Wally Backman has long claimed he was “blackballed” from managing by the Mets. He’s right, and there are good reasons why.
Wally Backman, perhaps in a way that reminds of George Steinbrenner bringing New York’s wayward sons, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, to the Yankees, apparently has a guardian angel of his own in the Mets organization. Terry Collins, who now has a bit of juice in the Mets front office, lobbied hard in making Backman the manager for this year’s version of the Long Island Ducks, an independent team in the Atlantic League.
It’s been a long and bumpy road for Wally Backman since his playing days. He claimed and still claims he was “blackballed” by the New York Mets, and specifically Sandy Alderson, from managing the big club. Recently, Backman put into words his feelings:
Hogwash. All of it is hogwash, and Wally Backman knows it, conveniently leaving out the part of the story which tells another truth about Wally Backman.
There was a time in 2004 when Wally Backman was handed a job to manage the Arizona Diamondbacks in the big leagues where he claimed he belonged. He lasted all of four days on the job when it was revealed he conveniently withheld from the D’Backs the fact that he had filed for bankruptcy, and that he was indicted in October 2001for assaulting his wife and one of her friends during a dispute in the family’s Oregon home. And then there was that incident, almost forgotten, in 2000 when he was arrested for DWI.
If Wally Backman had been forthright with the D’Backs, almost certainly he would have been granted that proverbial “second chance”. Instead, the D’Backs were chastised for not doing their due diligence in background checks on Backman, and they were forced to let him go.
But it’s not only all that. Read closely the opening paragraph that appeared in a story about Backman’s hiring in Newsday a little more than a week ago:
A fiery, aggressive, in your face management style, disappeared when Billy Martin died in a fiery alcohol-fueled crash in his driveway. Look around at the managers who are successful today. They don’t treat ballplayers as if they’re in the marines, and there’s a good reason why, even if Wally Backman will never “get it”.
Ballplayers today are more professional than they have ever been. They train year-round, many with workout facilities they build in their homes. Most arrive in Spring Training ready to go, as we saw last year when Noah Syndergaard’s first pitch of the spring registered 100 mph on the gun.
Moreover, as Joe Girardi reminded us so often when he was managing the Yankees, baseball is the hardest of all the professional sports to play. Hitting a 98 mph fastball is a challenge, but squaring up on the pitch takes an even greater skill. Players today don’t need Wally Backman screaming from the dugout like a high school cheerleader, they already know what is expected of them.
Pity the players on the Long Island Ducks this season and what they will be subjected to from Wally Backman. And consider too, who among them will need a “motivator” when they are playing at the lowest level of professional baseball, for $800 or so a month, and as a last gasp attempt to hook on with a major league club?
The Mets have no direct affiliation with the Ducks, but the recommendation from Terry Collins, together with Backman’s heroics during his playing days with the Mets, puts him in the spotlight of the franchise once again, and any misstep by Wally Backman is sure to scream headlines on the back page of the New York Post.
In this, the year of the rejuvenated Mets led by Brodie Van Wagenen, we could have done without this.
Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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