Has Bo Porter’s dream-come-true job become a nightmare?
When the Houston Astros hired Bo Porter as their new manager less than a month after the 2012 major league season ended, he was ecstatic—almost like walking on air. The 40-year-old Porter would not only be the 17th manager in franchise history, but he also would be only the team’s second black manager and would be the youngest skipper in the major leagues.
It was his first-ever shot a managing in the majors, even though he had been in professional baseball for 18 years. However, Porter only played in 24 major league games with the Chicago Cubs organization in 1999, 15 games with the Oakland A’s in 2000 and 48 games with the Texas Rangers on 2001.
Bo grew up in Newark, N.J. loving to play football as well as baseball. So he played and starred in both sports in both high school and college. He was all-state in football, baseball and even basketball.
He was an outfielder and a defensive back at Iowa University where he was all-Big 10 in both sports and named defensive MVP as a senior under Lone Star State coaching legend Hayden Fry.
Off the field Porter developed a side career as a motivational speaker, accompanying Sharon Robinson—the daughter of Jackie Robinson—to elementary schools promoting her father’s values and to discuss his own difficulties in learning to overcome a speech impediment.
“His style is his biggest asset,” explained Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow. “He’s a natural-born leader, very charismatic. He can get the best out of people, and that is what we found so compelling. He generates energy, and when he comes into a room, people are drawn to him.”
One of the main reasons Porter was the choice of the Astros’ front office for the managerial job is because he works so well with young, up-and-coming baseball players.
Bo just never realized how many of these raw, untested major league hopefuls would land on his doorstep during his first season as the front office continued to ship players to Houston from their minor league affiliates in Oklahoma City (Class AAA) and Corpus Christi (Class AA) and send some of their more established major leaguers packing.
Of the 25 players who began the season in Houston at the end of spring training, nearly half of them have either been traded, released or optioned to the minors.
Veteran slugger Carlos Pena was traded early last month followed by closer Jose Veras last Monday, Justin Maxwell and then the Astros’ No. 1 pitcher Bud Norris was dealt to Baltimore and then pitched and won against the Astros the very next day. Also parting ways with the team were Rick Ankiel, Philip Humber and Ronny Cedeno.
The Houston Astros are expected to compete with the youngest roster in the majors (25.6 years average age) that includes 12 rookies and a current payroll of only $13 million.
After Norris was traded last week, Porter’s starting pitching staff looks like a group of unknowns with Jordan Lyles, Dallas Kuechel, Erik Bedard, Brett Oberholtzer and Jarred Cosart. But Sunday young Brad Peacock got the start and hurled a whale of a game, despite losing 3-2 on a seventh inning home run and also will compete for one of the five starting pitching spots.
Besides being the worst team in the major leagues BEFORE the All-Star break, the Astros have gone 3-13 after the break in games through Sunday. And of their 74 losses so far this season, 34 have been by one run. The team has endured six losing streaks of at least five games.
Throughout the first four months of the season Porter has managed to be upbeat, but it seems like each week the front office weakens his 25-man roster with trades and player moves.
“I’ve stressed to the players the next two months we want to pick up as much momentum and as much confidence that will allow us to start next season with more confidence as a ball club,” Porter was quoted in Sunday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle.
But if the first four months of his initial season appeared frustrating with all those losses, the last two could really transform Bo Porter from Mr. Niceguy into somebody not so nice. I think I’ll send him a sympathy card.
KWICKIES…It looks like the “Tiger Woods Is Over the Hill” fraternity received a huge setback last weekend after he shot a 61 in Friday’s second round and then coasted to an easy seven-shot victory in the Bridgestone Invitational at Akron, Ohio last weekend. He easily defeated defending champion Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson with a 15-under-par 265 to capture the $1.5 million first place money. The victory was Tiger’s 79th on the PGA Tour, leaving him three shy of Sam Snead’s record 82 tour wins. And he no doubt will be the favorite in this week’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y.
Although a majority of the starters didn’t play in the Dallas Cowboy’s 24-20 upset preseason-opening Hall of Fame game victory Sunday night over the Miami Dolphins, the Cowboys who did participate played very well. The defense was solid with a couple of takeaways and the running game, which ranked 31st last season, amassed 170 yards from the backups fighting for a roster position.
Orange’s 71-year-old marathon man Ken Ruane returned last week from Cleveland, O.—which just so happens to be his hometown—where he competed in the National Senior Games in which each contestant had to have finished in the top three in their state to qualify for the nationals. Ken qualified for three events—the 5k and 10 k road races plus the 1500 meter run on a track. He finished fourth in both the 5k and 10k events and sixth in the 1500. “I took a wrong turn in the 10k which cost me two minutes and finishing third,” Ken said. “The 5k was on a very hilly course which was the toughest one I’ve ever run, but everyone of the top five finished within a few seconds of each other, so I was pleased with my effort. The guy who won the 1500 was the American record-holder in over age 65. He ran 5:48 and I was sixth at 5:58, so I’m happy because that was the toughest competition I’ve ever faced.”
The NFL has a new policy for fans entering a stadium for a 2013 preseason or regular season game banning bags that are not clear and that are larger than a gallon Ziploc bag. Other banned items include backpacks, diaper bags, coolers, seat cushions, computer bags and camera bags.
Of the 20 or so major league baseball players who accepted or have already served 50-game suspensions for illegal use of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, only New York Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez plans to appeal because he was socked with an unbelievable 211-game suspension for the remainder of the 2013 season and possible playoffs plus the entire 2014 season. His suspension begins tomorrow (Thurs.) but he will be able to play for the Yankees during the appeal process. The suspended players will not be paid while they serve out their bans.
The Houston Texans’ reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt will be wearing a brace on his left arm because the elbow he dislocated at last year’s training camp is bothering him again. Watt dislocated his elbow last August and missed most of the 2012 training camp. He will wear the brace for all football activities. “I’m not a fan of the brace, but it’s back for good,” Watt said Sunday.
JUST BETWEEN US…Ever since winning the Heisman Trophy, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has been in the sports headlines, usually with something he has done that is either detrimental or an embarrassment to the Aggies football program. The latest episode was uncovered Sunday when ESPN reported that the NCAA is investigating whether Manziel was “paid for signing hundreds of autographs on photos and sports memorabilia in January,” according to an article posted on ESPN.com. Manziel participated in the Aggies’ opening of preseason camp Monday but didn’t talk to the media. Aggies’ Head Coach Kevin Sumlin held a press conference Monday morning and said that the university is trying to find out the facts. If the investigation reveals that Manziel was compensated for his autographs, the NCAA could declare him ineligible for the 2013 Texas A&M football season.