Big Lead Sports Bar


Thursday News and Notes

Today's news and notes include a curious Pirate firing, an AWKWARD radio interview [with audio], a major boo-boo by the makers of Ochocinco Cereal, updates on the health of Jordan Staal and Ray Rice, and much more.

MATT WALBECK, manager of the Eastern League Champion Altoona Curve, was given his walking papers today by the Pittsburgh Pirates. A cloud of mystery surrounds the move, as the public is left speculating as to why the organization would fire the league's Manager of the Year just two weeks removed from winning a title. 

Walbeck, who allegedly aspired to a job above the Double-A level that the Pirates did not offer, told the Altoona Mirror that the organization gave him no explanation for his dismissal. The Pirates gave a typical, canned Huntingtonian answer to the press: "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."

However, Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror asks a great question: "Why didn't the organization have an upper-level job for a manager who has won three league titles and four manager of the year awards?"

One sentence later, Giger partly answered his own question: "The Pirates do not think so, and they are not explaining why." 

The Pirates, being secretive? How surprising. [PG, Altoona Mirror]

DEJAN KOVACEVIC did a little more digging and was told that the team's problem with was a lack of extra work, pregame work and other preparations involving the players. Naturally, Walbeck does not see it that way, saying (rightly) that it was a successful season.

On the bright side, at least we have a great game of he said/he said going on between team and ex-employee to keep us occupied between Steeler and Penguin games. And another PR blunder is hit by the Babe Ruth of Bad Publicity. [PBC Blog]

JORDAN STAAL spoke to the media for the first time since undergoing a surgical procedure to cure an infection in his foot. Let's just say I'm not exactly thrilled with what I heard. []

RAY RICE says he's healthy enough to play Sunday against the Steelers. Of course...he's not dealing with an infected foot! [Baltimore Sun]

THE CITY GAME between Pitt and Duquesne will be televised nationally by ESPNU at 9 p.m. Dec. 1 at Consol Energy Center, the schools announced today. [Trib]

DOUG GOTTLIEB and Jim Mora, starring in The Most Awkward Radio Interview of ALL TIME. [The Big Lead]

Could Pitt QB TINO SUNSERI get benched? Frank Cignetti says it's possible. [PG]

Here's a trailer for I AM NUMBER FOUR, the greatest film ever to be shot at Franklin Regional HS. [96.1 Kiss Freak Show]

CHAD OCHOCINCO's cereal had a phone number that was supposed to be for a charity printed on the side of the box. One problem - the number they printed was actually to a phone sex line. Oops. [Deadspin]

Mondesi's House: The Director's Cut (more links, commentary, etc):


The Mad Bubbler said...

Fuck the Pirates. Only 4 more days until the Level 4 Brain Tumor of this city packs it up for the winter.

What's up with the story on the Pens site saying that Staal's injury happened when he was "accidently stepped on" by that thug Subban? Right, just like Subban tried to "accidently step on" Matt Cooke the very next game. Gimme a break.

Unknown said...

Fired for the lack of extra work, pregame work, and other preparation involving the players?

HAVE THEY EVER OBSERVED JOHN RUSSELL??? I've been calling for him to lose his job all season for this very reason. There are NO signs that players were held accountable for or told to improve poor play, mental miscues, or terrible fundamentals.

BURGH08 said...

Bubbler, you had me at F the Pirates.

Dom Errico said...

Makes ya proud to be a Pirate fan today, doesn't it?

That should be their marketing slogan next year

"Fuck the Fans!!!"

Maura said...

The best part of the OchocincO story is that the processing plant for the cereal is in Pittsburgh. Talk about a good laugh for a Steeler fan.

Unknown said...

@ burgh08, yes he did! how long before nate rushes to the pirate defense?

BurressWithButterflywings said...

Well, at risk of sounding cliche, the problem they had with Walbeck was that he instilled winning in in his players. They certainly don't want that creeping in their heads at the minor league level or they may expect to.... GASP..... win at the MAJOR league level!!!

I think it is so funny that this is the FO's version of "accountability". You don't do exactly as we say, you're gone. It doesn't matter if your methods work, you have had success with us and other organizations, or have been 4time manager of the year. We will throw you out on the curb in favor of someone who would rather sleep on the bench and follow our every order.

