Reese Kaplan - Astros Refuse to Accept Slow Pace of Improvement

News out of my Texas homeland this week involved the termination of manager Bo Porter by the Astros.  He was the first manager to shepherd the Astros in their transition to the American League, but the transition was not a particularly smooth one.  During his tenure that lasted just shy of two seasons he compiled a not too impressive 51-111 debut season, improving somewhat this year to 59-79 before the Astros decided they’d seen enough and named Tom Lawless as the interim manager to finish out September.

By all reports, there was an increasing rift between the GM and Porter over his in-house managerial decision making.  Mets fans can understand what it's like to question on-the-field choices made by the field general.  Here the GM felt it was an important enough issue to warrant a change.  

As a franchise, there are some parallels between the Houston Astros and the New York Mets.  Both are perennial second division teams who seem on the precipice of turning it around.  Where the Mets are doing it primarily on the strength of pitching, the Astros boast All Star Jose Altuve at 2B who may very likely win a batting title and lead the league in stolen bases.  He has rookie George Springer as a teammate who flashes Giancarlo Stanton type power, slugging 20 HRs in a half season while sporting  baserunning speed that led to one minor league season with 45 swipes.  1Bman Jon Singleton and 3Bman Matt Dominguez are both showing 20 HR power and ex-Rockie Dexter Fowler is turning in another solid season.   DH Chris Carter is doing for them what was envisioned when Curtis Grandersno was signed by the Mets – low average, lots of strikeouts but 33 HRs and 78 RBIs thus far.

Their Achilles Heel has always been pitching, but there have been some positive developments in this regard as well.  Young veterans Dallas Kuechel and ex-Met Collin McHugh both sport ERAs hovering around 3.00 as starting pitchers.  Veteran Scott Feldman is doing his Bartolo Colon solid middle-tier starter bit, and then they have a few warm bodies filling out the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation.

Their bullpen, however, is a mess with journeyman Chad Qualls serving as the closer most of the year and no one of note in any other role. 

You can see the nucleus here of a team about to turn the corner.  Put another way, Lucas Duda is the only offensive player in the Mets lineup who could supplant someone on the Astros.  On the flip side, I think most people would feel confident in the Mets starting pitching and young bullpen dancing circles around the Houston personnel, yet which of the teams has improved more?   The Astros went from a .315 to a .428 winning percentage yet still FIRED THEIR MANAGER.  Why?  They felt they needed someone who could take them to the next level.

Contrast that approach with the Wilpons’ franchise.  Their record with Terry Collins actually declined from year one to year two, but they picked up his option.  Then in year three it was identical, still inferior to year one.  They extended his contract.  In 2014 the Mets are playing .464 ball – a slight uptick from the .457 of the previous two years.  With luck they might even approach the first year’s mark of .485. 

However, by all counts Terry Collins’ job is safe.  Let me repeat that.  The Astros improved by .113 points in winning percentage and canned their manager.  The Mets are likely looking at a third straight year of ball inferior to the poor year one and they want to keep their manager.  Is something wrong with this picture?

Just for grins I looked up Collins’ record with the Astros.  He managed them for 3 years, improving each season until reaching 82-80 and he was dumped after the 1996 season.  Apparently the Astros thought they could do better.  Starting 1997 under the helm of Larry Dierker they went to the post season three straight years.   Could a manager make a difference?  As Mets fans we may never know.  


Mack Ade said...

There is a special bonding between Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins.

I assume Alderson will accept a 2015 extension on his GM deal, which will cover the period that TC is under contract.

Alderson says he's not done yet.


Anonymous said...

It's rather evident that Reese Kaplan doesn't know why Po Porter was fired, but would rather use the event for an opportunistic Mets comparative than properly report the facts.

Porter was not fired for on-field reasons - W-L. He was fired for not towing the harsh company line of a very heavy handed GM who inserts himself into everything.

Mack Ade said...

Anon -

Please... enlighten us further. We could use some more ugliness about other teams around here.

Thomas Brennan said...

In fairness to Collins, when Wright struggles and Grandy in last 39 games hits .143 with 4 doubles, 2 homers and SIX RBIs (good grief, man), Connie Mack would have had no chance. Release Grandy, eat the contract.

Michael S. said...

I think we're stuck with him for at least another year. When Nimmo and/or Conforto are ready then the Mets can consider this.

Anonymous said...

There's good reading on it through CBS Sports which includes a statement from the GM and links to prior reports of ongoing problems. Those links begot more prior reports.

The Astros GM, Jeff Luhnow, essentially overly interfered with managerial duties, failed to communicate with the manager on things that should have been discussed, essentially making Porter look weak with his players when Porter had to handle a clubhouse revolt over an act by the GM that left Porter out of the loop but was nonetheless tasked with handling.

Porter was fired because the GM said he wanted a consistent message throughout the organization, and control of the clubhouse.


Thomas Brennan said...

