We’re not going to pretend that Bo Porter had no idea what he was getting into, are we?

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At the outset, allow me to say that none of this is a defense — or an indictment — of the Astros front office. I have no idea what really goes on there, and neither do you.

We have had reports in recent days that there was a lot of strife between fired manager Bo Porter and GM Jeff Luhnow. We have heard that there was dysfunction. But we don’t know how much dysfunction there truly has been. We don’t know if the strife between Luhnow and Porter was one guy’s fault or the other’s, although most of the time such things are a two-way street. We can likely expect to hear more about this in the coming days and, in all likelihood, sometime this offseason. It’s possible Houston is a nuthouse. It’s possible Porter and Luhnow simply didn’t get along in the way lots of GMs and managers don’t get along when teams lose a lot. Let’s wait and see about that.

But one thing I think that deserves some pushback at the moment is the notion — which I’ve seen creep up in the past 24 hours — that Bo Porter was somehow wronged in terms of how the Astros chose to rebuild. That he was sold a bill of goods about what his situation would be like or that he somehow had the rug pulled out from under him after he took the job.

The strongest argument in that regard comes in Buster Olney’s column this morning (sorry; ESPN Insider only). It starts out like this:

With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, we know a lot more about the position that Bo Porter signed up for in the fall of 2012, when he became manager of the Houston Astros. Whether he knew it or not at the time, this is what the job notice probably should’ve looked like . . .

After which Olney offers a lot of comments implying that it was unknown at the time that the Astros were going to have an extremely low payroll and run out a lot of not-ready-for-prime-time talent in the first couple of years of what was and continues to be a massive rebuild job. Also, that it was unknown that GM Jeff Luhnow was going to rely on his front office staff to an extremely high degree and take an approach that made the “Moneyball” A’s look like poster boys for laissez-faire front office management.

I have no idea if the Astros’ rebuilding plan is a good one. On the one hand, that organization was a smoking pile of rubble when Luhnow took over and new ownership came in, so perhaps something radical was called for. On the other hand, the Astros’ tear-down/rebuild has been really extreme, the losses have been close to unprecedented and there are lots of examples of teams who have rebuilt while still putting more resources into “win-now” efforts than the Astros have. Veterans that, while unlikely to be part of the next good ballclub for that city, at least push them closer to 90 losses a year than 110. Whether this is truly something worthwhile is something people debate, but it has been done. Maybe the Astros made a mistake in not doing that. Maybe they’ll be shown to have done OK with the approach they took.

But no matter what you make of all of this, it’s impossible to say that Porter had no idea that was what was coming. The Astros made all kinds of headlines in 2011 and early 2012 when they hired Luhnow.  He, in turn, made unconventional hires like a “Director of Decision Sciences,” and made several hires from the sabermetric community and/or online analysis world, such as Mike Fast, Kevin Goldstein and Colin Wyers. The notion that this was a going to be a tear-down unlike that seen in recent years was pretty darn clear. Also clear: that a lot of baseball writers have scoffed at what the Astros have been doing, presumably because it’s either unconventional or because they are reflecting the displeasure of their baseball sources. Olney himself has engaged in this before.

Again, none of this is to say that the Astros are doing the best things or even the right things. It’s possible that the strategy ends up a failure. It’s possible that three years (and possibly more) of copious losing does more to undermine the team in the eyes of fans and others than the presumed reward at the end of the process gains them. It’s also possible that, yes, Luhnow is a flaming jackwagon and the Astros’ front office is a mess. I have no idea.

But to suggest that Bo Porter was somehow surprised and wronged by the low payroll, the piles of losses and the idea that this was going to be a front office which took an extremely active role in day-to-day decisions is just fiction. At least as far as those things go he, and everyone else, knew what he was getting into.

Baseball’s Most Handsome Managers

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — Brad Ausmus’ reign atop the most handsome manager list is over, ended by his termination. All good things come to an end.

It’s possible, though, that he would not have ranked number one even if he was still managing the Tigers. There’s a lot of hot new blood in the managerial ranks this year and the competition is getting tougher and tougher. It’s also worth noting that, after several years of the Tigers underachieving, the stress was probably starting to get to old Brad too. As anyone who appreciates handsomeness knows, stress can adversely impact one’s hunk-factor. A rugged jawline, smoldering eyes and undeniable beefcake can only get a man so far. Carefree, devil-may-care confidence has to take you the rest of the way home, and Ausmus didn’t have that anymore.

With Ausmus gone, in our fifth year of ranking managerial handsomeness, we enter an unsure new world.

