After a long line of missteps this season, is Houston's GM taking his first step out the door?
The Astros are on track to snap their three-year streak of triple-digit losses, but general manager Jeff Luhnow's job security is still in question. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal wrote on Friday that "it's difficult to imagine the Astros starting the 2015 season with the same management team," which doesn't come as a surprise after all the recent drama in Houston.
Luhnow in particular has been through a lot this season. On top of the Astros' leaked trade discussion notes, the team's inability to sign No. 1 overall draft pick Brady Aiken, outfielder George Springer's promotion controversy, prospect Mark Appel's bizarre bullpen session and another season of futility on the field, the Houston general manager isn't seeing eye-to-eye with manager Bo Porter.
Rosenthal reported in his article that tension runs high between Luhnow and Porter, with the latter's exasperation stemming from "a lack of input and from his belief that Luhnow engages in excessive second-guessing of his in-game management." The Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich took it a step further by additionally reporting a "heated battle" between Luhnow and Porter."
The incident with Appel, in which the right-hander threw a bullpen session in Houston and was promoted to Double-A despite a 9.74 ERA and 1.92 WHIP at High-A, drew the ire of both Astros players and Porter, who apparently wasn't notified of Appel's session at first.
Since being promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi, Appel has settled down to post a 3.15 ERA in six starts while greatly improving his command within the strike zone. (He's allowing hits and home runs at an astronomically lower rate.) But the issue with Appel's promotion and bullpen session was more related to the way it was conducted, and that damage may be irreparable no matter how well Appel performs in Double-A.
For now, Luhnow doesn't appear to be in serious danger of losing his job, though that could change by the end of the season. Astros owner Jim Crane's reluctance to make a decision one way or another is understandable given his big commitment over the past three years, but he might have to be willing to part with his front office team if the situation continues to spiral downhill. We'll be watching eagerly over the next several weeks.
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