This article contains opinion.
With the minor league baseball season ending, organizations that did not make the postseason look to make a change in staff in hopes of playoff baseball in the future.
This can be said for the Altoona Curve, the AA affiliate for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Curve relieved manager Michael Ryan of his duties Sept. 3 following a 69-71 season, which landed them fourth in the Eastern League West standings and out of playoff baseball.
Ryan told 6 News Sports Director Ryan Stanko, “Yes. I was let go. Just was told they wanted to make a change.”
In Ryan’s three years with the team, he led the Curve to two playoff appearances, won two divisional championships and won the Eastern League Championship in 2017.
He has been a part of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization for years. Prior to his tenure in Altoona, Ryan managed both the West Virginia Power and the Bradenton Marauders, where he lost in the divisional round with West Virginia in 2013 and won the Florida State League championship in 2016 with Bradenton.
Given the history of how quickly he rose through the organization, it would come as no surprise if Ryan ended up finding a job with another team, either within their minor league system or with a big league team.
Focusing on the team itself, Altoona had both ups and downs in 2019.
Focusing on the negatives first, Altoona did not have a hitter finish with better than a .300 batting average on the season. The closest to this was 3B Hunter Owen, who was promoted to Indianapolis in the early part of the season.
Another was situational pitching.
I went to five or six Curve games this season, and in about four of them, they lost due to bullpen struggles. Closer Matt Eckelman lost his touch to close games out toward the end of the season, and a few starters ran their pitch count up early in games, forcing more work from the bullpen.
But for each negative point, there was a positive to match it.
Blake Cederlind looked dominant in the bullpen, ending the season with a 1.77 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP, something normally not seen in the minors.
Fans got to witness Oneil Cruz in Altoona for a bit, as the tall shortstop seems to be quickly climbing through the organization.
Robbie Glendinning became the hot star at third base following Owen’s promotion.
Beau Sulser became a dominant pitcher (8-3, 2.72 ERA in 96 IP) who could also provide while hitting (.273 batting average).
With the addition of former Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan managing pitchers, he tied major league knowledge to minor league strategy, which gives pitchers an upper hand while progressing through the season.
The major problem for the team was the lack of consistency among players. It seemed that every week, one or two players were promoted, bringing in new faces.
This didn’t necessarily hinder team chemistry, but this prevented strong bonds from being made as everyone thought he would be leaving next. Not to mention, all these players are young, so adjusting to higher levels isn’t an easy task.
However, if the organization finds stability in 2020, the Curve will have a good chance to impress once again next season under new management.