Which skipper is the most handsome this year? See below to find out. But first, the disclaimers:

  • No baseball manager is ugly. All of them have inner beauty, I’m sure.
  • This is a subjective list, obviously. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I will privately judge you for thinking unattractive managers are handsome, but that reflects poorly on me, not you. Let no one besides you dictate your feelings.
  • Finally, because some of you will inevitably offer a neanderthal comment about all of this, let me head it off by assuring you that this is merely a list of aesthetic handsomeness, not one of love or longing. I hate that even in 2017 I feel as though I have to say it, but I will say that I am a totally straight man making these judgments. If you find something wrong or amiss with that, I feel sorry for you. There is far too much beauty among people in the world for us to fail to acknowledge 50% of it merely because we’re worried about appearing less than traditionally masculine or feminine. Free your mind, the rest will follow.

And now, the rankings:

1. Gabe Kapler, Phillies: Was there ever really a doubt?

You’ve seen this one, of course. It’s from a long time ago:

And you may have seen these more recent ones, showing that he’s gone from six pack to, like, 12 pack:

But have you seen sensitive bass playing Kapler?

Or Tai Chi (or whatever it is) on the beach Kapler?

Or, “hey, my eyes are up here, dude” Kapler?

Maybe the muscular, square-jawed thing is not for you. Maybe you like the silver foxes. Maybe you like your managers to be more waif-like or to have more meat on their bones or to give off more of a matinee idol vibe. I get that. Obviously, to each their own. As this list goes on, you’ll see lots of examples of those types.

But there is no doubt we’ve never had a manager that looks like Kapler does, and if I did not at least start him out at number one on this list I’d be hounded off the Internet by hordes of haters.

Oh, and a P.S. to Kapler personally: I saw you walking around the lobby of the Dolphin Hotel here at the Winter Meetings on Sunday night, clean-shaven and fresh-faced. I know you like the stubble, but smooth-cheeked look makes you look a lot younger. I’d go with it. Fight back against the beards which have taken over baseball, my man.

2. A.J. Hinch, Astros:

Those of you who have followed these rankings over the past several years know that winning has a way of making a manager more handsome. Hinch won it all this past season, so there’s no doubt a new glow about him. Plus, I was probably ranking him too low to begin with. He’s got an Andrew McCarthy vibe going, right? And yes, that’s a good thing.

3. Aaron Boone, Yankees: This is, already, a handsome man:

And they took that photo before the Giancarlo Stanton trade. He’s gotta be positively radiant now. When he’s hoisting up a World Series trophy in the next couple of years, Joe Girardi will be off somewhere grumbling at a television, wondering why he was forced to make do with guys like Jayson Nix, Vernon Wells, Kelly Johnson and an aging Lance Berkman added to his roster instead of the reigning MVP. Boone will just be getting more of those laugh lines, which make a happy man look good.

4. Mike Matheny, Cardinals: Matheny does not make the top two for the first time since I’ve been making this list. I know some Cardinals fans are gonna hate me for that, but a lot of them hate me already so it’s not that big of a deal. And, to be honest, the reason I knocked him down a couple of slots is because of all of the negativity I’ve heard about him from Cardinals fans. I can’t think of a manager of a generally good team that gets as much criticism as Matheny gets, not that it’s wholly undeserved. Either way, that shouldn’t matter too much here because, apart from the boost some managers get from winning, there is no connection between handsomeness and success as a manager. But I’m wondering if he’s starting to listen to the haters and if, in turn, that’s chipping away at his rugged, handsome exterior.

I mean, this is not very handsome. It’s a proof-of-life photo, right?

5. Dave Roberts, Dodgers: Everything I wrote about him last year remains true, but I feel like this postseason took a lot out of him. It was stressful and he took on an air of fatigue from all of those pitching changes. This is not a serious blow — I feel his natural handsomeness is unharmed — but for this year he falls back a bit. Just a bit.

6. Alex Cora, Red Sox:

Can we talk about how cool it would be for a manager to actually wear a tie under his uniform in a real game situation? Power move in my view. Pity no one will ever do it. Also:

Maybe one of them will try to go without a cap one day too, sending a signal to bald men everywhere that we, er, they have nothing to be ashamed of.

