Bo Porter has been a big-league manager for exactly one spring training and five major-league games, but it must feel like a much longer tenure.That’s how bad the Houston Astros are, and that hard-hitting sports opinion comes after seeing them perform somewhat adequately during a season-opening victory over the Rangers last Sunday.To be perfectly fair, their starting rotation could be worse. But it’s hard to imagine a worse lineup and bullpen.And poor Porter, who, by the way, was the Rangers’ Opening Day center fielder in 2001, gets to answer questions twice a day about how bad his team is.But he’s not without his supporters and has plenty of folks to lean on if needed. One of them, Ron Washington, has an idea of what Porter is going through.The Rangers have never been as bad or as drained of big-league talent during Washington’s tenure as the Astros are now, but Washington had to endure some lean times with young players on the road to two World Series and three straight playoff appearances.Now wrapped in job security in his seventh season, Washington has been available to Porter whenever he’s been needed. Washington’s message: Be the man.“Whatever you do, don’t change who you are,” Washington said. “They know who you are, and be that way all the time. If they see you whining or complaining, that’s what they’re going to do. You’ve got be a man.”Most of all, said Washington, Porter must show that he has his players’ backs. The Astros are going to be told how awful they are and that they’re hopeless, but Porter has to tell the world and make the players believe that they’re on their way.Porter has been listening, apparently. All those strikeouts during the first week of the season? A small sample size, said Porter, and not terribly alarming considering the type of hitters he knows he has.Chris Carter, an outfielder? He’s picked up the position well, said Porter, and he’s going to be fun to watch at the plate once he finds his rhythm.That’s a page right from the Washington book. Rangers players walked on water those first few lean years, and most of them still do even though Washington could get away with more jabs.But that’s never been Washington, dating to when he coached Porter in Oakland in 2000. Porter, who played parts of three big-league seasons, was an extra player and knew it. He also constantly wanted to know more about the game.Washington was there to answer Porter’s questions, just as he has been as Porter pursued a career in coaching. Washington schooled him before for job interviews and reviewed with him afterward, including when Porter received the news that he would lead the Astros.“He said, ‘Bo you are the right person for this job and the organization is going to move much faster than many people probably anticipate because I know the makeup you have and I know what it is you’re going to bring to those guys,’ ” Porter said last week at Minute Made Park.“Those are encouraging words from a man of his stature. That gives you a good piece of confidence. He’s a very compassionate person. He became very instrumental in my development, and even after I left Oakland our relationship continued to grow.“It’s been a really good relationship that is kind of like an uncle-nephew relationship. When you have that kind of knowledge as a resource, I’d be crazy not to reach out to him.”The calls will continue this season, even though the Rangers and Astros are in the same division for the first time, and Washington will continue to pick up. One thing Washington loves to do is pass on what he has learned during his four decades in the game, and he knows Porter is going to need someone who will listen and offer advice during what will be a long 2013 season.“The only way the game can evolve is to pass along your knowledge to other people,” Washington said. “It’s up to him to see what works for him and his team. He’s going to have a long year, but if his kids prepare, they’ll get better.”Whiffs continueThe Rangers might have left Houston on Wednesday night, but the Astros didn’t ship out their penchant for striking out.After fanning more times than any other team in major-league history in their first three games, the Astros whiffed 13 times Friday against Oakland to set the first-four-games mark at 56.They aren’t just missing junk, either. Fastballs are blowing past bats in a lineup built to strike out. Not only are the Astros largely comprised of young free-swingers, such as left fielder Chris Carter, but veterans Carlos Pena and Rick Ankiel are old free-swingers.“We had some fastballs to put in play and put some really good bats on them, but we fouled them off or we swung through them,” Porter said.“In the major leagues, you’re going to get one pitch each at-bat to hit, and when you get it you’ve got to put it in play hard. If you don’t put it in play hard, you’re going to find yourself chasing the pitcher’s pitch.”Passing on freedomAngels right-hander Jered Weaver bucked the trend two years ago when he passed on a chance to become a free agent and stayed in Anaheim on five-year contract extension.The deal came as a shock because clients of agent Scott Boras almost always tested the market. But it actually is serving as the start of a recent trend that has seen teams lock up their star players rather than haggle with them as free agents.Joey Votto followed suit last April with Cincinnati, and Justin Verlander and Buster Posey followed suit at the end of spring training. The latest was Elvis Andrus, another Boras client.“When players are getting to free agency it tells you about the success of the industry because teams have a lot of money to spend,” Boras said. “They choose to spend it potentially internally. You always see premium talents being signed because of the rarity of the skill and the value to the organization.”Count multiple Rangers in the staying-put group, though not necessarily for the bodacious money that Votto, Verlander, Posey and Andrus scored. Ian Kinsler receive a five-year, $80 deal million last April, but five-year deals for Derek Holland ($28.5 million) and Matt Harrison ($55 million) didn’t break the bank.Those extensions did keep players at their prime years or entering them from getting away.“We want to win a World Series, and we retain guys we think will be a part of that,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “In a lot of these guys’ cases, they’re in their primes and it really lines up well for us.”Ex-Ranger of the weekNo player in major-league history has done over his first four games than what Chris Davis did for Baltimore.Once billed as the Rangers’ first baseman of the future, Davis became the first player in history to have four straight games with a home run and at least three RBIs to open a season.His 16 RBIs are the most in major-league history through the first four games. Davis, traded along with Tommy Hunter in July 2011 for Koji Uehara, joined Willie Mays, Mark McGwire and Nelson Cruz as the only players with homers in four consecutive games to start a season.
Nationals: Open season as most complete team in majors.
Giants: Defending champs have repeat-worthy pitching.
Reds: Shin-Soo Choo gives Cincinnati another potent bat.
Tigers: Uncertainty in bullpen, iffy defense rate could dog them.
Braves: Will be cursed as my pick to win the World Series.
Astros: Rotation isn’t bad, really, but rest of team is.
Marlins: Fun stat to watch this year will be home attendance.
Padres: Weak lineup, bad rotation add up to another long year.
Twins: Manager Ron Gardenhire couldn’t be on a shorter leash.
Yankees: Should be competitive if/when hurt players return.