Why did the Pirates fire Double-A manager of the year Matt Walbeck?

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Yesterday the Pirates fired Double-A manager Matt Walbeck after he won the Eastern League championship and manager of the year award, which had many people scratching their heads.
It still seems like an odd move given how successful Walbeck has been–winning four manager of the year awards and three championships in six seasons in the minors–but Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette talked to sources who revealed some of the behind-the-scenes reasoning.
Apparently last season the Pirates were upset with the “lack of extra work, pregame work, and other preparations involving the players” at Double-A “compared to other affiliates.” They talked to Walbeck about addressing those issues this season, but still weren’t happy with the results.
Of course, when asked about those issues Walbeck told Kovacevic that he didn’t view it as a problem:

It was great. One of my main objectives this season was to follow the guidelines within the minor-league system. Early ground balls. Bunting. PFP. I felt like I became a better teacher because of it. Look at the innings pitched. Look at the games played. You can go up and down the roster and see the number of players who were healthy and realize, within that, that it was a successful season.

It’s tough to argue with Walbeck’s on-field results, but then again on-field results aren’t really the primary purpose of a team’s minor league system. Clearly the Pirates felt that he wasn’t developing prospects in the way they want prospects to be developed. Whether or not the Pirates’ way of doing things is particularly effective in the first place is another issue, clearly.
They also believed that he wanted to move up the organizational ladder–which is something that Walbeck has since confirmed–and obviously weren’t interested in promoting him to Triple-A or the majors. Despite that, I suspect Walbeck will have no trouble landing another managing gig at Double-A or Triple-A, and may even find a coaching job in the majors next season.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.