They’re clearly inhaling.

Update: According to the Trib’s Rob Biertempfel’s tweets, the REAL reason for the firing:

_________________________________________________

I have it on pretty good authority that all of the owners of the Pittsburgh Pirates are smoking crack.

How else do you explain this?

I want you to try to wrap your brain around this as best you can, but please be aware that in order to do that you’re going to need duct tape and crazy glue, otherwise, there will be leakage of the THIS DOESN’T COMPUTE variety.

  • The Altoona Curve, the Pirates AA club, won the Eastern League championship two weeks ago under manager Matt Walbeck.
  • Matt Walbeck was just named the league’s Manager of the Year, because he sucks, apparently.
  • They had an 82-60 record. I’m going to say this because I know you haven’t seen one in a long time and you might not recognize it. That is what we call a WINNING RECORD. They won more games than they lost.
  • John Russell, who has a 185-296 record as the manager of the Pirates, is under contract for next year and has said:
    “Do I deserve to be back? … I’m here. I’m here, so I don’t think about if I’m not here. I’m under contract for next year, and I have no indication from anybody in the organization that that’s going to be different. All we talk about is what we need to do today, the offseason camps, spring training … all I’m looking forward to is the planning.

Dear John Russell, please let me answer your question. The answer is “no.” No, you do not deserve to be back and if you are back next year I will pay the Captain Jolly Roger to get wasted on rum, eat a bucket of sauerkraut, and then puke in all your shoes. And as for you Huntington and Nutting, WTF? I mean, W.T.F? Are you telling me that you never once stormed into John Russell’s office this season and threw random bobbleheads at the wall and said, “IF THE LOSING DOESN’T STOP, YOU AREN’T GOING TO BE HERE NEXT YEAR, YOU GOT THAT?!”

He’s been given NO indication that his job would be in jeopardy if performance measures weren’t met?

Matt was fired because:

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.

Yeah, because God help a baseball player trying to make the adjustment of going from being a champion to being a complete and total laughingstock baseball loser.

It’s better if they get used to the losing early on in their careers. It goes down easier that way.

[golf clap], Pirates. [golf clap]

Why not just hand your next minor league manager a little plaque for his desk that says, “Thou shalt not win.”





52 Comments


  1. Cassie
    September 30, 2010 12:59 pm

    Really, at this point, should the Pirates do anything that makes sense?



  2. Just A Simple Man
    September 30, 2010 1:05 pm

    Just another case of a failure to communicate I guess….



  3. Sooska
    September 30, 2010 1:06 pm

    So he failed to follow development programs? How? Playing players who can win at that level knowing full well that the guys he develops will be called up to the BoS and a year later be traded for a box of stale hot dog buns and a left handed shortstop?



  4. BeauJacques
    September 30, 2010 1:15 pm

    Nuttings business plan:

    1) Always come in dead last to get best draft picks

    2) Sell them as soon as possible

    3) repeat steps #1 & #2 forever

    4) Bank the money, gold bullion in today’s market



  5. PA Girl in VA
    September 30, 2010 1:15 pm

    Well, whatever he failed to do worked out well for the AA team. The MLB Pirates should be so lucky to have such a problem!



  6. empirechick
    September 30, 2010 1:23 pm

    This explains everything! The Pirates don’t want thinking/teaching/leading managers, they just want guys to follow the (losing) program.

    All Walbeck did in the last 6 years is win 3 titles and 4 manager of the year awards. Who wants someone like that in their organization?? He’ll probably get a big head and think he might actually know something about baseball. Much better to have the John Russell types who will keep turning out losers according to the prescribed ‘development programs’.



  7. Zach
    September 30, 2010 1:24 pm

    Winning in the minors is a much lower priority than developing players correctly, so that they can be successful major leaguers. As an extreme, you could run out so called “AAAA” players (players who kill in the minors but can never make it in the majors) and win a minor league title, but you’re really doing a disservice to the organization. That’s not exactly what happened in Altoona’s case, but it’s worth resisting a knee jerk reaction here.



  8. Jim
    September 30, 2010 1:37 pm

    Maybe Nutting is dyslexic and where we see 82-60 as a good thing he sees 60-82 and figures he has a loser on his hands? Makes as much sense as anything else here…



  9. Pa-pop
    September 30, 2010 1:52 pm

    At first blush I was all “WTF” when I saw this story this morning. But then I realized I am not privvy to the personalities involved and the ways in which these decisions are made. For instance, maybe Matt Walbeck is a winner in the Mike Keenan vein: abrasive and rigid and never stays in one place too long.

