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Insider Only MLB: Pirates GM won’t commit to John Russell coming back

Pirates fire Double-A Manager

*The Pirates today fired Altoona Curve manager Matt Walbeck who led Altoona to their first championship and was named Eastern League Manager of the Year. Walbeck is regarded as one of the top up and coming coaches in the minors.
The move is a major mistake by the organization and the Pirates to no surprise are giving no reason for the firing.
The Altoona Mirror has provided some great coverage of the situation. Here’s the latest from the Mirror:
By Corey Giger: Winning the Curve’s first championship and being named Eastern League Manager of the Year wasn’t enough for Matt Walbeck to keep his job. The Pirates informed Walbeck late Wednesday night that he would not be retained in any capacity by the organization, a decision that came as disappointing news to the Curve’s skipper the past two years.”
“I am surprised,” Walbeck said by phone. “After having gone through a pretty solid year … to have made improvements and helped develop players get to Pittsburgh, certainly I’m surprised. Of course. I did everything, I felt like, to help the club and the organization and was good for the community.”
The Curve finished 82-60 during the regular season, won the Western Division title, then beat Harrisburg and Trenton in the playoffs for the first EL crown in franchise history.
The Pirates never gave any public indication over the past two years that they were dissatisfied with Walbeck.
Bucs farm director Kyle Stark did not return a phone message to explain what went into the decision but did respond in a text message that “We do not comment on internal personnel decisions.”
Walbeck called the Mirror shortly after speaking with Stark, the kind of professional, classy move that he frequently made during his Curve tenure.
“I just spoke with Kyle, and basically he felt I wasn’t a good fit for what I wanted to accomplish,” Walbeck said.
He was given no reason for the decision.
“No, not really,” Walbeck said. “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.”

Huntington says there’s no A-Rod or Chipper Jones in next year’s draft

Jim Bowden of XM Radio interviewed Pirates GM Neal Huntington today and here are some highlights of the interview:
*The Pirates own the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft and “Huntington said there is no A-Rod, Chipper Jones, Joe Mauer, or Stephen Strasburg in the 2011 MLB draft.”
Other evaluators around the league will disagree with that statement. The Pirates made similar statements last season about Bryce Harper, the consensus No. 1 overall player in the 2010 draft.
Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon is regarded as next year’s Bryce Harper. Draft guru Keith Law of ESPN.com calls Rendon the best hitting prospect in years and considers Rendon a better prospect than Harper.
*Despite being under contract for 2011, Huntington would not commit to Russell managing Pirates next year. Neal Huntington told Bowden that “the Pirates want to finish strong, then they will evaluate the major league staff and player development.”

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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