To some, the job of an MLB manager is as simple as filling out a lineup card and managing a bullpen. However, the reality is they never have a moment to relax, because there's always a valuable lesson to be taught. That‘s especially true when you’re tasked with overseeing the development of a young, inexperienced, and in some places immature roster for an organization that’s in full rebuilding mode.
That’s the assignment Bo Porter accepted when he agreed to become manager of the Houston Astros prior to the 2013 season. His young squad — and their league low $24 million payroll — finished with an MLB-worst 51-111 record in his first season, which was pretty much the expectation going in. The win total should rise in 2014, almost by default, but there’s obviously still a lot of groundwork to lay for a franchise that's a long way behind the top four teams in the AL West.
It's with that much needed growth and development in mind that Porter has reached out to resources within the Astros organization to share their experiences and wisdom to hopefully spark something within his players. One such meeting — or “synergistic chemistry lab,” as Porter calls them — was scheduled for 9 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning with special advisor Roger Clemens handling the lecture, but it didn't go as Porter had planned.
As Brian McTaggart of MLB.com explained, the overall immaturity of the club was on full display as several players weren't prompt or prepared for the start of the meeting. This led an angry Porter to confront his team and give them an earful about being disrespectful to the seven-time Cy Young award winner and the time he was investing in their cause.
A message that was clearly audible to anyone within earshot of the Astros facility. And a message that a much calmer Porter would reiterate while speaking about the incident later in the day.
“Obviously, as an organization we’re fortunate to have some people like Roger Clemens and Craig Biggio and different people that will come in here over the course of the year and speak to our ballclub,” Porter said. “Even that being said, we have the 9 o’clock meeting when it comes to the synergistic chemistry lab.
“Out of respect to your teammates, out of respect to the people that take time out of their day to come out there and try to do everything they can to help this organization, it’s the right thing to do to make sure you’re dressed and ready and attentive when that person shows up or when it’s time for a team meeting.”
As angry as Porter was initially, deep down he had to relish this opportunity to teach his players another valuable lesson. A learning experience was gift wrapped, and he didn't hesitate to drive his point home.
If his players received the message, it could prove to be one of the more valuable lessons Porter teaches this spring, because this wasn't just a respect issue. It's just as much about preparation. It's approaching every workout and every meeting as if it's their most important. It's making a commitment to the organization. It's taking nothing for granted. And it's paying attention to details, because baseball is a game often decided by the things that don't show up in boxscores.
If all goes well, it could also prove to be a reference point as the moment Porter's players finally got it and the Astros began their slow climb back to respectability.
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