    I really don’t know. But if Walbeck’s a quality guy and the Bucs kicked him to the curb simply because they had “no room for him,” then that’s intolerable. Can you imagine giving the cold shoulder to Bylsma or Tomlin like that when they were up-and-comers? Didn’t think so. Unless the guy’s a total tyrant, you find a way to keep him.

    Who knows … we may have our answer some day on the quality of Matt Walbeck’s leadership skills when his head is drenched in some other team’s champagne after they win the Series.



  10. Dan (Not Onorato)
    September 30, 2010 2:00 pm

    Maybe the Nuttings let him go because he coached his way out of a job.

    “This guys too good for the organization, we need to nip this one in the bud.”

    This club’s front office runs like the movie Major League and Ive said it for years…

    I hear hear it now….
    “Remember, fans, Tuesday is Die Hard Night. Free admission for anyone who was actually alive the last time the Pirates had a .500 record”

    As Ginny wrote “[golf clap], Pirates. [golf clap]”



  11. Nate
    September 30, 2010 2:10 pm

    Ginny – I know this isn’t a baseball-specific blog (though I know better than to call you a mommy-blogger ;). I know you address a very broad audience, but if you’re going to devote a lot of time to the BoS, don’t be that guy. As @Zach alluded to, and others (like Pat at whygavs.com) can say better than I, winning in the minors means diddly squat. It’s “nice.” Like the person your mom’s friend tries to set you up with. They’re “nice.”
    The farm teams are pieces in the machine that, up to the last few years, has produced very little talent. If they don’t change anything that they do throughout the system, get mad at that! If prospects aren’t developing properly, fire those coaches and managers. But Walbeck is certainly not judged by his win/loss record. It’s not his primary goal.
    Please use your powers for good! This is close to Bob Smizik-like level of trolling for comments with this knee-jerk “everything that the Pirates do is dumb” type of stuff.



  12. bobsmizik
    September 30, 2010 2:25 pm

    @nate:
    everything that the pirates do is dumb



  13. bucdaddy
    September 30, 2010 2:28 pm

    Ginny,

    Let me ask you something. Let’s suppose you had a cook at Las Velas — let’s call him Jose — who stated clearly to Mr. Montanez that his goal is to manage a restaurant. This cook wins a culinary award for, I dunno, best flan or something, but at other times he refuses to make tacos the way Mr. Montanez knows most of his customers want their tacos made. Besides that, Mr. Montanez already has a manager — let’s call him Jos-B — for his restaurant with whom he is quite happy, who follows instructions well, who is part of the team, and who wants to stay with you.

    So: What do you do with Jose?



  14. eileen
    September 30, 2010 2:29 pm

    @ Nate,

    Ten examples please of what they Pirates did in the past 15 years or so that WASN’T dumb?



  15. Nate
    September 30, 2010 2:39 pm

    @Eileen – That’s not actually my argument – I’m simply saying that judging this firing/parting-of-ways on Walbeck’s win/loss record is not a good idea. I’m not saying that what they did was good or bad. All I’m saying is that his win/loss record and his prestigious league championship are both irrelevant to what the minor league system is trying to do.

    If you want to continue to judge the Pirates based on past horrible mistakes (of which there have been MANY), I’m sorry. That’s your personal unwillingness to judge things on their face and without prejudice. Neal Huntington, while not without fault, is not Dave Littlefield, and he is not Cam Bonifay. As they say on penny stock investment commercials, “past performance is not indicative of future results.”



  16. Zach
    September 30, 2010 2:40 pm

    @eileen,

    ::sigh::

    In no particular order,

    1. Draft Pedro Alvarez.

    2. Draft Jameson Taillon.

    3. Draft Stetson Allie.

    4. Trade Dotel for James McDonald.

    5. Not raise ticket prices.

    6. Acquire Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, and Daniel McCutchen from the Yankees in exchange for Xavier Nady and Dámaso Marte.

    7. Fire Dave Littlefield.

    8. Fire Cam Bonifay.

    9. Sign Luis Heredia in the international draft.

    10. Andrew McCutchen.

    Look, clearly we haven’t seen good baseball in Pittsburgh for a long time. But, it’s too early to judge the current regime for better or worse. There have been a lot of promising signs, but ultimately that will have to translate into something promising things happening in PNC Park.



