Though the Houston Astros have shown marked improvement on the field, having already surpassed their 2013 win total before entering the month of September, dysfunction and dissension have reportedly festered behind the scenes, most notably in the relationship between general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter.
According to a report from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Luhnow and Porter have been at odds over several issues this season, including what Rosenthal describes as "excessive second-guessing" of Porter's in-game management. Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle later backed up Rosenthal's report, stating that a "heated battle" took place, which led to Porter speaking with Jim Crane directly about his concerns with the relationship going forward.
In the wake of the reports, both Crane and Porter are not surprisingly attempting to downplay any possible bad blood.
When asked about the situation, Crane told the Chronicle via text message: “You should direct this to Jeff (Luhnow). I have no comment.”
For what it's worth.
Jeff Luhnow has no comment. Said by phone he is out of town but will be back tomorrow.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) August 29, 2014
The owner also said “I have not discussed any of what was reported with Bo and told the reporter (Rosenthal) it was false.”
Porter said he had not talked with Crane about Luhnow.
“I think we function for the overall good of the Houston Astros organization,” Porter said. “I’m not going to talk about personal relationships. At no point have I sat down with Jim Crane about my relationship with Jeff.”
Not exactly denials, but we'll take them at their word concerning the meeting itself.
Rosenthal's report indicated the Luhnow/Porter relationship was further strained by a lack of communication on certain issues, which was highlighted during Mark Appel's unexpected but much discussed bullpen session at Minute Maid Park.
Here's more on that from Rosenthal:
An unannounced visit by Appel to Houston prior to his promotion contributed to the friction between Luhnow and Porter, sources said; Luhnow initially did not make Porter aware that Appel would throw a bullpen session for pitching coach Brent Strom. Porter then had to explain the situation to his players, a number of whom were seething, believing that Appel did not warrant his promotion and was receiving special treatment.
At the time, the discontent of the players seemed a little out of line. It's not unusual for prospects to be brought in for a workout in order to be evaluated and critiqued. However, it's easy to understand Porter's discontent given that he wasn't kept in the loop and that his pitching coach was unexpectedly sidetracked from his preparation on a game day. A simple phone call or even an email could have prevented that issue from escalating.
Of course, the problems for Luhnow have gone much deeper than his reported issues with Porter. He's also been at the center of Houston's leaked trade discussion notes, their questionable handling of George Springer's contract and subsequent promotion, as well as their inability to sign No. 1 overall draft pick Brady Aiken.
Those are a lot of fires to have burning in a small space over a short period of time. Though there's no indication that Luhnow's job is in jeopardy at this point, Crane obviously has some decisions to make about his team's short-term and long-term future and who will be the best person to oversee it.
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