As you know, the Pittsburgh Pirates have many decisions to make this offseason. Many think that the Bucs will need to evaluate how well they feel John Russell has performed. We’re not here to say he should stay or go. We don’t have enough information to make a call like that- excuse me…ahem. But if Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington decide that Russell should go, there is a viable candidate that should definently be granted an interview.
His name is Matt Walbeck. Pirates fans have been talking about Walbeck all season, but I really wanted to see how far he could get his Altoona Curve team in the AA season.
Everywhere he goes, Walbeck has won. His office wall is a little fuller this year after winning another of Manager of the Year award and we say it is easy to see that he’s a rising star in the baseball world. One could speculate the Pirates are simply waiting until the Curve win the ELCS to make the announcement. Yeh, wouldn’t that be fantastic? Just dry the champagne off of him and put Walbeck in black and gold!
Walbeck gets his guys to hustle. Who at Altoona was a stud hitter all season? We couldn’t find one. Despite that fact, the Curve were there last night…. Walbeck had his team in a pivotal game in the ELCS
All year the team has played inspired baseball. Sure enough it paid off, his Curve players turned some bleeders and infield grounders into key hits in getting the second win in the series. The series clincher was even better. It’s funny how that works.
Walbeck is a former big-league catcher. But unlike Russell who was a first-round pick, Walbeck was an eighth-round pick of the Cubs in the 1987 draft. (We will save our opinion on such first-rounders.)
He was able to hang around in the majors because of his above average defense and a cannon that he showed off regulary with his ability to throw out enemy base runners. His teaching skills could certainly be used in the Pirates organization after watching an inning or two of Ryan Doumit or Chris Snyder’s regressing skills.
Walbeck has shown it with his AA Catcher Gimenez when we visited Altoona. The guy isn’t much of a prospect any more, but has handled the pitching staff insanely well.
Walbeck is unconvential too. He has even caught some of his pitchers side sessions himself—a manager must keep an eye on the stuff his pitchers have. It’s simple. Most great ideas are.
The Curve pitching staff has performed very well for Walbeck this season. Two nights ago, Justin Wilson had a great start. Last night 25-year old Tony Watson struck out ten. Walbeck’s leftie heavy rotation mesmorized the Trenton Thunder lineup in the championship series. The Thunder have five left-handed hitting starters that haven’t reached .235 in the series. But Thunder catcher Austin Romine doesn’t buy into the lefties theory….
"“It has nothing to do with the lefties,” A lot of these guys hit lefties good. I was one of them, I hit lefties good all year. You’ve got to give credit when credit’s due.”"
Speaking of giving credit where it’s due, we have to believe that since Buck Showalter is off the market, the Pirates would be remiss to overlook a candidate right under their nose. A candidate that has delivered a winner with players that are not oozing with talent.
The next Pittsburgh Pirates manager must be able to teach young talent. The goal will be to inspire and develop talent at the major league level. Get players to play better than their skill levels. The Pirates will have talent that must keep producing and improving. Walbeck has shown he can do that in the minor leagues, perhaps he could do the same at the major league level.
And he will show some fire too. Isn’t that what everyone thinks a great manager must do?