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On the Astros: In defense of Bo Porter

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As contrasting narratives continue to roll in on the Astros, one fan tries to make sense of his emotions

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Just over a week after the firing of Astros manager Bo Porter, the dichotomy of opinions is as sharp as ever. Local and national media continue to pour it on the Astros’ front office, painting a picture of a cold and calculated regime that rejects any outside opinions or inside dissention.

Those on Team Luhnhow have supported the decision, taking the opportunity to criticize Porter’s managerial decisions, while also casting him at times as the so-called leader of the internal revolution against the #Process.

As always, the truth almost assuredly lies somewhere in the middle. I’m not here to tell you that I claim to know the truth, but allow me to offer some background on myself before I give my opinion.

1) I have grown incredibly weary of much of the "reporting" that has been done on the Astros in the past few years. From the "ruining the integrity of the game" rhetoric to the blatant #LoseNow storyline that the local media has pushed, it gets old fast, and it’s always come off as shortsighted and self-serving by those who have pushed these agendas.

2) Bo Porter coached me from 14-16 when he first retired from baseball in 2003 and got into coaching in Houston, so I am admittedly biased towards Bo based on my personal experience with him.

3) I am also an unabashed supporter of Jeff Lunhow’s vision for the future of the Astros. I have an unwavering love for Team Luhnow and #Process and believe that the decision to let Bo go was best for the team in the long run

Now that we’ve gotten that out in the open, allow me to give my thoughts on the situation. I was ecstatic when the Astros hired Bo to be their manager. I thought he was a really good fit for the situation given his personality, his expressed open-mindedness to the analytics that the front office holds so dearly, and the fact that he was a darn good coach in my experience with him.

Who better than a young, fiery guy to come in and usher in a new era of Astros baseball and keep morale high on a young team that was in for a tough few years of rebuilding? I supported the hiring when it happened for obvious reasons, and I’d support it again today.

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You all know how the story played out. The Astros have taken their licks. There were questionable in-game personnel decisions made. The Astros have been a PR nightmare this season, capped off by the reports that Porter and Lunhow were at odds just before his ultimate dismissal from the job.

This has become yet another rallying cry for certain local media members who could probably find something to pick apart about the pope if he wore an Astros hat. On the other hand, I’ve seen a lot of banter around this site that Porter was not just an ineffective manager, but also the bad seed that led to a growing contingent of bad apples.

Here’s what I know from my experience with Bo: I can guarantee you all that there's not an insincere bone in his body. I believe that everything he said throughout the interview process was genuine with regard to embracing analytics, and I think that he did do that, just not necessarily in the same way and to the same extent that the front office does and would like to in the future.

Bo is the type of guy that will fight for his players and have their backs publicly, even if that means having a different discussion behind closed doors. It wouldn't shock me if he supported certain players privately that might've disagreed with certain organizational philosophies, but I don't think that means he's the type of guy that would plant seeds of malcontent by any means

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Fiery and passionate can ultimately lead to stubborn and heated, and I don't doubt that that became the case and ultimately led to his dismissal, but the notion of deliberate insubordination and organizational disarray has come across as too strong, so I feel compelled to insert my opinion. Do I agree with Bo's usage of our bullpen at times? No. Do I agree with sitting Jon Singleton against every LHP?

No. But knowing Bo personally and playing for teams that he coached, I promise you guys that he wasn't deliberately trying to sink the ship. He wasn't trying to turn people against the front office, and he isn't the type of person to leak stories to the media for selfish reasons.

I'll stake my reputation on that. Moreover, I challenge anyone here to name a manager, a coach, a boss, hell, a parent, or anyone in a position of authority who made every single decision the same way you would. It just doesn’t happen. There won’t be a perfect manager. Even if Lunhow built a robot to optimize every decision, you still wouldn’t agree with it every time. But I digress, I’m not here to defend Bo the manager, I’m here to defend Bo the man.

Do I think he ultimately wasn't fit for the managerial job? Probably not, especially not as his first stop, given the way our front office operates, although this is new to a lot of them too, so let's not cast all the blame on Bo as the whipping boy because he's the one that got the axe. I think a disconnect in communication and ultimately in the direction of the organization is a perfectly legitimate reason to have parted ways, but I've seen enough backlash at this point to feel compelled to chime in.

That's just my opinion, but by all accounts from those that have had interaction with Bo, it seems like the take away is that he's an impressively charismatic and genuine person, and that's exactly who he is. He’s sincere, he means what he says and he acts on those beliefs. So I can certainly see a situation in which his way and the Astros way deviated, and by all accounts it was quick and it was marked.

Even for those that chuckle at the idea of the clubhouse wheel of positivity, that’s just who he is. An encourager, a motivator, and a leader. I guarantee you he made that from a genuine desire to change the clubhouse mindset, not to try to create some corny aura of affirmation. Ultimately ineffective, maybe, but never insincere.
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Ultimately ineffective, maybe, but never insincere.

My question is, why can’t it be just that? Why can’t it be a difference in philosophy that ultimately necessitated a parting of ways and nothing more? In times of struggle and oppression, the proletariat tend to look for a unifying force. (Yes, I just referred to current Astros fans as the proletariat. Let me finish, I’m on a roll.) The media, especially the local media, is viewed as an oppressive and self-serving voice of power, and its defense of Porter as a victim of the Lunhow regime feels like it’s drawn a line in the sand.

Either we support the decision and oppose the media’s company line, or we’re just as bad as them. Which brings us back to the middle. The truth. Bo Porter is a passionate, candid man. He wasn’t the right fit to be the Astros manager anymore, and it became increasingly evident that he wasn’t the man for the job in the future based on the front office’s plan and message.

For as much criticism as the front office takes about ignoring the human element of baseball at times, this seems to be a perfect example of a human fit that just no longer worked. But that doesn’t mean he was the Chronicle’s crony.  It doesn’t mean he was ultimately an enemy of the front office and its plan. There’s no need to make this a zero sum game, and definitive sides don’t need to be chosen. It just means that it was time to cut ties and move forward. But hey, that’s just my opinion.