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Often times former catchers make good major league managers. Sometimes they get fired anyway.

Major league journeyman Matt Walbeck spent two years at the helm for the Altoona Curve, the Double-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 2009 the team finished in sixth place in the Eastern League. In 2010, the team captured the first Eastern League championship in its 12 year history.

On Sept. 29, Pittsburgh told Walbeck his services were no longer needed.

I’m not going to pretend I followed the Curve during their championship run, nor am I going to say I recognize even one of the names of the players on the team’s roster during the 2010 season. I can’t say I know anything about Walbeck as a manager or much about his background – other than I watched him play catcher for the Minnesota Twins back during the team’s dark years in the early 2000s.

But when a guy wins a championship, even in the minor leagues, it would seem he is doing something right.

The Pirates, who last had anything resembling a competitive team in the major leagues in 1992, only released a one sentence statement: “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,” according to general manager Neal Huntington via the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Dejan Kovacevic, the Post-Gazette’s Pirates beat writer, updated the story later with a comment from an unidentified source indicating that the move came from concerns about Walbeck’s communication with staff and players.

Okay, maybe he was a bad communicator. He won a championship at the Double-A level for an organization that, for two decades in the major leagues, has had virtually nothing to be excited about at all.And he was 312-224 in four seasons managing in the Detroit Tigers’ system.

Granted, there is more to managing in the minors than winning. But the Pirates finally have some young guys – Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata and Neil Walker among others, that interestingly have come from the  minors over the last couple seasons. Not all played under Walbeck. Some did. And for an organization that has shown little promise for two decades, I would think continuity would be a good thing for a team that must have done something right in 2010 to win the league championship.

Walbeck certainly didn’t do it himself, but someone had to help those players reach that level.

Maybe the Pirates will prove this was the correct move. Maybe the players won the championship in spite of Walbeck rather than because of him. If so I’ll fall on my sword later.

Until then, it would appear to me that the once-proud Pirates franchise has given the city of Pittsburgh and baseball fans around the country another illustration of how the organization has spent two decades as a laughingstock.

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