The Nationals will lose their third base coach after this season, and Bo Porter may not be the last member of the staff to leave. The Astros’ hiring of Porter as their manager represents another new aspect of winning baseball for the Nationals: Good coaches help you win, and when you win other teams want to hire them.
“Good news for us,” bench coach Randy Knorr said. “If people come to take our staff, we must doing something right.”
Today in the Nationals’ dugout at Citizens Bank Park, Porter answered questions about the move he’ll make after the season. Managing in the majors leagues is his dream job, and now he will do it in his hometown, the place his wife grew up. For the time being, though, Porter is the third base coach of a team with a legitimate chance to win the World Series. After today, he won’t talk about the Astros again until the Nationals are no longer playing.
“I don’t want this to be anything that distracts from what we’re doing here,” Porter said. “We have a chance to really do something special. The guys in the clubhouse, they know that I’m committed. Davey Johnson, the rest of the coaching staff, Mike Rizzo, the Lerner family, they know that I’m committed to what we have going on here. They know I’m committed to what we’re doing here.”
Porter thanked Rizzo, the Nationals general manager, for allowing to participate in the Astros hiring process in the middle of the season. The timing was awkward for the Nationals, but the Astros wanted to move fast, before other firings opened other potential landing spots for Porter, and Rizzo obliged.
“It’s the fair thing to do,” Rizzo said. “I would never stand in anybody’s way to get the dream job of their life, in your hometown. It wouldn’t be fair for me to say ‘Wait till after the season,’ and then them go on their interview process and hire somebody else. That would be selfish of me and I wouldn’t do it.”
Rizzo said he had not yet thought about who would replace Porter as the third base coach in 2013. Johnson suggested that he wanted the Nationals next third base coach to come from within the organization, and if so, Class AAA Manager Tony Beasley seems to be a strong candidate.
“I mean, I hate to lose him,” Johnson said. “He’s a big part of our success here and he’s a really good baseball man but it’s a great opportunity for him. It’s going to be a good challenge and I think he’s the right man for the job.”
The Nationals had considered Porter a possible successor to Johnson whenever he steps down. While Rizzo wanted Porter to land his dream job, it hurt to lose him.
“The plan was that we brought him in here and he was a manager prospect,” Rizzo said. “We tried to surround Davey with as many manager prospects as possible, so he could mentor them and so hopefully we have good internal candidates if and when we need to make a decision on that. Yeah, he’s a managerial candidate. I’m not disappointed. I’m really happy for Bo because there’s only 30 of these jobs in the world.”
The process for Porter and the Astros moved quickly. On Sept. 13, an off day for the Nationals, Porter flew to Houston to interview with Astros GM Jeff Lunhow and owner Jim Crane. On Saturday, Astros scouting director Mike Elias flew to Washington and had dinner with Porter. Talks intensified until Wednesday night, when Crane and Luhnow personally flew to Philadelphia to finish the deal.
Porter had wanted to manage in the majors since Little League. He was always the one who organized games with his friends growing up in Newark, N.J. He had to learn how to play not only his position, but all the positions.
He still has work left in Washington. “All I really want for Christmas is one thing: a World Series ring,” Porter said. But for one day, he could reflect on reaching his career goal.
“I think I was okay until I talked to my wife,” Porter said. “She kind of broke down. It was obviously very emotional for her, being from Houston, her hometown. When I heard her break down on the phone, it really hit me like, ‘Wow.’ It was good. It’s a good feeling. There’s only 30 of these jobs. Whenever you get an opportunity to be named the manager, it’s always exciting. With the cherry on top, it’s in my hometown. And I’m excited about it.”