How does Comrade Huntington take himself seriously and make this decision while keeping Russell around at the major level?

I mean, Russell might averge 100 losses per season after this one is over with, but at least he can adhere to the strict regimen desired by the FO consisting of piss poor baserunning, errors, lack of any fundamentals, terrible pitching and managing of pitchers, and of course losing 2 out of every 3 game games.

Steve said...

Maybe they should have fired him...and then hired him as the Pirates manager. No, no, what am I saying...heaven forbid they get someone in there who knows how to win and can get the effort and results needed from the players he manages. I'm much happier with the zombie manager Russell and the collective conscience of the Borg Pirates. We certainly don’t need a manager who may fight the assimilation process.

Charlie Hildbold said...

In the Pirates' defense...this isnt the first time Walbeck has been fired for not being in line with the Parent club. He won Manager of the Year with the Tigers AA team a few years ago and was let go. I believe this is the 3rd time he's won the award and was fired immediately after. There must be something about the guy.

Personally I don't agree with it, but the winning could have come from the actual caliber of the players on the roster. This is essentially the same team that won the High-A championship last year

Nate said...

So what's the over/under on the estimated number of people who had even heard of Matt Walbeck until he was fired?

Maybe the Curve were winning games because *gasp* they've got talented players, who came into the system through *gasp* things like the draft or international signings?

Nope. It was the manager. The manager single-handedly made them winners, and now that he's gone, all those players that will be promoted to AAA next season and wouldn't have been managed by him anyway will never have success again. Woe be to any members of the Bradenton Marauders (37-31 in 2010, winners of their division title) who have to suffer through not having the fantastic Matt Walbeck by their side in AA next year.

Oh, and let's entirely ignore the fact that this team won a High-A championship last year without Walbeck as the manager. That just wouldn't fit the narrative.

Dom Errico said...

If talent guaranteed a championship, then why bother playing the games?

A manager still needs to use the talent properly.

BURGH08 said...

@ Corey: right on cue.

I wonder why Nate didn't *gasp* mention the fact that he *gasp* has won three league titles and four manager of the year awards?

You mean he isn't worthy of keeping in THIS organization? Anywhere?


Daquido_Bazzini said...

The Nutting Regime...Strangers in the strange land they have taken over at the offices of PNC Park.
Still holding this once proud franchise hostage....With no sign of releasing the choke hold.
You're fired if you win (Matt Walbeck)....And you're extended if you lose (John Russell).
The strangest phenomenon in all of sports.
If it wasn't for a late night phone call from Walbeck to the Altoona Mirror....We may never even know about this till next season.
The Nutting Regime....Strange, strange little people.

Nate said...

And I love how you totally failed to acknowledge what Charlie said above me: the guy's been fired immediately after winning the manager of the year award three times. Obviously, something is up with the guy.

And for the record, I don't necessarily agree with the move. I have no idea what the motive was behind it. But it's got all the makings of the typical "make a mountain out of a molehill because it's the Pirates" story.

BURGH08 said...

More ill informed comments from Nate, but what can you expect when your nose is in the collective ass crack of Pirates management?

Walbeck won two league titles at the single A level with Detroit. The "move" was taking a better job with the Erie Seawolves at the AA level. No firing occured.

He also was not fired by Erie. After winning the EL with the Seawolves, his next "move" was to being the third base coach of the Texas Rangers shortly after the '07 season. Again, taking a coaching position at the MLB level is job progression.

He was not offered a contract with Texas which brought him to Altoona, and was replaced by a coach that was promoted within the Rangers farm system.

Interesting concept, don't you think?

Nate said...

Cool. If he's so good, why has he never managed a big league club?

I'm glad you've got your panties in a bunch over a minor league manager. You know, because they're so important. Considering they're usually told who to play, where to play them, where to hit them, and what positions they'll play by the parent club, I'm sure a minor league manager has a lot of important work to do that correlates extremely closely with winning games.

Dom Errico said...


So if we go by your "logical" way of thinking, then why do the Pirates even bother hiring minor league managers? Why not let the talent make the decisions. We could hire a monkey and put him on the bench and call him the manager.

