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MLB

It’s Time For Bo Porter To Get His Second Shot

With managerial openings coming soon, it's Bo's turn to return.

Image Credit: Getty Images

With only a handful of games left in the MLB season, there are currently three MLB job openings that will be filled during the offseason. By season’s end, there will be at least seven managerial job openings. 

If MLB fails to fill one of these openings with a qualified African-American candidate then it would represent a damaging blow to the efforts the league has made to increase diversity on the field and in the front offices. 

Dave Roberts is the lone African-American manager in baseball and he basically has to go to the World Series every season to retain his job. We are a far cry from the days when guys like Willie Randolph, Ron Washington, Dusty Baker, Cito Gaston, and Lloyd McClendon were leading MLB squads. 

The truth is, baseball has a problem with hiring and retaining Black managers. The numbers undeniably tell us that. There’s still outdated, culturally-biased perceptions lingering among some ownership groups, that there aren’t any “qualified” black candidates. 

Former Astros manager BoPorter, says that reasoning is a fallacy. 

“That’s not a reason,” he insisted. “Because from Willie Randolph to Dusty Baker to myself to 20-year coaching veteran Demarlo Hale…you look around baseball and there’s quite a number of African-Americans that have the resumes, have been in the game or they’ve done the job.”

Porter is doing an outstanding job as a MASN NATS XTRA analyst. On a nightly basis, viewers get to see Porter share his experiences, grasp of analytics and baseball acumen gained over decades as a former MLB player, coach, and manager. 

Porter Got Screwed

I’ve written several stories on Porter, who was given a raw deal in Houston and basically laid the foundation for the World Series championship that AJ Hinch hijacked in 2017. When Houston won the championship, Porter received countless texts, social media posts, and fan mail, congratulating him for developing its young talent and babysitting a dumpster fire during the 2013-14 seasons before the many jewels of the team’s farm system blossomed into form.

As Astros manager, Porter purged the club’s losing culture in less than two seasons, was fired and has never managed again. That was five seasons ago.

When I spoke to Porter in May, he said he was happy in his new gig as a broadcaster. He made it clear that he wasn’t soliciting any managerial jobs.

However, after following up with him this week, Bo appeared much more eager and willing to listen to a team in need of an experienced leader who has his proven ability to cultivate young talent and maximize inferior rosters. 

It’s Not The Record, It’s What You Do With The Talent You Have

Despite a 110-190 managerial record, Porter’s ability to teach, lead and cultivate talent is undeniable.

If you know baseball — and Bo knows baseball — a manager’s win-loss record rarely defines the value he can bring to a team. It’s what a manager does with the talent he is given. 

Many managers get caught in unfortunate situations, like recently retired Royals manager Ned Yost who spent most of his tenure in Kansas City rebuilding. He managed to win a World Series in 2015, but in the long-term, you can’t have a winning record if ownership won’t provide you with good players, as evidenced by Yost’s overall losing record (744-846) in 10 seasons with the Royals. 

This theory directly applies to Porter’s situation in Houston. The difference is, Bo wasn’t allowed six seasons of mediocrity with the Brewers like Yost was to begin his managerial career, before getting a second chance with the Royals. 

That being said, there have to be plenty of Major League franchises that would love to see what Bo Porter could do with a real, playoff roster.

We are witnessing how the seeds he planted back in 2013-14 in Houston have blossomed into a mini-dynasty. His current position as an analyst has only strengthened his reputation as a knowledgeable baseball student and strategist

Hinch remains the biggest beneficiary of Porter’s early work with a rebuilding Astros franchise full of undeveloped youngsters and borderline pros — who were purposely chosen to tank games in order to stack the farm system.  

Let’s compare the rosters that Porter had to work with and the one AJ Hinch currently has. Houston’s 2013 and 2014 rosters were full of guys who aren’t even in the league anymore.

In ’13 Jose Altuve was a 23-year-old baby, stuck in a miserable lineup and was yet to have his first .300 batting season. 

Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel, J.D. Martinez and George Springer were also newbies with untapped potential and very little idea of how to contribute to a championship culture. Bo taught them how to be pros. 

The rest of the roster, including the pitching staff, was pretty much trash. Porter’s Astros ranked 26th out of 30 teams in batting in 2013 and he had to work magic just to achieve that lowly distinction. 

The pitching staff was ranked dead last in baseball. Every starter from young Keuchel to Bud Norris to Brad Peacock had a losing record and a bloated ERA. There was no Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole or Wade Miley or Zack Greinke to throw out there.

