If you went to sleep or simply turned off the Oakland Athletics 11-3 bludgeoning of the Astros last night, you might have missed an altercation involving A's shortstop Jed Lowrie, Paul Clemens, Bo Porter and an unfortunate water cooler. In the end, I believe this altercation was more of a response and defense of his own team rather than the "unwritten rules" of baseball.
To briefly summarize the affair: Up 7-0 in the first inning, Lowire attempted to bunt against the Astros shift with Paul Clemens on the mound. This violated an "unwritten" baseball rule, and Clemens retaliated in the third inning when he bounced a pitch between Lowrie's legs. Lowire proceeded to stare down Clemens for a long time, Bo Porter-style, and eventually was retired. As the inning ended, Lowire appeared to loudly complain about the pitch. Jose Altuve, who played with Lowrie in the middle infield in Houston in 2012, intervened and said a few words to him. As Lowire protested further Bo Porter came out of the Astros dugout.
As the night (or morning) went along, a number of national media began to comment on the situation. Porter has been maligned in the past for the "rules" of the game. He infamously tried to change pitchers without the current pitcher facing a hitter last April against Los Angeles, prompting Keith Law to opine.
Bo Porter should stop worrying about the unwritten rules until he learns the written ones. http://t.co/CM2MFkBXGD— keithlaw (@keithlaw) April 19, 2014
Law, for all of his snarkiness in bringing up an event that happened once and a year ago, probably doesn't have a lot of respect for the unwritten rules of the game. He's a very advanced baseball guy, one who is purely statistical and rational in his thought process. I respect that, but he seems to not have a lot of respect for Porter. Without getting to much into Law, I think he misses the point completely; Bo Porter's response last night was not about Lowire bunting, but something far more important to Bo.
This was a pretty unique occurrence, as a third base coach confronted the visiting bullpen. At the time, I thought Porter was completely in the wrong, but there's an article that details how a Cubs coach was yelling obscenities at Porter. Later in the article, there's a quote about this incident that sums up Porter's reasoning for defending the Nationals back in 2012 and Paul Clemens last night.
"When it comes to our players, I'm pretty passionate about it," Porter said. "Every time you start the game, there are two teams out there. When I was younger, I did Gold Glove boxing and my trainer would always tell me before the bell rings, 'Just in case you didn't know, when this bell rings, he is going to hit back.'"
As a baseball fan, you would hope that all managers would defend their players, maybe even to a fault. Porter does that, even if his method is more fiery than others.
When Porter was hired by the new front office in late 2012, his willingness to work with the new ideas and methods that Jeff Luhnow and his staff were implementing was a major factor in his hiring. Porter, who I see as a pretty old-school guy, showed that he could conform to the new wave of how a major league baseball team is operated. Ironically, it may have been just those new ideas that started this confrontation last night; Lowrie bunts against the infield shift that Porter is all-in on, and tensions rise up.
Even then, I still don't believe that it's right to assume Porter confronted Lowrie because of his bunt; instead, Porter was more upset at Lowrie's staredown at Clemens. Whether or not you believe unwritten rules are still meaningful in baseball, and even if you believe Bo Porter was completely in the wrong here, it's encouraging to see Porter send a message that I interpret as A. "I will defend my players, even to a fault" and B. "The Astros will not be walked on (Oakland offense pun not intended) and we will stand up to other teams."
It may seem a Little-Leaguish to send that message; the Astros are a major league team, after all, but for a team that has been stomped on by other teams for the last 3+ years (especially the Rangers and this Athletics team last year), maybe a little over-the-edge motivation is needed. There was no chance Houston was going to come back last night, but the offense responded with a nice inning and pieced together ten hits.
Porter seems pretty helpless right now; for a team that a lot of people thought would be improved, no one is hitting and players are making the same mental blunders on the base paths and in the field that happened so often last year. Taking all these things into account, I can't really blame Bo Porter for making a demonstrative stand that was more about firing up and defending his team than complaining about a bunt attempt.