The Altoona Mirror reported last night that the Pirates let Curve manager Matt Walbeck go just a couple of weeks after winning the Eastern League championship. Some people are getting pretty worked up about this (Bloggin’ Bob says it “defies belief”) and while I’ll admit that it’s certainly unexpected, there are a few points that I think people are missing.
Mostly, I’d just point out that if Kyle Stark sat down before the season and set down ten goals for Walbeck and the Curve in 2010, “Win the Eastern League” might crack the top ten. Maybe. How players develop, how certain situations are handled, how pitchers are handled, or any number of any other things are more important to the Pirates than a minor league affiliate winning their league. It’s nice for the players, it’s nice for the minor league franchise, but it’s just not a huge goal for the Pirates, I don’t think. I thought Stark’s quote to the Mirror was telling:
“We appreciate Matt’s efforts and wish him the best,” Stark added, “but felt like it was best to allow him to pursue other opportunities.”
You can read quite a bit into that statement coupled with the one Walbeck makes about being told that he had higher aspirations that didn’t fit into the club’s plans. Maybe Stark feels that Walbeck put winning the EL ahead of goals that the front office had set for the club (note: I’m just speculating here). Remember that the front office canned a couple managers in the low minors in their first year in charge because they disobeyed very direct orders about pitch count. Maybe this situation is different, but maybe it isn’t. There’s more to this story and I suspect we’ll hear about it in the next week or so.
UPDATE: The PG has this from an organizational source:
According to the source, the Pirates’ primary issue with Walbeck related to his communications with staff and players. The Pirates run an intensely rigid system, with an aim of having cohesion in the area of instruction and development, so that prospects can progress steadily through the system without having to adjust to new styles.
Pretty much consistent with what I wrote above, I think.
SECOND UPDATE: Finally, Rob Biertempfel tweets that the Pirates let Walbeck go because they weren’t planning on offering him their Triple-A or Major League job and he was already in the process of deciding whether to stay in Altoona or move on.