Hinch, on the other hand, has the benefit of the best pitching staff in baseball and one of the most balanced lineups. He was blessed with All-Star caliber talents like Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, the developed versions of “Bo’s Boys” — Altuve, Gonzalez and George Springer and a 35-year old Cuban sensation, Yuli Gurriel, who hits bombs and plays like he’s 25.

The Quick Managerial Hook

If no one else says it, then I will: Bo Porter’s inability to land another managerial job is a black stain on baseball’s diversity efforts.

He’s got to feel short-changed.

“My question would be,” Porter told The Shadow League in 2018 at the MLB-sponsored Elite Development Educational camp at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida, “How would Bo Porter fare if he was given a roster that was built to win?  Or given a chance to take over a rebuilding team, do all of the groundwork, build the infrastructure and help the young players learn on the job and then have the opportunity to see those players through. That’s all you can ask for.”

Instead, Hinch was able to acquire a squad that was on the cusp of breaking out after being molded by Porter and guided through the rocky waters for 300 games.

In reality, all Hinch did to earn the Astros job was benefit from his longtime relationship with Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow. 

Talent Hides Warts, Losing Magnifies Them

When the Astros initially hired Hinch, the move was blasted in the media. Everyone could see that Porter had the Astros soaring towards a breakout season in 2015. 

According to a houston.culturemap.com story from 2014, after Porter was fired 138 games into his second season, “a high-level baseball executive told CSN Chicago reporter David Kaplan that Hinch is “one of the worst managers that he has evaluated over the past decade” when the Chicago Cubs were considering Hinch for their managerial opening… Hinch didn’t get the Cubs job then, but he has the Astros one now.”

This executives’ criticism of Hinch was based on his stint as the Arizona Diamondbacks manager in 2009 and 2010. Hinch went 89-123 in parts of two seasons and miserably underachieved in the eyes of baseball fans. 

“Perhaps no candidate that I have called about has evoked more negative response than Hinch with most everyone I spoke with, believing the Cubs would be making a major mistake hiring him,” Kaplan wrote. 

Kaplan’s scathing indictment was somewhat justified. Kirk Gibson took over as Diamondbacks manager halfway through 2010 and proceeded to win 94 games and an NL West Division championship in 2011 with the same team that Hinch led.

Hinch’s second time around has proved to be much more successful than the first. Since taking over as Astros skipper in 2016, Hinch has won 476 games in five seasons, which includes more than 100 wins the past three seasons.

Second Time Is A Charm

Baseball history suggests that Porter will be successful the second time around with a team truly built for the playoffs. MLB has a history of managers who failed miserably with different teams before finally getting to manage a roster that was actually built and cultivated for championship success. 

Joe Torre 

Look no further than Yankees’ iconic manager Joe Torre. Before George Steinbrenner opened up the vault, Joe had a frustrating, losing record of 894-1003 in his early managerial stints with the Mets, Braves, and Cardinals. pennants. 

When he came to the Yankees he was overloaded with talent and money. With resources in hand, he spearheaded a Yankees Dynasty that went 1173-767 during his 12 seasons and won Four World Series along with six American League pennants. 

If the logic used to deny Bo Porter a job was applied to Torre, he would never have become one of the GOAT managers in MLB history. 

Terry Francona

Cleveland Indians manager Francona was 285-363 in his first four seasons as manager of the Phillies. He then fell into the Boston Red Sox job on a team with Papi Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, and wicked pitching. Tito won two World Series and two pennants, breaking an 86-year old curse and dethroning the Yankees as the team of the decade. 

Bobby Cox

Let’s not forget Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox who had some rough early seasons managing the Atlanta Braves in the late 70s and had to go to Toronto before returning to the Braves and starting an NL dynasty. He finished his illustrious career with 2504 wins. Cox had a plethora of superstars and one of the greatest pitching staffs in history during his second go-round. 

It’s time for Bo Porter to get his second shot. These managers with no experience never seem to work. From Mickey Callaway (Mets) to Dave Martinez (Nationals) to Andy Green (Padres) and Brandon Hyde ( Baltimore). These underachievers obliterate the false notion that managers aren’t as important as they once were. Having a proven track record is important, even in this age of advanced metrics and puppet managers. 

It’s almost inexcusable that Dave Roberts is the only African-American manager when Bo Porter is there for the taking.

 

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