What if Luhnow’s plan doesn’t work?


It’s been almost a year now since the Astros named Jeff Luhnow as the 12th General Manager in team history. Luhnow was hired on December 7, 2011 after presenting a 25-page plan on how to improve the Astros. Luhnow quickly set his plan into motion, hiring a Director of Decision Sciences and replacing old-school front office veterans with young, forward-thinking baseball analysts. Luhnow has effectively turned the organization upside-down. But what if his cutting edge plan doesn’t work?

Luhnow, the former VP and Director of Scouting & Player Development for the Cardinals, has given the franchise a makeover. His list of new hires includes Sig Mejdal, Mike Fast, Kevin Goldstein, Mike Elias, Quinton McCracken, and of course Bo Porter. Many of Luhnow’s moves have been applauded by baseball people around the league, but shouldn’t we be at least a little worried?

Jeff Luhnow (Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE)

Most of the individuals Luhnow has brought in will be working in a new position. Basically, they’re all rookies at what they will be doing. Some of them have never even worked directly for a baseball organization. For instance, Mike Fast and Kevin Goldstein were both writers at Baseball Prospectus before going to work for Luhnow.

Fast is now working under Sig Mejdal in the Decision Sciences Department (probably the only such dept. in sports) and Goldstein is a Pro Scouting Coordinator. I’m not saying that these guys aren’t qualified to do their jobs, just wondering if perhaps one or more of Luhnow’s new hires could be in over their head.

In January Luhnow hired 29-year old Mike Elias as a Special Assistant in the area of scouting. Before the season had ended it was announced that Elias would replace Bobby Heck as the Astros Scouting Director. Elias had previously served under Luhnow in St.Louis as Manager of Amateur Scouting. Obviously this is a big promotion and it remains to be seen how Elias responds.

Quinton McCracken, 42, takes over as the Astros Director of Player Development. McCracken, who was hired last month, is also moving up a rung on the corporate ladder. He served as the Assistant Director of Player Development for the Arizona Diamondbacks for the last two years.

In September the Astros announced Bo Porter  as the team’s next Manager. Porter has been the third-base coach for the Washington Nationals for two years. Although Porter has never managed in the big leagues, the 40-year old’s name had surfaced during several recent managerial searches. Porter will bring a fiery attitude that will be a welcomed change from former skipper Brad Mills.

Bo Porter (Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE)

Porter takes over a club that has lost more than 100 games in each of the last two seasons. To further complicate things, the Astros will be moving into a league that most would argue provides a higher level of difficulty. There will be a definite adjustment period to the designated hitter rule and things will probably get worse for the Astros before they get better.

Can a rookie Manger and a slew of rookie Front Office personnel handle the growing pains that the Astros are almost certain to suffer? If not, Luhnow could be in for a rude awakening. The Astros G.M. has made a number of risky moves in his first year at the helm. Hopefully those moves will turn out to be high-reward. Only time will tell if Luhnow’s master plan comes to fruition.

Luhnow’s first draft, that included first overall pick Carlos Correa, received rave reviews. Players like Nolan Fontana, Lance McCullers, and Rio Ruiz provide hope for the future. But that hope is still a few years away from reaching the big league level. Houston will be picking first overall in the draft again in 2013.

Let’s hope guys like Mike Elias and Quinton McCracken are successful and are still around when the fruits of their labors begin paying off.