Cory Giger reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates have let Altoona Curve manager Matt Walbeck go. Walbeck was fresh off being named the Eastern League manager of the year, along with leading Altoona to the Eastern League championship. Walbeck mentioned he wanted to move up from the AA level, but the Pirates didn’t make that opportunity available to him.
There was a lot of talk that Walbeck could be a candidate to replace John Russell as the next manager in Pittsburgh. A lot of that speculation came from two things: the desire by many of Russell being fired after the 2010 season, and the success the Altoona Curve had this season under Walbeck.
The lack of a reason surrounding the move has led to a lot of speculation. The fact that Walbeck won a title with Altoona this year leads to a lot of anger over the move, even though 99% of the people who are angry probably didn’t know who Walbeck was a month ago, and couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. Pat at WHYGAVS brings up a good point about expectations for the AA team. The league title is nice, but a minor league championship is not a top priority for the Pirates.
Dejan Kovacevic weighs in with a source that says Walbeck was let go for developmental reasons. That is clearly the number one priority for the Pirates, far ahead of winning the Eastern League title. Despite this information, I don’t think many will be able to look past the Altoona record when grading Walbeck.
You probably know my take on managers: I don’t think they deserve a large amount of the credit, or the blame, that they receive. I think the success/failure of a team heavily depends on the talent available. Altoona won a title with a lot of the same players that won a title in the Carolina League in 2009, with a different manager. How much credit should Walbeck receive when the same team won with a different manager the year before?
I mentioned the movement to have Walbeck replace John Russell at the major league level, but I really don’t think it would make a difference. The Pirates are just now starting to get talent at the major league level. Since June of this season they’ve added some great hitters to the lineup with Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, and Pedro Alvarez. They’ve got two young starters who look promising in James McDonald and Ross Ohlendorf.
The team is starting to get talent, but the talent is limited. More help is on the way from Altoona, especially for the pitching staff. Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke, Bryan Morris, and Justin Wilson were big factors in not only the 2010 Eastern League championship, but the 2009 Carolina League championship. Who’s to say that they won’t come in to the majors next year and lead the Pirates to a championship?
Oh, that’s right. Minor league success for players doesn’t translate in to major league success. So why is there a double standard at work here? I get the feeling that people are more confident in Walbeck having success as the major league manager, than they are with the Altoona rotation having success in the major league rotation.
I have nothing against Walbeck, or any manager. I just don’t value the manager position in general. Walbeck went 62-80 in 2009, with a team that didn’t have guys like Owens and Locke. The team adds a lot of talent in 2010, and Walbeck wins a title. So how much credit can you give Walbeck, or any manager, if they lose without talent, and win when the talent is there? As for winning, that’s not the important thing here. The important thing at the AA level is developing players, and that’s the reason the Pirates let Walbeck go. After all, winning in the minors doesn’t translate to winning in the majors. I see no reason why that rule shouldn’t also include the manager.