  17. Just A Simple Man
    September 30, 2010 2:49 pm

    @Zach
    All good points.
    My fear however is that by the time we get a decent pitching staff (the top drafts only 18 or 19 and 3 to 4 years away from the majors), the core position players (Alvarez, Tabbata, Walker etc.)will be gone in the free agent market or traded.
    It’s a vicious cycle….



  18. Zach
    September 30, 2010 3:00 pm

    @Just A Simple Man

    Well, it takes 6 years of major league service time to become a free agent. But, you’re right, the real test of Nutting’s commitment will be when the time comes to lock up some of these core players (if they in fact perform) to long term deals.

    Most small to mid-market teams have trouble with finding consistent year-to-year success due to the risk involved with committing a lot of money to a single player. It has to be a combination of signing some of these guys, but replacing others with a fresh crop from the minors.



  19. empirechick
    September 30, 2010 3:01 pm

    @16 – not so sure about #5 or #6. Not raising prices when you haven’t won in nearly a generation is a requirement, not a choice. The Bucs excel at crappy PR, but raising prices might be too ridiculous even for them.

    Those prospect pitchers were a combined 6-26 with 5.10 avg ERA. Nady and Marte are average at best. Seems like we just swapped mediocrity on that one.

    Overall that’s not a stellar list. Agreed, things are maybe possibly looking up, but how many other times have we thought that?



  20. Zach
    September 30, 2010 3:07 pm

    @empirechick

    Well, I was asked for a list of things that were “not dumb” ;-)

    I disagree about the Nady and Marte trade. The whole reason I listed that trade was Jose Tabata, who I omitted from the list. He alone makes that a pretty good trade.



  21. Zach
    September 30, 2010 3:10 pm

    Ok, one more thing and then I’m going back to work:

    Rocco DeMaro declares 2010 the best season in 18 years:
    http://www.wpgb.com/pages/extra.html



  22. Susan
    September 30, 2010 3:27 pm

    I know how much you all love Philly teams, but if you look at the Phillies’ AAA team’s record over the last 3 years you’ll see that a winning record in the minors isn’t critical to the success of the major league team.



  23. oldgraymare
    September 30, 2010 3:28 pm

    You all are saying winning in the minors does’t matter. But then why is that what everyone looks at? It’s like when your kids play t-ball and no one keeps score cause they don’t want the little kids dealing with losing! these are adults and win/lose is the bottom line in any sport at any level! All this did is tell every young player in the Pirate organization that if you succeed, don’t expect to stay here. Another example…Nate Mclouth.



  24. Zach
    September 30, 2010 3:36 pm

    McLouth hit .189 for Atlanta this year. Jeff Locke had a 3.59 ERA at AA, Hernandez showed some promise, and Charlie Morton could still put it together one day. I’d do that trade a hundred times over.



  25. Nate
    September 30, 2010 3:36 pm

    @oldgraymare – who is this “everyone” that looks at winning in the minor leagues? If it’s so important, tell me who won the Eastern League last year? Who had the best record in the International League last year?

    Hey speaking of minor leagues – that’s exactly where “superstar” Nate McLouth spent half of this year! Ever since that blistering year of hitting .276 for the Pirates (which was a whopping .006 higher than the dreaded Adam Laroche, by the way), Nate McLouth has been mediocre at best.



  26. Virginia
    September 30, 2010 4:27 pm

    It seems to me that the people who say winning doesn’t matter are the people who aren’t winning. That seems to be my experience. ;)

    That said, regardless that this is the minors, it is to me another weird/questionable decision by a team that professes to want to win, but doesn’t seem to be taking enough steps to actually win.

    The reports now are that the coach’s style was NOT the issue, as first alluded to. The reports are that he was considering a possible move to a higher league and they decided to beat him to the punch and fire him first.

    Like I said, that’s questionable behavior. For every one good decision the management makes, I believe they make three poor ones.

    But I do appreciate Nate and Zach’s obviously intellectual response to this issue, considering mine is completely an emotional response to hearing once again the Buccos management doing something that seems to run counter to wanting to win.

    And I really want to win.



  27. Bucfaninva
    September 30, 2010 4:33 pm

    OK. I’m a Pirate fan, but that doesn’t mean I’m blind. Yes, there have been a few good moves. But for every move they’re supposed to make (sign Pedro, sign Taillon, sign Allie) there are three moves they didn’t make because of stupidity and stubborness (not signing Jack/Freddie to extensions, not signing Sano, firing the Pierogi instead of the manager, etc.). My biggest problem is this. They talk about accountability and then fire a guy who many talk about as being one of the best managers in the minors. So let’s fire the one guy whom everyone praises and keep the “yes” men. Great plan.