7. Bud Black, Rockies: The Nationals just fired the guy they picked over Bud Black a few years back. The Braves, also having passed on Black, are in some sort of extended purgatory. Meanwhile, Black just keeps on looking like one of those actors the studios used to get for a picture when they couldn’t get Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck or Joseph Cotton or someone. Not that that’s a bad thing at all. Tell me he could not play a convincing general in a WWII movie:

8. Andy Green, Padres: I could write 50 posts slandering the San Diego Padres and no Padres fan would ever get mad at me because nothing ever seems to anger Padres fans. I mean, if I lived in San Diego I wouldn’t get mad at much either. Putting Andy Green at 13 last year, however, pissed ’em off good. So I reassessed this year:

I’m still not happy with the facial hair — it’s relatively light in this pic but unfortunate most of the time — and he too often sports bad, sporty-guy sunglasses in the dugout. But I can see it. I’ve probably been underrating him. Get the guy a shave and a pair of Ray-Ban Clubmasters and he’s top-5 material.

9. Paul Molitor, Twins: Another one who gets a reassessment and an attendant bump up the list:

His 14-ranking last year was my fault. I was so hung up on him looking like he did back in his playing prime — he was smokin,’ y’all — that I graded him too harshly for aging. Not all of us are Bud Black, wearing our 60s like a glove. All things considered, Molitor is lookin’ pretty fine for a guy with his mileage.

10. Torey Lovullo, Diamondbacks:

This is the look of a man who heard y’all say the Dbacks would finish in third place, at best, in 2017 and then went on to win 93 games. A bit smug, which may not be to your liking, but he’s earned it.

11. Craig Counsell, Brewers: Last year I riffed on Counsell sort of looking like an overgrown kid. That still sticks out and I’m not sure what to do about it. There’s nothing wrong with being a boyish 47-year-old, but it’s hard to square with a baseball manager, who is supposed to have a lot of gravitas.

I’ll be honest and say that, when I’m thinking about these rankings, part of me wonders what the guy would choose to emphasize in an online dating profile. What does Counsell’s Match.com page say to you?

Ok, maybe that’s too hard. What does his Tinder page say to you?

12. Jeff Bannister, Rangers: This list is, obviously, subjective as hell. To that end, I’m gonna go a bit weird here and rate Bannister based on how he looked when he coached for the Pirates 17 years ago:

Two tickets to the gun show, please. I’m all-in on 36-year-old Jeff Bannister.

13. Joe Maddon, Cubs: He takes quite a tumble because of this:

That is not the color of Joe Maddon’s hair. This, from a photo taken a year earlier, is:

We all age. Not all of us age gracefully. Joe, own your gray hair. It’s your battle scars. The evidence that you’ve lived and seen some stuff. You’re not foolin’ anyone. Indeed, you appear to be trying to fool yourself. A bad look for a guy who seems pretty conscious of how he looks.

14. Ned Yost, Royals:

The core of his World Series team is going away and he’s recovering from a near fatal injury. Ned has had better offseasons, but he’s still a fine-lookin’ rugged sort of dude. Your aunt would give anything to date a guy like Ned.

15. Kevin Cash, Rays:

Last year I compared him to a tobacco-chewing Mark Ruffalo. Now maybe I’m seeing a young Vincent D’Onofrio? Could Cash play Kingpin in flashback scenes in an epic “Daredevil” Season 3? Haha, nah. Marvel is just gonna use a script outline that says “Daredevil just fights, like, 1,000 ninjas. We’ll put a plot on it all in post production.”

16. Terry Francona, Indians: I used to say that he was baseball’s most handsome bald manager. Now, with Alex Cora in Boston, he’s not even that. A lot to think about for Tito this winter. A lot to think about.

17. Dave Martinez, Nationals: 

Martinez has often worn beards in his playing and coaching career, but even when he has gone “clean shaven,” he has never had anything less than a five o’clock shadow, even five minutes after finishing shaving, I suspect. That’s a rugged man look Nats fans can get behind. I’d rate him higher, but I’m still sorta sad that Dusty Baker got the axe. Baseball is poorer for not having Dusty and his cool, old school charm in the game. He’d never dye his hair like Joe Maddon does, that’s for damn sure.

18. Mickey Callaway, Mets: It’s not my taste, by I imagine there are those who are into the whole Mickey Callaway aesthetic:

Of course, those people are probably into a lot of things I’m not into. We’ll give Callaway extra credit for not even pretending to shave like Martinez does. Not even at his introductory presser:

We’re thiiiis close to having a manager grow out one of those ugly Dallas Keuchel-style beards, aren’t we? God, will someone put a stop to this? Gillette: I thought you were an official MLB sponsor? Exert some damn influence, will ya?

