A small smart move is still a positive one. By the Mets welcoming one of their 1986 World Series champion heroes back into the organization, they will satisfy the nostalgia-hungry fan. When that person is also one of controversy, there may be hope for the Mets just yet.
You see, the Wilpon era has been one totally void of any wrinkles to the extent that if a player is said to spit too far he is weeded out. It almost seems beyond comprehension that they would take a chance on Wally Backman managing their short season Single-A affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones, is a pleasant surprise.
“My heart never left New York,” Backman said in a Coney Island press conference. “I’m excited about the opportunity for a new start with an organization I love.”
The fiery former second baseman, 50, had an infamous short four-day stint as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004. After holding an offseason press conference, the team discovered that the Oregon native had a checkered past that included domestic disputes and an arrest for DUI and quickly let him go.
“I like to play an aggressive style of baseball, and I’ve always been partial to speed and defense,” said Backman, who spent nine seasons at Shea Stadium. “My goal is to teach the kids who will be playing for me – both on and off the field – and help them to become better ballplayers and better people. There’s a right way to play the game and that’s to play hard, smart and give it everything you’ve got.
“That’s how I always played and that’s how I’ve always taught,” continued Backman. “My job is to prepare my players as best I can, and hopefully get them to Citi Field in a few years.”
Too bad that Backman himself will not be at the big league ballpark. He talks about aggressiveness and the right way to play the game. Those traits have been missing for the past few seasons, especially since Jerry Manuel has been in charge. Nice guys finish last, they say, and if not for the hapless Washington Nationals, that is exactly where the Mets would have found themselves this past season.
How do you think Backman would have reacted when Jose Reyes threw one of his public tantrums? Or when Fernando Martinez failed to run out a pop up that fell to the ground and was thrown out at first while standing in the batter’s box? Those countless base running mistakes would also have become a thing of the past with a hard-nosed guy like Backman wearing the captain’s hat.
Always giving themselves a fail-safe net, Mets VP of Business Operations David Howard stated that there is a zero tolerance clause in Backman’s contract. Because he has basically been blackballed since the Arizona debacle, Backman had little choice but to agree to that nonsense. He has been plying his trade but had to do so in Georgia for an independent league club.
Backman may not have hit rock bottom but he was closer to that surface than the other. This may be the first step in making his way back to ‘The Show.’ As a matter of fact, when the Mets were looking for a replacement for Art Howe, Backman was on their short list. General manager Omar Minaya ended up settling on Willie Randolph.
Things may come full circle and the politically correct Mets have gone against the grain for the first time in a long time by making this move. A baby steps, indeed, but one that is pointed in the right direction.