BROOKLYN, NY – As Wally Backman stood at the podium at the Brooklyn Baseball Gallery at KeySpan Park, you have to wonder what could have been.
If Backman was never fired by the Arizona Diamondback and ultimately blackballed throughout affiliated baseball, would he have become one of the better managers in baseball or would he have just been a footnote on history.
It’s something no one would ever know, but now the 50 year-old Backman gets a second chance with his appointment by the Mets to helm the Brooklyn Cyclones next season.
“I take full responsibility for the things I did wrong, and I want to go forward,” said Backman, who had a number of problems in the past, including a DUI, domestic disputes, and a bankruptcy. “To start [over] here is good for me.”
Having Backman back with the Mets is a good thing for the organization, since the winning fire is missing. VP of Business David Howard said the team put a “zero-tolerance” clause in their new manager’s contract in order to protect the organization from any further transgressions and possible embarrassment.
That all sounds good and all, but is it really needed? The team did the right thing here by hiring Backman, a man who paid his price and ready to continue his career. But frankly it was long overdue.
This is not an indictment of the Mets, rather one of all affiliated baseball, which is filled with men of low moral character. With so many stars caught for steroid abuse and others – at least in the past – getting off basically scott free for drug abuse and digressions, why was Backman the one to be punished for his problems.
Backman, by his own admission, is a very flawed man, who encountered many off the field problems a decade ago. But does that make himself any different than Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez, who were caught doing steroids? Or even fellow teammates Ron Darling and Darryl Strawberry with their reported problems with the IRS?
The only difference was that Backman was punished for his sins, which is not just unfair, but flat out wrong. Even with his problems, he still proved himself to be one hell of a manager, with a burning desire to win at all costs.
“We took winning and losing personally,” Backman said about the 1986 Mets. “I still do that. That might be why I’m a little bit too high strung at times. I like for the kids to try to take that stuff personal, too. I think it helps them throughout their career. If you can take a loss personal and use the proper energy the way it’s supposed to be used the next day, you end up winning a lot of baseball games.”
And that’s what the Mets hope for the Cyclones, one of their more important affiliates. The club always wants a winning franchise in Coney Island, and Backman pretty much assures that team will be competitive. Yet, this move should have happened a long time ago – again not just by the Mets, but throughout all of baseball.
Backman paid too long of a price for his sins. Now it’s time for him to take the first step on the rest of his career.