I realize this is Bo Porter‘s first year as a big league manager and the overall talent level of his team is less than that of most major league clubs. But Porter is being paid to do a job, and to this point, I’d have to say he’s been doing it poorly. So stand back while I take the opportunity to throw Porter under the proverbial bus.
With one-quarter of the season in the books I am growing weary of seeing Porter repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Last night’s catastrophe was nothing new and could have been avoided if Porter had been learning from his mistakes. Porter has also failed to learn from his rare successes. The most recent Astros victory was secured when Brandon Barnes made an outstanding catch to end the game. Instead of helping the Astros to another win, Barnes was watching from the bench as last night’s game slipped away.
Bo Porter (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
With the designated hitter out of play in the Astros first contest played in a National League park, Porter elected to start Chris Carter in rightfield. Carter, who has already proven to be a liability in leftfield, had never played the position in the majors. Porter decided to sacrifice defense to get Carter’s powerful, yet inconsistent, bat into the lineup. The gamble didn’t pay off. Carter failed to score or drive in a run and his sixth inning error resulted in an unearned run for the Pirates.
Carter drew a walk in the eighth inning and Porter sent Jimmy Paredes in to pinch run. Paredes would stay in the game, assuming Carter’s position in the batting order and the outfield. After the game-ending blunder involving Paredes, Porter defended the move stating ” It was a baserunning decision. We were going to bunt him over and you want the guy with better speed on the basepath at that point”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Brandon Barnes also a fast runner? He’s certainly a better defender than Paredes and that is a more important factor to take into consideration in a game that you are already leading. Scoring another run would have been nice, but wasn’t as important as keeping the Pirates from scoring more.
Which brings me to the next blunder by Porter. How many 460-foot homeruns is Hector Ambriz going to have to give up before being taken out of the setup role? Okay, Ambriz has only allowed three homers so far, but has been nothing short of terrible in his current role. Ambriz has allowed five runs of his own (not to mention inherited runners) while recording only six outs in his last four appearances. You don’t have to be a mathematician to realize those aren’t the kind of numbers you want from your eighth inning guy.
After the ninth inning fiasco that cost the Astros the game, Porter was quick to point the finger at Paredes. Porter, who owns a degree in communications from the University of Iowa, said:
"If you’re the outfielder, you see the infielder waving their hands underneath the ball, you should just let them take the ball."
This isn’t the first time that Porter has publicly placed blame on a player. I understand that he was speaking out of frustration and in the heat of the moment — but a manager’s job is to take the high road in these types of situations. He can call out a player in private. Don’t do it in the media. I’m not saying that Porter has straight out ridiculed any of his players. I just think he needs to be more careful with what he tells the media in some situations.
I won’t harp too much on Porter’s illegal pitching change against the Angels earlier this month. That little misinterpretation of the rules has already gotten plenty of attention nationally. Needless to say, it was pretty embarrassing for Astros fans.
Before being hired by the Astros, Porter was being touted as a future manager with a promising career ahead of him. An interesting item in the Fangraphs’ article is the part about defensive shifts. Porter was quoted as saying “it all starts with the pitcher”, yet he and Lucas Harrell have butted heads publicly on this issue.
Losing is one thing, and we knew this team would lose a lot. But losing the clubhouse is another thing entirely. The players expect their manger to back them up in the press. If Porter continues to choose his words with the media so poorly he will lose them. I think it is time for Bo Porter to take a long look in the mirror and come to the realization that he is ultimately responsible for how the team plays. Burning bridges with players and penciling in guys who can’t get the job done has gotten better managers than Bo Porter fired.