  28. Zach
    September 30, 2010 4:35 pm

    Ginny,

    I don’t think anyone in the Pirates front office would claim that winning at the major league level doesn’t matter. It’s just that there is little correlation between winning in the minors and winning in the majors on a team level.

    But, I understand your frustration. We’re all frustrated, particularly those of us who still follow the team closely. I just want to make sure that we’re criticizing management for the right things and not for firing pierogies.

    We can argue about it more when you’re done running through the ScareHouse ;-)



  29. Nate
    September 30, 2010 4:47 pm

    Ginny – why you stu- wait, that’s actually a reasonable response.

    On the point of this being “questionable,” and @Bucfaninva’s claim that “many talk about as being one of the best managers in the minors” – he has had a bunch of “success” as a minor league manager, obviously. So why has he bounced around from one system to the next (Rangers, Tigers, Bucs, and I don’t know if there are more)? I don’t know the answer to this.

    Again, I don’t know if this was a good or bad move. I could go either way. But if I can’t stress enough how little the win/loss record matters in this decision. DK on PG+ just posted more about it here: http://plus.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/sports-town/pbc-blog/105395-more-on-walbeck

    Look, I think we all want them to win. Fortunately for them, PR doesn’t matter to them. It mattered to Dave Littlefield when he went and blew $10 mil on Matt Freakin’ Morris. THAT was bad management in an attempt at good PR. Firing a pierogie is not bad management, while obviously bad PR (don’t get me started on that kid publicly criticizing his boss on Facebook…).

    I’d just say that they are maybe making 3 steps forward, with 1 step back, instead of that inverse ;)



  30. Zach
    September 30, 2010 4:50 pm

    As far as Walbeck goes, Dejan Kovacevic says the Pirates were mainly disappointed with “a lack of extra work, pregame work and other preparations involving the players. The lack of extra work in Altoona stood out compared to other affiliates, I was told. There were other issues, as well, but those were not shared.”

    http://plus.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/sports-town/pbc-blog/105395-more-on-walbeck

    @Bucfaninva I know that’s the impression, but I find it hard to find fault with “errors” you cite. Jack and Freddie, while great guys, are past their prime and spent most of this season hurt, and it sounds like the Pirates couldn’t have done much more with Sano. As far as the pierogie thing goes, it was bad PR but ultimately had nothing to do with fielding a good baseball team.

    A manager doesn’t make a team good or bad, the talent on the field does. It’s unwise to heap too much praise on a manager with a lot of talented players, or scorn on a manager fielding the 2010 Pirates.



  31. Zach
    September 30, 2010 4:50 pm

    Clearly Nate and I need to coordinate our responses better.



  32. Nate
    September 30, 2010 4:57 pm

    At least you tackled the Freddie/Jack point. I didn’t have the heart.



  33. Pa-pop
    September 30, 2010 5:17 pm

    BTW, the Curve was 62-80 under Walbeck last year, the exact reverse of their record this year. Had he been canned last year, it may have been applauded. And who’s to say which of those records is more revealing of his managerial talents? More than anything those won-loss records display the transient nature of the minors.



  34. PittinDC
    September 30, 2010 9:29 pm

    The fact that they said that they didn’t have a place for him in the majors, when Russel has been completely sucky, makes me sad about the Pirates.



  35. No One Here Knows Baseball
    October 1, 2010 2:13 am

    Zach is doing a good job showing you people the light.

    The team didn’t win a championship because of Matt f’n Walbeck. They won because of the talent on the team.

    This same group of players won a championship in Single A last year. The same year when Matt Walbeck managed an Altoona Curve team that MISSED THE PLAYOFFS.

    This is a non-story for people with no baseball smarts to get upset about.

    Neal Huntington is doing an excellent job.

    Listen Rocco DeMaro on FM NewsTalk 104.7 before and after Pirates games. Then you won’t be stupid.



  36. Angry Mongo
    October 1, 2010 8:17 am

    Pirates business model

    1. Collect underpants.
    2. ???
    3. Profit.

    Oh, wait. That’s underpants gnomes.

