New York Mets: Where’s Wally Backman?


The New York Mets have a great Triple-A manager in Wally Backman; how long until he is given another shot at the major league level?

It used to be different:  A former player becomes a guest instructor during spring training. Then he is hired as coach, either a first or 3rd base coach in charge of defense, base running, or a pitching staff. Some start off  as minor league managers. Others have both coaching and managerial experiences. Eventually, his track record of success leads to a job as a full time MLB manager. At least that’s how it used to be.

What does Mike Matheny, Scott Servais, Robin Ventura, and Brad Ausmus all share in common? When they were hired as MLB managers (Servais was just hired this off-season by the Seattle Mariners) none had any previous coaching or managerial experience. (Ausmus is the only exception; he coached team Israel in the 2013 World Baseball Championship).

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Every off-season former players with no previous experience are hired as MLB managers.What happened to the old pay your dues work your way up system? Maybe it wasn’t proving to be a successful way to find a long term manager, so teams are trying something new?

Until now, the results have been mixed. While Matheny has led his team to the playoffs in his first four seasons as the St. Louis Cardinals manager, (including 2013 NL Pennant) Ausmus and Ventura have been mediocre at best. Ausmus’s Detroit Tigers finished in last place this year in the AL Central when many expected them to contend for the playoffs.  Ventura, whose Chicago White Sox team had only two more wins that the Tigers, has only had one winning season since Ventura was hired in 2012. There is no sample of Servais work now.

Are candidates who have experience and a proven track record of success being overlooked for managerial openings Yes. Who? Take Wally Backman, the manager of the Las Vegas 51s, the New York Mets AAA team.

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The Mets turned heads this season by winning the NL Pennant sooner than many expected. Much of their success has been attributed to their young pitching staff led by Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. It doesn’t stop with those players. The Mets wouldn’t have won the pennant without the contributions of young players Travis d’arnoud, Wilmer Flores, and Juan Lagares.

What do these players all have in common? They all played for Backman before joining the Mets. A manager or coach who helps develop players is always an asset to a team, especially a young team. Backman has had that success as much as any manager or coach in baseball with player development. So why is he not managing his own club?

Some will look at what transpired after the Arizona Diamondback hired him in 2004. It was discovered he had legal and financial troubles he had not disclosed to team, and he was fired before managing a game. Ten years later, is he still being punished for his actions? It didn’t take NFL player Michael Vick, who went to jail for actual crimes, ten years to get a second chance in the NFL. Why should it be different for Wally?

Others will point out that in this era of sabermetrics, many baseball decisions are made together by a GM and manager.  Unlike some of the other hires, he doesn’t have as much experience with this. More information is a blessing. There are stats that exist nowadays that didn’t when I was a kid. I am all for more info that helps improve a team’s chances of winning.

It isn’t fair that someone so qualified is getting slighted, especially when hiring managers with no previous experience hasn’t proven to be a better method.

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It may work out for him and the Mets in the future. Terry Collins is the oldest manager in baseball. Maybe Backman is just waiting for his chance in New York. One still has to wonder, how if the system isn’t proving fool proof, how guys like Backman keep getting bypassed for these managerial jobs?