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Matt Walbeck wins Double-A manager of the year, gets fired by the Pirates

Sep 30, 2010, 11:49 AM EDT

Former big-league catcher Matt Walbeck was recently named Double-A manager of the year after guiding Altoona to the Eastern League championship, but last night the Pirates fired him.
Walbeck told Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror that he was “surprised” by the move and received no clear explanation for the Pirates’ decision:

No, not really. Just that it wasn’t going to be a good fit. There were some things about how I have some aspirations and [am] highly driven and words like that, but apparently it wasn’t going to work out.

Walbeck has a .543 winning percentage, four manager of the year awards, and three championships in six seasons as a minor league manager and the 41-year-old has made it clear that he’d like to move up the organizational ladder, but said his conversation with the Pirates “never got there” because “they made up their mind.”
Meanwhile, the Pirates declined to comment on the move, and in fact general manager Neal Huntington and farm director Kyle Stark issued identical statements when responding to different reporters. The matching statements read: “We appreciate Matt’s efforts and wish him the best in his future endeavors but felt that it was best that we allow him to pursue other opportunities.”
Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette did some further digging and talked to “a source who declined to be identified” but had this to say:

The Pirates apparently had issues with Walbeck in terms of his communications with staff and players. That was the No. 1 influencing factor here. No specific examples were given, but it’s always been very important to this management team to have cohesion in the area of instruction and development, so that prospects can progress steadily through the system without having to adjust to new styles or terminology. The team feels it can do better in that regard, so it made the move.

Which happens first, Walbeck gets a major-league manager gig or the Pirates have a winning season?

  1. Jonny5 - Sep 30, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    Of course he got fired. His team could beat the Major league team. How embarassing…. Not to mention they have a rep to maintain, he was totally killing the rep man….

  2. John_Michael - Sep 30, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    Of course Walbeck didn’t fit into the Pirate culture. He’s a winner.
    On a side note, I think I just found the epitome of ‘blessing in disguise.’

  3. BC - Sep 30, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    They did the guy the biggest favor in the world. Now he can go to an organization that might win something in the next 30 years.

  4. Panda_Claus - Sep 30, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    At first glance, it makes the organization look bad if for no other reason than the timing of the firing.
    OK, so let’s for a moment believe that Huntington didn’t like Walbeck’s communication style. My initial thought was why would it take six years to figure out you didn’t want this guy managing in your organization.
    As it turns out, Walbeck only managed for the Pirates (minor league Altoona) in 2009 and 2010. Before that he was the Rangers 3B coach, where he also got fired (following the 2007 season).
    So the Pirates gave him two years and ultimately didn’t want to keep him. They gave him a fair shot. Winning isn’t everything of course, but you’d think the Pirates would embrace a winning manager if they had one, even if they didn’t like everything about him.

  5. The Real Shuxion - Sep 30, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    My initial thought was that the Pirates suck, and they do.

  6. SDW2001 - Sep 30, 2010 at 12:59 PM

    The Pirates are a laughing stock to say the least. How an organization like this can fire someone for his interactions with players and staff, while their own house is in total disarray just amazes me. I don’t care what the guy did…he’s a winner. Judging by the fact that Pirates have lost 102 games to date, I would say that it’s obvious they don’t care much about winning. Perhaps that’s why he’s not a “good fit.”

  7. DiamondDuq - Sep 30, 2010 at 1:06 PM

    Of course the Pirates got rid of him, he did his job, that’s what they always do! Bay, Sanchez, Wilson, etc. They’re worried about his aspirations? or his communication style? Clearly they need to do something different because whatever they are comfortable with translates into losing and historic levels! What a black eye this organization is for such a great city!

  8. ippississiM - Sep 30, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    We all know the Pirates win by losing. This is a big win for their organization.

  9. easports82 - Sep 30, 2010 at 1:39 PM

    They should’ve done a “Major League: Back to the Minors” deal and had the AA team square off against the “big boys”. He wins, he manages the AA squad. He loses, he should have to manage the Bucs, which has to be a worse punishment than being fired.

  10. sportsdrenched - Sep 30, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    Congrats to Matt on his parole!

  11. Giant Space Ants - Sep 30, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    Frankly I think their supposed explanation sounded reasonable. He’s a AA manager, people, not some Wunderkind. If he ain’t doing the most important part of the job- progressing the prospects, not winning MOY at AA- then they have reason to fire him.
    Of course now that I’ve defended the Pirates for firing him, he’ll go off and win three consecutive MOY awards for the Brewers. Wunderful.

  12. HomeHalfwayDotNet - Sep 30, 2010 at 2:20 PM

    I hope he’s an immediate candidate for the Cubs gig. Communication can be fixed – if that actually was a problem.
    You can’t consistently win as a manager without having the skills necessary. Good luck, Matt.

  13. Granted42 - Sep 30, 2010 at 10:05 PM

    They don’t want their prospects to “adjust to new styles and terminology.” Apparently, they don’t want their minor leaguers to know how it feels to win, so they’re not confused when they make it to the Pirates. They want their prospects to know what it’s like to lose, because that’s all they’ll know in the Bigs. Until, of course, they’re traded to another team for more prospects.

  14. Omega in Colorado - Sep 30, 2010 at 11:26 PM

    I am just trying to imagine the conversation when they fired this guy…
    “Hey?! did you hear? I won AA Manager of the Year!”
    “Just who the hell do you think you are? Coming into this organization and WINNING?! Huh?! Do you know who we are?! We’re the F**kin’ Pittsburgh Pirates, and we don’t put with crap like that! Clean out your office and be off company property in one hour, winner!”
    and @Granted42, your comment is classic!

  15. mashoaf - Sep 30, 2010 at 11:33 PM

    Classic example of the Pirates giving talent away. I wonder what scrap they can get for McCutchen this offseason

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