Friday, September 28, 2012

The timing of the Bo Porter announcement was not weird at all

There were some raised eyebrows yesterday about the press conference that announced Bo Porter as the 17th manager of the Houston Astros. The eyebrows were raised, or perhaps narrowed, as this introductory press conference did not feature Bo Porter in attendance, and furthermore confirmed that he'll stay with the Nationals until their season is over.

So what were the Astros thinking? Why announce that they've hired Bo Porter now? Why not wait until after the season to have a press conference? Or at least wait until, you know, the manager you're hiring can actually make it to the press conference?

Stop asking those questions. You're living life as a fan of a team with a typical front office. That's not the Astros. This is a team that interviewed Keith Law, hired Mike Fast and Kevin Goldstein. This is a team that has a Director of Decision Sciences, and whose amateur scouting coordinator has a law degree from Pepperdine.

Don't get me wrong - in no way am I trying to imply that this is a bad thing. Ed Wade represented a typical front office. Ed Wade's Big Board was actually a large board that Jeff Luhnow had to throw away because the files are in the computer.

The New Astros don't operate like that. We've talked about this before, on why the Astros fired Brad Mills when they did - late at night after another, ultimately meaningless loss - precisely so (my speculation here) that it would be overshadowed by the Texans pre-season game.

How long is it going to take us all to realize that nothing happens in this organization by accident?

The New Astros cleaned house in the front office - from Bobby Heck to David Gottfried - in August, which is an odd time to start telling people their contract won't be renewed. Add this to why they announced that Bo Porter will be the next manager (a) before the season is over, and (b) before he can actually join the team and it becomes more clear that the Astros aren't sharing a timetable with anyone else.

It was clear by mid-August that the Astros would wrap up the #1 pick in the 2013 draft. So why wouldn't Luhnow let go of that side of the front office, so he could begin preparing for that pick with his people in place?* 

Bo Porter is a highly-regarded up-and-coming manager. If Luhnow & Co. liked him, why not move on him? Clearly the Nationals don't have a problem with the agreement - those details had to be worked out with Washington. It's not as though Luhnow blew his wad and held a press conference that left Bo Porter sitting in Philadelphia watching SportsCenter scrambling to call Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson to say, "Hey, about this...yeah, I've been talking to Houston."

It's clear that Bo Porter was going to get his shot from somebody. Maybe the Marlins, an organization for which Porter previously coached. A handful of teams are going to let go of their managers in the next few weeks. By moving on the announcement and press conference, the Astros have saved themselves weeks of valuable time searching, interviewing, and selecting a manager - all without having to worry about competition from those handful of teams. You only have to read what Davey Johnson, Mike Rizzo, or Nationals fans had to say about Porter to realize that he was going to be somebody's manager - the Astros locked him down before anyone else had a chance to interview him.

And do you think it is a coincidence that they held this press conference on the morning after the last NL home game? It gave Crane and Luhnow a chance to get in front of the media and fans after a significant milestone in the history of the franchise. They didn't alter the narrative in a way that overshadowed that event, but they made themselves available to address the future of the organization, from the manager to the unveiling of new uniforms.

We unfortunate (for now) Astros fans, the laughing-stock of baseball, needed this. We've been thinking about 2013 and beyond since, oh, the All-Star Break. For the final off-day of this irregular, miserable season, I wasn't thinking about 2012. And to be honest, this press conference reinforced to me that the Astros haven't been thinking about 2012, either. The 2012 season was never about 2012.

*Notice the alliteration.