Friday, December 19, 2008

The Frank Kremblas Storyboard

The Bucs announced Trent Jewett's replacement at AAA Indy today, the Brew Crew's recently deposed AAA Nashville Sound manager, Frank Kremblas.

Kremblas comes complete with a couple of storylines that should keep Pirate bloggers in their glory. First, he's the son of Frank Kremblas, Sr., who QB'ed Ohio State to the national championship in 1957 and shared the backfield with Steeler coaching legend Dick LeBeau, who was a two-way player for the Buckeyes back in the day.

Next, in a not-so-illustrious minor league career, he played catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, outfielder, and pitcher. Talk about a one man band! But Kremblas' biggest asset as a player, unfortunately, was that he was smart and scrappy. Danged by faint praise, indeed.

In 661 minor league games - he topped out as a AAA utility guy at, surprise, Indianapolis, then a Cincy farm team - Kremblas hit .233 with 20 HRs and 201 RBI. So it's a no-brainer why he ended up coaching instead of playing. That's where smart, scrappy, versatile, and no stick players gravitate to in baseball.

He hung up the spikes in 1996, and in 1998 began his career as skipper with the Gulf Coast Expos. In 2000, Kremblas made the move to the Milwaukee organization, first at the helm of the A Mudville Nine (no, that was really their name - even GW couldn't make that one up. Now they're known as the Stockton Port.)

The 42-year old soldiered his way through the ranks, spending the last four years at AAA Nashville, where in a bit of karmic foreshadowing, he replaced Trent Jewett in 2005. He led the team to the PCL crown in his first go-around, and in 2006 and 2007, the Sound won the American North Division title but lost the championship series.

After the 2007 season, Kremblas was named the PCL Manager of the Year. While with the Sound, he helped developed guys like Tony Gwynn, Jr., Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, J.J. Hardy, Rickie Weeks and Manny Parra. And that's a pretty sweet list.

He was canned as Nashville's manager after a 59–81 season in 2008; the good times can't roll on forever. Kremblas was told that Brewers officials didn't see him getting an opportunity to coach in the big leagues, so they decided to let him seek that opportunity elsewhere. Sounds kinda flimsy to us.

It was no secret, though, that he had an eye on a spot with the MLB club. But he was passed over in 2006 for Nick Leyva and in 2007 for Ted Simmons. GW took a quick survey of Brewer blogs, and they seemed split between the "he deserved a shot at the show" and "don't let the door hit you in the butt" camps. C'est la vie.

Another little bit on his coaching career - he sharpened up his skills in the Latin winter leagues, managing twice in Venezuela and once in Mexico. In fact, he's now the skipper of Leones de Caracas. Kremblas also served stints coaching in the Arizona Fall League and the Futures game.

So Pittsburgh landed a young guy with ambition, success at the AAA level, a track record of handling and developing talent, an appreciation of versatility, and some hands-on experience with Latino players, both as a manager and evaluator.

On first blush, it's just what the doctor ordered. But as with all things currently Pirate-related, only time will tell.

The Bucs also finally connected the dots for their minor staffs today. Here's the complete coaching lineup.

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