In professional sports, you aren't going to get hired at the major league level until you pay your dues first. They want to see proof you know what you are doing before they sign you to a long term multimillion dollar contract.

I know from my experience as a PA Announcer. I feel I am as good as if not better than announcers making significantly more than me at the major league level, but I have to prove it beforehand. That's why I have been working at the minor league level, waiting for a chance to move up.

I got turned down for an interview with the Penguins about the PA gig that went to Ryan Mill specifically because at that point they didn't think I had enough experience.

Burgh08 has already shown you how Walbeck took other opportunities in other organizations to move up to a higher level, even to the major league level as a base coach. That's just how it works.

Maybe you need to get YOUR panties untwisted rather than go off on people.

brian said...

I think a manager is only as good as the talent he has to work with. Last year the Curve went 62-90 with Walbeck at the helm. The core of this year's team was playing in High-A.

Walbeck's contract was up after this season anyways, so it's possible he would have left for the AAA or higher position he so desires.

Signs point to JR (once considered a great managing prospect in the minors) possibly being let go. With a bevy of potential managerial changes in MLB this off season, it wouldn't be fair to either side to have Walbeck stick around if they clean house with the coaches.

The handling of the firing looks poor (over the phone IIRC) and not good for PR, but it is not going to set the franchise back. It will probably be long forgotten once hot stove kicks in and the roster decisions for 2011 and beyond take place.

Nate said...

"So if we go by your "logical" way of thinking, then why do the Pirates even bother hiring minor league managers? Why not let the talent make the decisions. We could hire a monkey and put him on the bench and call him the manager."

Sure, why not? That's about the amount of impact a manager has on actually winning games. Unless they're doing stupid things like batting Tike Redmond cleanup like Lloyd McClendon did, they're not going to make much of an impact on the wins/loss column. It's the talent on the field, not the guy filling out the lineup card. Baseball managers don't have nearly the influence as, say, a football coach.

Also, I'm not "going off" on anyone. I'm just sick of the fake rage people have any time the Pirates make any decision. These are the same people that got mad that the team fired a freaking Pierogie mascot.

BURGH08 said...

"I'm glad you've got your panties in a bunch over a minor league manager."

You actually seem to have yours in a wad defending management and supporting the claim that he was fired multiple times after winning as a minor league manager. Again, your words:

"I love how you totally failed to acknowledge what Charlie said above me: the guy's been fired immediately after winning the manager of the year award three times. Obviously, something is up with the guy"

I didn't acknowledge it because it's false information.

Hey, I understand. People have their defense mechanisms when proven wrong. I guess yours is not looking at actual facts.

So be it.

Dom Errico said...

Do you mean Tike Redman?

Nate said...

"Do you mean Tike Redman?"

Yes. My bad. He was a mediocre player from 5 years ago, and I've mostly forgotten about him. Though amazingly, I just looked him up and he's still kicking around in AAA.

I'm not defending management. I said I don't agree with his firing. I know you guys like to make this a "Nate thinks management can do no wrong" thing, but I disagree with this move. I just don't think it's ultimately a big deal, just like firing the pierogie wasn't a big deal. It has very little effect on the Major League (or really, even minor league) club is all I'm trying to say.

Dom Errico said...

A lot of the ire of the fans is because this team should be better PR wise. Why is it that EVERY move they make seems to be backwards from the norm?

John Russell has averaged 100 losses basically for three straight seasons, but will it surprise anyone if he isn't fired?

brian said...

If Dejan's sources are correct, John Russell manages his last game today as a Buc.

Nate said...

"John Russell has averaged 100 losses basically for three straight seasons, but will it surprise anyone if he isn't fired?"

I, for one, would be shocked if he was retained.

I'd also be shocked if, when he is fired, people like Burgh and Mad Bubbler would find a way to be pissed about it.

BURGH08 said...

I wouldn't be shocked if one could tell what Huntington had for lunch smelling your breath.

BURGH08 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nate said...

Cool story, bro.

I'm starting to think that in real life, you're this guy:

BURGH08 said...

Wow. If you only used the same internet to know that the guy wasn't fired multiple times after winning a manager of the year award.

Stick to pizza tossing.