Fellow TCB writer Perry came up with the great idea of the "Starting Nine", allowing our many wonderful writers an opportunity to voice their opinions. This rare time I've taken the reins with the surprise news of Bo Porter's dismissal. I posed these questions to our writers - What is your take on the Decision to fire Porter? What was your overall perception of Porter as a manager? Who would you want as a replacement?
It came a bit sooner than expected, but it was going to happen. I think the story breaking about the tensions in the front office just hastened things a bit. Porter struck me as the managerial equivalent of the "good clubhouse guy" label; friendly, energetic, a guy you like to be around, but fringe talent for the job when you get right down to it. There were numerous times where I just had to stare at the screen in bewildered amazement at the way the bullpen was being managed, and at other questionable moves (why on earth was Dexter Fowler, one of the only good OBP men on the club, batting behind Carter?). Let's not forget last year when Mike Scioscia outmanuvered him because Porter didn't know the rulebook.
In my eyes, Porter was a high-energy, fundamentals guy brought in to develop the kids for a while. I always assumed he'd be a 2-3 year guy and, when we were ready to really start competing, someone new, someone more in-tune with the front office's new ways, would be brought on board. Frankly, this is one of the most unsurprising moves that they've made this season, in my eyes. As for the new guy, someone fairly young, well-educated and intelligent, receptive to logic and sabermetrics, with a good respect for the game and for doing things the right way. Go read through Morgan Ensberg's blog and tell me he wouldn't be great at this.
The decision to fire Porter appears that it was made days or possibly weeks before today. The front office had their reasons to dismiss Porter, and his right-hand man Dave Trembley, so there was no point in waiting. It seems as if people are trying to find underlying reasons as to why Luhnow canned Porter, but the main reason is right there in plain text in the Astros press release.
"Bo's passion and energy are unparalleled, and his desire to win unquestioned...I made this decision because I believe we need a new direction in our clubhouse."
That's definitely true. If you've watched Bo in games, he wants to win more than anyone else on the Astros' bench. But wanting to win and trying your best doesn't mean he did a good job. I believe there's more than meets the eye about the "new direction of the clubhouse." We don't know how Bo handled the clubhouse and it's useless to speculate, but one thing is for sure: Managing the clubhouse is by far the most important part of this job due to the current roster construction.
On top of that, Porter was not a good in-game tactician. Sometimes he over-managed, and other times he didn't do enough. He often was outdone by the opposing manager, which can not happen at the major league level. There are too many baseball people who don't have managerial jobs that could manage the game itself better than Porter.
If the Astros continue to heavily rely on the data, and I don't see why they wouldn't, the new manager has to be fully on board with the way the front office wants games to be managed. Even more importantly, the manager needs to be in control of this clubhouse and make sure everyone is on board with how not only the game will be played, but how to deal with the media and how to carry yourself as a Major League Baseball player. Morgan Ensberg seems to have plenty of respect from players in the Astros organization and is at the top of the list for me.
Here are my initial thoughts/theories/speculations/rants on this:
A) The media got this right, for whatever reasons and with whatever qualifications one might feel the need to attach.
B) The 'Astros are a mess' meme is here to stay for the time being.
C) Crane and Luhnow might actually agree with that. To me, the timing means they viewed Porter's actions as immediately fireable. What was that offense? If Bo had gone outside the chain of command, without raising the issues with Luhnow first, I might agree. If he raised the issue first with Luhnow and then went to Crane, that's another matter. Either way, I think this may have been the latest in a string of moves to get rid of the 'squeaky wheel', which leads to ...
D) When it comes to organizational/office politics, Luhnow plays hardball.
E) This could lead to less of the off-the-record complaints we've been getting this season. There's now enough of a trail of bodies that anybody will think twice about complaining to Ortiz or anyone else.
F) Bo wasn't going to be the long-term manager either way.
G) I will leave it to others to suggest names of Luhnow/SABR-friendly potential managers. I like the idea of Ensberg, though.