One of the most strange stories in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in 2010 has come full circle. Matt Walbeck was the 2010 Eastern League manager of the year for leading the Altoona Curve to the EL title. He was fired eleven days later by the Pirates.
Walbeck wanted to move up in the Pirates organization. It is now apparent that Walbeck was correct in his estimation that the AAA job was going to open up. The Pirates didn’t want to move Walbeck up to that vacant AAA manager position so they cut him loose.
It is interesting to think about what Clint Hurdle would have thought of a winner like Walbeck. Unfortunately for both men it wasn’t in the cards.
The Bucs announced that Dean Treanor was named the Indianapolis Indians manager for the 2011 season back in December. Frank Kremblas, who was the skipper of AAA Indy last season is the Pirates’ new minor-league field coordinator. Kremblas will replace Jeff Banister who is now the bench coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates under new skipper Clint Hurdle
Corey Giger of the Altoona Mirror interviewed Walbeck last night and the manager was respectfully above the line in describing his feelings on some of the bullshit that came out after his firing like he didn’t work the players hard enough and that he didn’t communicate well.
“I’m not even gonna go there, just to be quite frank with you,” Walbeck said respectfully when asked about the comments. “It’s just like, it doesn’t really matter. I’m over it. What’s done is done. I don’t think it’s gonna do anybody any good for me to talk about it.”
It’s not surprising to see Walbeck take the high road. He is a high character man that like most successful people, is always looking ahead. Just look at what he said minutes after being told ’he wasn’t a good fit’ by the Pirates organization:
“A lot of the stuff I gleaned from the Pirates actually made me a better manager — leading on and off the field, and as far as working with the coordinators and knowing the Pirates’ plan.”—-Former manager of the AA Altoona Curve Matt Walbeck
It’s a shame Walbeck will manage the Rome Braves Low-A team that plays in the South Atlantic League. It’s a damn shame a high quality organization that churns out top prospects to the majors as the Braves do year after year will get to see Walbeck’s work and not Pirates fans. It’s a real shame that Tony Sanchez won’t get to work under Walbeck as well.
We liked watching him manage. But more than that, we enjoyed watching Walbeck’s teams develop through the years and win ball games. Not that you need it, but good luck skip.
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Walbeck has been a winner throughout his coaching career which began immediately after his time as a ML catcher. In his first year he was the skipper of the West Michigan Whitecaps and led them to the Midwest League title.
In 2007, he was named minor league manager of the year by Baseball America after leading Double-A Erie to the best overall record in the Eastern League’s Southern Division. Additional awards for Walbeck include the 2006 Midwest League Manager of the Year, and Baseball America’s “Best Tools” Manager in 2005 and 2006. He was the Texas Rangers third base coach and catching coach before coming to the Pirates. [PS--Walbeck's three pack DVD on catching is one of the great tools we used in coaching youngsters in my hometown.]
We disagree with an otherwise solid article on Giger’s assessment of the Braves job being a step backward for Walbeck. The Braves are an amazing baseball machine. It is a step down in player level, but a step up, way up, in terms of visibility. Walbeck replaces Paul Runge who was going to be the skipper of the Rome Braves-Runge was hired as the Houston Astros minor league field coordinator last month.
If Walbeck continues his success with the Braves organization it could be a quick stop on his way back to a big league position.