[UPDATE: In the aftermath of this ridiculous firing and the huge backlash from what fan base is left after constant alienation by the franchise, the Pirates are taking the stance that it was for Walbeck's own good because if his talents were going to be utilized to their fullest, there were no positions higher up available with the Bucs organization. Basically, they were letting him spread his wings and fly away for a better opportunity. I still call BS but what do I know.]
After posting my elation over securing the #1 pick in next years draft (with a win, nonetheless), it was revealed yesterday that Pirates management has lost their freakin' minds. It's always two steps forward, a hundred steps back with this club and I don't know why I am surprised. I also don't know why I bother paying attention anymore when all it does is anger me.
The announcement was that the Pirates club won't be renewing the contract of Altoona manager Matt Walbeck. Now most of you might be saying, "So what. He's only a Class AA manager." Well this guy has one of the best reputations as a manager in AA ball and is considered by many to be a candidate for a future job with the MLB team. Plus, there's the little thing of, oh, winning the Eastern League championship this year. Or, maybe his fate was sealed by being named the Eastern League Manager Of The Year.
Walbeck's resume now includes 3 league titles and 4 manager of the year awards in the last six seasons, including this last championship which was the first for the Altoona Curve. That is an accomplishment worth celebrating isn't it? Do you fire a guy that wins titles? Do you fire the guy deemed as the best coach in the league? You do if you are the Pirates. No one knows the reason for his dismissal and nothing but speculation is available at this point. Pirates farm team director, Kyle Stark, wouldn't return phone calls from the press asking for an explanation but would only comment over text message that, "We do not comment on internal personnel decisions. We appreciate Matt's efforts and wish him the best, but felt like it was best to allow him to pursue other opportunities."
So here's my take...The Pirates just made themselves look even worse, if that was humanly possible. Your franchise has been losing for 18 years straight. It was just recently revealed that despite the lack of a committment to win you are still profitting. Your reputation in MLB is that of the leagues "farm" system where they can go and at any time, pick the players they need that you have spent the time and money to develop.
Walbeck is an asset to an organization committed to winning because that is what he does. He is also an excellent manager for a minor league team because he understands the process involved in player development better than most. He has been in the business for almost 20 years and that experience has paid off with championships and individual accolades beyond what most managers dream of.
This proves that he is obviously not a good fit for the Pirates. He is a scourge to their mindframe. He is a positive disease in thier negative environment. The boat the Pirates have been sailing for years is being rocked by a man devoted to winning and their ingrained expectations of flying under the radar, residing in the basement of baseball and keeping money in the organization and not on the payroll are contrary to his philosophy. To them, it would seem that Walbeck is a bad fit because he isn't towing the company line and committment to misery. Maybe he should have been like John Russell. A 56-102 record gets you a contract extension.
This move is just another in a long line of losing moments. There has to be a lot of hard work and effort that goes into it because it can't be easy losing over 100 games in a season. But, that's what the Pirates do best. People wonder why I don't freely admit to being a Pirates fan. I go out of my way sometimes just to not watch them when they are on TV because I know I will just be disappointed. At least Cubs fans can cling to the "maybe next year" mantra they have become linked with. A better creed for the Pirates should be "not in my lifetime".
Commence response to Epic Failure!!