spirit of Bo Porter when Jarred Cosart was dealt to the Marlins in July. At that point it showed that Luhnow only meant business versus developing the young talent here. It meant that the players are just names on a spreadsheet, designed to meet a certain “plan.” But what is this plan really about at the end of the day? The plan in place has been consistent in eliminating players from the Ed Wade era in favor of Luhnow’s guys. Some of those guys include the likes of Marc Krauss, Robbie Grossman, and Brad Peacock. All of whom have failed. I also cannot fathom a manager who would bat Grossman leadoff, so I remain curious as to where this call comes from. Luhnow has made some savy moves on low costs to keep his ratings above par. The acquisition of Colin McHugh, and the trade to receive Dexter Fowler come to note. However his report card bleeds from the Brady Aiken debacle.
So we progress forward to the news of August 31st when Bo Porter was relieved of his duties. Bo certainly is a more old school “grind it out” guy versus the analytical guy. Maybe he never fit Luhnow’s grand “plan.” But was it necessary to fire Bo with just a month left? It definitely does not put the Astros in a good light among baseball guys when the majority of outsiders don’t believe in the “plan.” Is the plan to never spend money? Is the plan to flip players as soon as they display value? Is there a time where the flipping and flopping truly ends? The Pittsburgh Pirates had several “plans” to fix their mess in between 1993 and 2012. Not one of those were ever to spend money. Not one of those were ever to acquire superior outside talent. Bo Porter perhaps questioned the plan when Cosart packed his bags for Miami. Bo perhaps questions it when Brad Peacock continues to start at the big league level over other capable starters such as Nick Tropeano (an Ed Wade guy). I am just guessing here and none of this is fact. Maybe perhaps this alleged beef between the two was as simple as the Mark Appel bullpen session.
This is not regarding wins and losses at the big-league level. I take responsibility for the roster, I take responsibility for our baseball operations, which includes the staff and the clubhouse.
At the end of the day Bo Porter was never the problem for this team. The teams problem is a lack of direction at the major league level. No manager can lead a team of young players without proven veteran contributors. Scott Feldman and Dexter Fowler are solid additions, don’t get me wrong but does it really get it done? Bo had reason to question Luhnow, Bo had reason to question Jim Crane. Just because you question something does not mean you are always against it, but it means you are concerned. I am very concerned about the longterm future of the Houston Astros right now, and I would imagine any managerial candidate will be for 2015. My challenge to Jeff Luhnow is to restore hope into the future of this organization and the fans. Just selling that they are getting better is not enough. Make the fans believe, make us understand what the “plan” really is. We still believe in you, just give us something better than slight improvement.