Consigned for a fourth-place finish in the AL West and headed for their sixth straight losing season, the Houston Astros fired manager Bo Porter and bench coach Dave Trembley on Monday, naming Tom Lawless and Adam Everett their respective interim replacements. The news comes via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.
While it's not a surprise to see Porter go, the timing of the move is curious. Houston is coming off a series in which it took three of four games from the Texas Rangers and has won four of its last six contests overall. Though they sit 25 games out of first place at 59-79, the Astros actually went 15-14 during the month of August.
Pitcher Scott Feldman shared his reaction to the news, via Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle:
Scott Feldman: “I just got off the phone with Bo. I just called him to thank him— he treated me really well and I’ll always be appreciative"— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) September 1, 2014
Since it's rare for teams to relieve managers of their duties after wins—and especially weird given Porter is coming off one of his best months in Houston—it's likely that the wheels have been in motion for some time. The Astros have not had a day off since Aug. 18, making it more difficult for their front office to make major changes.
Recent reports have also highlighted some discord between Porter and general manager Jeff Luhnow. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported Porter and Luhnow have butted heads over the latter's management style, which would see him "engage in excessive second-guessing" of the manager he hired in 2012. Rosenthal reports Porter went over Luhnow's head and complained to owner Jim Crane.
In a statement announcing Porter's firing, Luhnow seemed to confirm the tension between the pair.
"Bo's passion and energy are unparalleled, and his desire to win unquestioned," Luhnow said. "This decision was not made because of our current level of competitiveness in the Major Leagues. I recognize that our win-loss record is largely a product of an organizational strategy for which I am responsible. Rather, I made this decision because I believe we need a new direction in our clubhouse."
Luhnow later spoke more about the future for the Astros following the move, via Drellich:
Luhnow: “We will begin a search process immediately. I don't have a lot of details on it."— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) September 1, 2014
Luhnow on what he looks for in new manager: "A lot of the things that will be very similar to what we look for last time."— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) September 1, 2014
“It’s possible” — Luhnow on interviews before the season over and possibly naming a manager before season is over. “Not sure."— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) September 1, 2014
Porter also released a statement following his firing, which read, in part, via McTaggart:
During my time in Houston I dedicated myself to do everything I could to help this Organization win, in the short-term and for the long-term.
I am proud of what we were able to accomplish in Houston with an Organization in transition. I’m gratified we were able to bring some excitement to this city as a result of our improvement from 2013 to 2014.
Last but surely not least I want to thank the city of Houston and the fans for the incredible support they have shown towards me and my family during our time in Houston.
Porter, 42, went 110-190 in his two seasons. Houston was his first managerial position, having previously served as a coach with the Miami Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks and Washington Nationals organizations. Most known for his fiery temper, Porter's tenure with the Astros will perhaps be better known for his rants and tirades than for any on-field accomplishment.
Sportswriter Andy Glockner joked about the decision:
"Bo Porter was the right man to lose 105 games a season. But now that we're ready to lose only 90 a season, we need different leadership"— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) September 1, 2014
That Houston made its move the day of September call-ups is no accident, either. Lawless, 57, has spent a majority of his career molding minor league talent. He has been with the Astros' minor league system since 2009, most recently serving as the manager for the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks. His familiarity with the young players on the roster was no doubt appealing to Luhnow, who seems to be emphasizing organizational synergy.
"What we will seek going forward is a consistent and united message throughout the entire organization," Luhnow said in his statement. "It is essential that as an organization we create an atmosphere at the Major League level where our young players can come up and continue to develop and succeed.
"Ultimately, I am responsible for creating that culture, and I will do everything in my power to do so—even when it means making difficult moves like the one we made today."
Everett, 37, was hired as a roving infield instructor for Houston's minor league system before this season. One of the best defensive shortstops in baseball during his prime, Everett spent most of his decade-long career with the Astros.
He will take over for the 62-year-old Trembley, who has been Porter's right-hand man throughout his tenure.
While it is unlikely the moves make much of a positive impact in 2014, the Astros have long punted on this season. Their goal is to play the long game, developing organizational depth through high draft picks and cheap, young talent. The only way to pull that off is if everyone buys into the plan.
Given the toxicity of their relationship, it's probably best for Porter and Luhnow that they move on.
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