19. Brian Snitker, Braves: I would really like to know where he got this off-brand, clearly not officially licensed hat:

That’s not a hat for a major league manager. That’s a hat a guy working at a garage or a pawn shop in a 1970s New Hollywood crime movie wears. He gets recruited into a heist by an old friend. The heist, though, is really a metaphor for the hopelessness of the working class in post-Watergate society and they all die in the end. And yes, Robert Duvall is TOTALLY playing Snitker’s role. They had to pay him an extra $50K to take the part, though, because of all of the hours he had to spend in the makeup chair to achieve that “what if a man’s neck just grew right up into his face” look. Bobby Duvall is a pro, though, so he made that part shine.

20. Bob Melvin, Athletics: 

Melvin, over the years, has just sort of morphed into Generic Baseball Manager. Hes the NPC “Manager” character in your MMORPG that, somehow, involves a quest at a ballpark. There is nothing wrong with that, really. The world needs its archetypes.

21. Ron Gardenhire, Tigers: Oh, Gardy, we’ve missed you:

Being honest: he looks better now than he did back when he was managing the Twins. A lot of older dudes who had some, how shall we put it, awkward middle aged years pull that off in later years. Go look at some pictures of notable men who are not exactly conventionally handsome. They always look way better in their 60s than they did in their 40s or 50s. Maybe they start to take better care of themselves (Gardenhire’s successful battle against cancer may have inspired some positive lifestyle changes). Maybe they’re just wiser and worry less and the stress is thus less apparent on their faces. Whatever the case, I think new Gardy is looking pretty dang good compared to old Gardy, who used to live down near the bottom of this list. He’s no Brad Ausmus, but the Tigers are rebuilding in lots of ways these days.

22. Don Mattingly, Marlins: Here is a graphical representation of Don Mattingly going from managing a good Dodgers team to being frustrated managing a good Dodgers team to managing the Marlins to managing the Marlins after they sold off all of their decent players so the owners can afford the extra nice teakwood on the deck of their backup yacht:

23. Bryan Price, Reds: At some point Price is going to be at the top of this list. Not because he will get any more handsome, but because he seems to be immortal and will outlive every single other human capable of managing a baseball team. Really, how this guy has had his job so long is something we should be investigating more. Not complaining, though. Stability can be sexy. For some of us, it’s all we have.

The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them. They walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen.

24. Scott Servais, Mariners:

If Bud Black is the general in a war movie, Servais is one of the guys on his staff. A major, maybe, who delivers a couple of lines of exposition here and there. After you watch the movie you go to his IMDb page and discover that his last credit was for an episode of “Kraft Suspense Theatre” in the early 60s, after which worked seemed to dry up. Not even an episode of “Love Boat.” Hollywood chews ’em up and spits ’em out, I tell ya.

25. Buck Showalter, Orioles:

[Crash Davis lecturing Nuke LaLoosh voice]: “If you win 90 games in the show, you can be all scowly and sour all the time and the press’ll think you’re colorful. If you don’t win 90 in the show, however, it means you’re kind of miserable and people are kinda getting tired of your act.”

26. Rick Renteria, White Sox:

Is he hunky? No. But he is the most authentic manager in Chicago.

27. Bruce Bochy, Giants:

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about Bochy on this list over the years. I damn near killed him with my ranking of him once, in fact. Let us leave his physical attributes out of it this year, though, and just note that orange is not his color. Really, that outfit is not anyone’s color. I wonder if that was the reason Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton said no to San Francisco.

28. Clint Hurdle, Pirates:

As I wrote last year, “Hurdle’s handsomeness is directly proportional to his happiness. He has a very pleasant smile and gives off an admirable rugged charm when things are going well.” I suppose this was a bad day. Given the state of the Pirates, I suppose he has had a lot of bad days lately.

29. Mike Scioscia, Angels: Scioscia has been at or near the bottom of this list for some time, but I think he’s earned a bump up the ladder a bit. Mostly because, for the first time since the 1980s, he cracked a smile in 2017:

And, just the other day, at the Shohei Ohtani presser, he even tried to style and profile a little bit!

He’s still not handsome, exactly, but credit to the big guy for trying.

30. John Gibbons, Blue Jays: As I said at the outset, no manager is ugly. Indeed, the current crop, in the aggregate, is a more handsome collection of men than we have ever had in the game at one time. But someone has to be at the bottom of the list. This year number 30 features The Many Faces of John Gibbons:

Just imagine how that scowl is gonna look after his pitchers face the Yankees lineup nineteen times next season.