The new Astros manager couldn't be at Thursday's press conference in person, since he's still got a game and a World Series to chase this season. Hope that's not an omen of things to come, because everything else that Jeff Luhnow and Jim Crane said was encouraging.
Luhnow called Porter an, "expert in specific areas, outfield, baserunning, fundamentals." He also said that with the young team, Houston needed to emphasize playing baseball the right way and that Porter and his new staff would have to do a good job of that in the future. Was that a cut at Brad Mills or Tony D?
Porter, 40, is a Houston native who is having a homecoming of sorts, even though he's not home yet. He's worked under a variety of managers, including Davey Johnson, Fredi Gonzalez, Kirk GIbson and A.J. Hinch. He's seen a lot of different organziational styles and, though he hasn't been a manager in the big leagues before now, he does have experience coaching in the minors.
As we expected, analytics came up. "Bo understands and appreciates the effect technology and the analytical side has had on the game," Luhnow said. "He wants to not only accept it, but take it and let it impact the organization. I think he will help us continue to apply some of the things we’ve been working on."
When asked by Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle what made him a good fit for that, Luhnow responded that Porter was, "open-minded, smart and he knows baseball. We feel we can develop a bond between him and the front office that will be closer than in some organizations around baseball."
The other thing emphasized in the press conference was Porter's motivational skills. Both Luhnow and Crane referred to him as a "motivational speaker." They said he will be getting out in the community more to use those communication skills and will hopefully set up a better atmosphere in the clubhouse.
"He's like a motivational speaker," Luhnow said. "He can connect individually and with groups. He will get the most out of people and has genuine energy about him. People are drawn to him. It doesn't matter how old he is, people want to follow him."
To that end, Luhnow said that changing the clubhouse culture was something they valued highly in the interview process and was a factor in their decision to bring in Porter.
"One of our key criteria was the candidate creating the right culture in the clubhouse," Luhnow said. "We’ve seen two environments this season and realize how important the staff is in creating that. That can make all the difference in the world. We want an environment that is supportive and development-oriented instead of everyone for themselves. We really felt good about the kind of environment he will create. It’s a contagious enthusiasm balanced by a realism. He’s not going to stop until he achieves his goal."
Porter's background as a football player at Iowa was also brought up as a positive. That "football mentality" will help with a sense of urgency that this team will need at times. Luhnow thinks Porter can not only bring that urgency, but also maintain it over the course of a long season.
"He will not accept anything less than 100 percent effort," Luhnow said. "That's important in giving us the best chance to win. I was struck by something he said in the interview process. He said, 'It’s not a matter of setting expectations too high and failing to reach them, it’s setting them too low and reaching them.' He brings a football mentality to the team that helps him create a sense of urgency. He’s smart enough and capable to keep that up over the entire season."