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.

Derek Norris signing with the Rays

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Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reports that Derek Norris is signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Norris was released by the Nationals nine days ago, made redundant by the Nats’ signing of Matt Wieters and by everyone sliding down a notch on the depth chart below him. Norris hit only .186/.255/.328 with 14 home runs and a .528 OPS for the Padres in 2016.

Still, there always seems to be a place for a backup catcher. For Norris that place is Tampa Bay.

The Braves are banning outside food. And they’re probably lying about why they’re doing it.

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Here’s a thing a lot of people don’t realize: there are a lot of ballparks that allow you to bring in outside food.

Not all of them, but a lot do. They don’t publicize it, obviously, because they want you to buy their expensive food, but if you go to the concessions policy page on most team’s websites, you can get the scoop. It often lists “soft-sided coolers” under “permitted items,” which is code for “yes, you can bring your own food in.” Some may specifically limit THAT to sealed plastic water bottles, but for the most part, if you can bring soft-sided coolers into the park, that means it’s OK to bring in grandma’s potato salad and a few sandwiches. They may check your coolers, of course, to make sure you’re not bringing in alcohol or whatever.

The Atlanta Braves have always allowed food into the ballpark. But thats going to change in shiny new Sun Trust Park. The AJC reports that the Braves have announced a new policy via which ticket holders will not be allowed to bring in outside food. Exceptions will be made for infant food and for special dietary restriction items.

Which, OK, it’s their park and their rules. If they want to cut out the PB&J for junior and force you to buy him a $9 “kids pack” — or if they want you to forego grandma’s potato salad to buy that pork chop sandwich we mentioned yesterday — that’s their choice. Everything else about the Braves new stadium has been about extracting money from fans, so why not the concessions policy too?

My beef with this is less about the policy. It’s about their stated reason for it:

The changes are a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league, said the Braves spokesperson.

This, as the French say, is horses**t.

We know it is because not all teams are prohibiting outside food. If there are tighter security measures across the board, other teams are implementing them without the food restriction. Even the Yankees, who take security theater to extreme heights as it is, are still allowing fans to bring in their own food.

The Braves, I strongly suspect, are using these measures as an excuse to cut down on competition for their concessions. Which, like I said, go for it. Just be honest about what you’re doing and stop blaming “tightened security” for your cash grab.