    1. Claim that “this year” is “the year.”
    2. Lock in season ticket holders and those on the fence with catchy event nights and bobbleheads.
    3. Develop talent slowly until the end of summer.
    4. Trade them to teams needing players for pennant races.
    5. Collect revenue sharing from other teams
    6. Turn profit.

    Rinse – Lather – Repeat

    Seems clear to me this guy was a threat to the system of perpetual sucktitude.



  37. JennyMoon
    October 1, 2010 10:24 am

    Can I just say I love reading all this baseball talk! Lets Go Bucs!!!



  38. No One Here Knows Baseball
    October 1, 2010 11:22 am

    Angry Mongo should change his name to Idiot Mongo.



  39. Angry Mongo
    October 1, 2010 11:23 am

    Why… thank you very little. :) I tried. It was taken.



  40. bucdaddy
    October 1, 2010 11:27 am

    1. Claim that “this year” is “the year.”

    Who, exactly, has been saying that?

    And who, exactly, would believe it anyway?



  41. Angry Mongo
    October 1, 2010 11:33 am

    Frank Coonelly. Talk of dynasty back in February.
    And no one, well, except maybe Ginny…. kidding.

    Look, I was being more sarcastic and kidding more than anything else, I opened with a South Park quote for eff’s sake.



  42. bucdaddy
    October 1, 2010 11:36 am

    Lack of sarcasm font is a killer, I’ll agree.

    OK, Mongo, we’re cool.



  43. Angry Mongo
    October 1, 2010 11:38 am

    “They bought it…”

    oops, lack of internal monologue font is a killer.

    Ok… [wink][finger guns]
    :)



  44. unsatisfied
    October 1, 2010 11:47 am

    why is it that developing talent and teaching these minor league kids what it feels like to win need to be mutually exclusive?



  45. kevin
    October 1, 2010 11:56 am

    The Piratyes are the laughing stock of Baseball, and if they played in AAA they would be lucky to play .500 Ball. At least they make money, how is that for a kick to the shins. You can stink this bad, for this long, and still be profitable. The people that run major league baseball treat the Pirates like their teenage son, doesn’t matter what you do,how little you try, we love you, here’s $20 and the keys to the car. Be home by 11.



  46. Nate
    October 1, 2010 11:57 am

    They don’t need to be. No one said, “Walbeck, your contract is not being renewed because you won.”

    Winning in the minors and developing talent within the guidelines of their system are unrelated, and whether they happen at the same time is more indicative of the talent on that team than the manager.



  47. Nate
    October 1, 2010 11:58 am

    Sorry, that was @unsatisfied



  48. Silica
    October 1, 2010 12:45 pm

    @kevin…

    And soon that teenager will be the 45-year-old “kid” still living in his parents’ basement playing video games and eating chips, still getting the keys to the car and $20 every time he asks.

    If the Pirates haven’t already reached that point!

    I have really enjoyed this discussion, by the way – I am not particularly knowledgeable about baseball but I am learning! :) So thanks.



  49. Pa-pop
    October 1, 2010 1:47 pm

    Unsatisfied’s point-of-view on the development/winning conundrum seems like a legitimate question, but the marriage of those two things does not frequently happen.

    To draw an analogy using sales organizations, the pressure to meet high goals and expectations (win) can destroy long term benefits because in the desperation to “win,” shortcuts are taken and bad habits are developed. That’s the biggest risk in focusing on winning over developing the ingredients for long term success. In my uneducated view, minor league baseball probably operates the same way.

    Perhaps in the specific case of Matt Walbeck, maybe he’s a great guy but a lousy teacher, one whose ambitions forsake education for winning (although winning was a problem last year when the Curve was only 62-80). To get back to that sales analogy, the pressure to simply “win” is often built on a weak foundation, and short term successes are never sustained. But once the right stuff is instilled and practiced and all the parts fall into place, winning becomes a habit individually and collectively.

    Or maybe I’m full of poop.



  50. Zach
    October 1, 2010 2:25 pm

    @Pa-pop

    I don’t think it’s really a question of it being a trade off between winning and longer term goals. In the sales organization example, developing good habits in the long term and “winning” in the short term ultimately point towards the same higher level goal: winning.

    In minor league baseball, (from an organizational standpoint), the goal is to develop major league baseball players, not to win titles. Sacrificing progress towards the former in order to do the latter isn’t really even a trade-off, it’s just crazy. They’re orthogonal goals.

    I agree with your overall point about Walbeck though. I suspect he had ambitions beyond being a AA manager, and thought that being at the helm of a winning team was the best way to do that.