Let me add a little on Grandy and leave it there: since Sept 1, 2013, including spring training 2014, he's been up > 700 times. His #s are .200/.300/.357. How awful is that. 63 RBIs and 79 runs in 725 plate appearances roughly. We're stuck with him. Of course I am making an excessive (for now) statement to release him, but that frankly is as bad as it gets - and he is only getting older. If his name was not Curtis G, and he was on a one year, and he put up #'s like that, he'd be gone. Reese, I'd almost rather stick Ruben in RF.

If this continues, the plan HAS to be to contain him in 2015 - he can't be allowed to destroy 2015. 2015 has to be a contending season. Bench him, use him as a pinch hitter and 5th OF in 2015. If this is just a bad seven playing months, and he rebounds, I'm wrong. Maybe like Lagares he gets 4 hits tonight and shuts me up. But how many guys turning 34 who've just done that turn it around.

Anonymous said...

Granderson recently said he sees no reason to change his approach. What more needs to be said about a player who wants to stick with what doesn't work?

Reese Kaplan said...


There aren't any on-the-field decisions being made by Terry Collins that are (to be charitable) questionable?

Let me refresh your memory:

Playing Rick Ankiel
Playing Jason Bay
Playing Ruben Tejada
Playing Kirk Nieuwenhuis
Playing people going through slumps instead of giving them a break
Not playing people who are producing like Eric Campbell
Burning out his bullpen
Not practicing the basic fundamentals of the game such as hit and run, rotation plays, running on contact, etc.
Sticking with burnt out veterans no matter what
Putting every rookie in a position to fail -- batting him 8th, benching him after a good game (the Herrera change is WAY out of character)
Collapsing each year after the All-Star break
Finding EVERY SINGLE OFFENSIVE PLAYER (except Duda) doing worse under his motivational command
Oh yeah -- the losing, too

Reese Kaplan said...

I forgot about his man-crush on Eric Young, Jr. that took a year (or words from the front office) finally to wane as his only skill is as a pinch runner.

Reese Kaplan said...

Playing Chris Young
Playing Curtis Granderson
Not letting David Wright have time to heal

If I keep thinking about it and adding comments, I'll crash this site. He's an awful manager.

Michael S. said...

I'm hoping for an extended DL stint with a phantom injury or a relegated role on the bench. Unfortunately the contract may prohibit that, but Granderson SUCKS.

Reese Kaplan said...

@Michael S

What's Tonya Harding up to these days?

I kid, I kid...

Anonymous said...


Terry Collins has nothing to do with my bone of contention that you did not provide the correct reason for the Bo Porter firing.

Rather, you created your own to mold that to your Terry Collins narrative for dismissal.

Porter was Not fired for on field failures, but clubhouse and organizational reasons. In other words, baseball politics. What you did in your blog post was either ignore the real reasons Porter was fired, didn't know, just assumed, or didn't care.

Your objective in this blog post was to exploit the Astros situation to make the Mets retention of Collins to look even worse.

Again, Bo Porter was fired for very different reasons than Terry Collins should be. The Astros GM, Jeff Luhnow, put out a statement regarding Bo Porter's dismissal. Read it.

jshapps77 said...

Sure, I'm done with Terry, just like everybody else. But let's be real. This team is not one "good" manager away from relevance. I think it'd be charitable to credit even the top managers with more than 3 or 4 wins a season. Let's get a better team. Then let's worry about addressing the manager when we're talented enough for it to matter.

Thomas Brennan said...

Regardless of reason for Astro manager firing (and I did not read it, I'll admit), this organization sticks too long with bad decisions, and makes too many bad ones that are albatross type weights...Grandy and Bay, just to name 2. Bay I also cut some slack. They sign a righty power hitter for the Grand Canyon, then he had bad concussions. Grandy was a bad deal, or the Yanks would have kept him. And they, for reasons Reese cites, are staying too long with TC.

They were burnt by past huge contract debacles, had a chance to pursue the unproven (Abreu), but because of past boo boos opted for the safe one, Grandy. Not so safe after all, huh?

Charles said...

Terry's decisions, as well as his ridiculous handling of rookie players, make me feel as if he definitely needs to go.

Tejada deserved to bat 8th. Not only for his horrible bat, but his willingness to take a walk when they wanted to pitch around him. THAT willingness is not something that 95% of rookies have when they are trying to make a good impression to the manager, front office, and fans.

It's a lot to ask a player like Flores or Darno to be extra selective batting eighth. Especially with all the expectations and the natural instinct to want to hit the cover off the ball. Yet, good old Terry loved to throw these kids down in the order and boy did that screw them over.

Michael S. said...

She could use a few extra dollars, I'm sure.

bob gregory said...

it ALL comes down to Alderson.

Reese Kaplan said...

Not to pile on, but how do you explain taking a guy hitting 8 for his last 19 (a .421 clip) and BENCHING HIM to cool off his hot bat?


Reese Kaplan said...

@ Anonymous

I couldn't have said it any better myself:

"Rather, I made this decision because I believe we need a new direction in our clubhouse."

That was not Sandy Alderson, but it could have been. It was the Astros' GM.

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