Today, September 1 is Labor Day.
While originally established in the 19th Century as a way to honor workers, through the years the first Monday of September celebration has turned into a time of barbecues, beach getaways and appliance sales.
In fact Labor Day weekend is often called the last weekend of the summer even though fall does not officially arrive until September 22.
For fans of the Houston Astros, Labor Day will forever be known as the day that the manager and bench coach were asked to turn in their uniforms and leave the building.
Earlier today the Astros announced that Manager Bo Porter and bench coach Dave Trembley had been relieved of their duties. Tom Lawless will serve as interim manager through the remainder of the 2014 season.
While no one ever likes to be fired part of me thinks that Porter and Trembley are relieved to be let go from the tire fire of a team that is the Astros. Plus, by being let go now Porter and Trembley have more time to line up jobs for next season.
Neither Porter nor Trembley should be held to blame for the performance of the Astros under their tenure. One can only manage with what they are given and few can argue that the front office has been very stingy in what they are giving the field staff to work with.
The company line for the Astros continues to be, “just wait we are getting better every day and are bolstering the farm system for continued success.”
While there has been slight improvement in the on field performance of the team this season there also has been a marked increase in stories about player discontent and mismanagement by the front office.
There was also the whole situation regarding failing to sign the first pick in this year’s draft and the release of confidential front office communications regarding trade negotiations.
Also, who can forget the absolute disaster centering on the team’s broadcast rights that has prevented much of the Houston area from being able to watch the games on television?
Of course with such spotty on field performance the last couple of years not being able to watch on television might be a blessing in disguise for those fans who do not get the games.
Granted no team is perfect but with each story that comes out it seems more and more like the Astros front office does not seem to have much of a clue on how to run a Major League Baseball team.
As Fox Mulder would say, “I want to believe” that things will get better in the not too distant future and that the Astros will once again be a playoff contender but with each day I fell more like they will be a Major League pretender.
Earlier this season it was announced that the Astros were going to raise ticket prices to help cover expenses. Asking fans to pay more to see a less competitive team does not seem like a sound business strategy.
Of course through their dynamic pricing model the Astros charge even more when the marquee franchises like the Yankees and Red Sox are in town to help cover the losses on the other games.
I do understand that there is a business side to baseball but continuing to fleece the fans will end up biting them in the end.
With the arrival of football season it is likely that even fewer people will pay attention to the Astros as they limp to the finish line of the 2014 season. While it is likely that they can avoid their fourth consecutive 100 loss season in the grand scheme of things it might be too little too late.
More and more I hear people say that Houston is a football town and not a baseball town.
While I do not yet believe that baseball will fail in Houston in the same way that Arena League Football, minor league hockey and Indy Car did, it is certainly a possibility under the current management team based on the recent track record of activities.
Thankfully there are the Sugar Land Skeeters to watch for a reasonably priced baseball fix. With the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball planning additional teams in the Houston area over the next few years there very well could come a time where fans grow tired of paying for the Astros antics.
While this is an entirely unlikely scenario the people of Houston could watch the Astros leave the fourth largest city in America and find themselves with two large empty sports complexes.
The fact that Houston is the fourth largest city in America is often brought up when people question how the Astros could be so bad. And while it is best saved for another column on another day, I believe that a city’s size does not guarantee success in sports. One need only look at the Los Angeles area and their inability to get a NFL team after 20 years as proof of that. Sometimes sports work better in a smaller market where there are less options for the fans to spend their money on.
As for the next antics for the Astros front office they will in the words of general manager Jeff Luhnow seek “a consistent and united message throughout the entire organization.” If one was to read between the lines of that statement they could surmise the Astros are seeking a yes man manager who does whatever the front office asks of them and does not have an opinion of their own. Rarely does that sort of micro managing create a good working environment.
As for Porter and Trembley’s former teams, the Nationals and Orioles respectively, things could not be looking better as each team holds a commanding lead in their respective divisions and seems poised for deep postseason runs.
A beltway series between the Nationals and the Orioles would be a very nice thing and the way the teams are playing it very well could be a reality. Of course there are still several teams that could prevent that from occurring but one thing is clear it should be a very fun postseason with the inclusion of some teams that have not been there in a while.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Skeeters tickets to buy and a beltway World Series to prepare for.
Copyright 2014 R. Anderson