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?