Mets Triple-A manager Wally Backman has been named the 2014 Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year, the league office announced Friday.
Backman, 54, has guided the Las Vegas 51s (80-61) to their second-straight Pacific Southern Division title, spending the entire season in first place. It is the first time in the franchise’s history that the club has recorded back-to-back 80-win seasons.
Backman rejoined the Mets in 2010 to manager Single-A Brooklyn. He was among the four finalists interviewed by Sandy Alderson and his staff when looking to replace Jerry Manuel. However, the newly hired Alderson hired Terry Collins and reassigned Backman to Double-A Binghamton. The next season Backman moved to Triple-A, where he is 228-200 since taking over.
Matthew Cerrone: This will only further embolden Mets fans and media who feel Backman’s time has come and that he should replace Collins as soon as next season. I don’t think it matters, though. The way I understand it from team insiders, it’s very unlikely that Wally is ever managing the Mets under Alderson. I do think it could work under Paul DePodesta, John Ricco or JP Ricciardi, but not Sandy.
In terms of what I think, I’m not 100 percent sold on this idea. Look, I love Wally’s attitude and his intensity, and nearly every player to ever appear on his roster thinks he’s great. He’s also smarter than people give him credit for. He has binders of notes and does tons of research. He knows his game, there is no question about that, and I’ve heard he left a strong impression on Alderson’s front office, including Collins, who advocated for moving him to Triple-A to work with guys on the cusp of the big leagues.
And that’s the thing, he’s so good at what he does in the minors. He seems to be great at whipping these kids in to shape, getting them focused on the final leg of their career. Or, in the case of Ike Davis and Travis d’Arnaud, taking guys back with open arms, re-focusing them and returning them to Queens. This isn’t easy. It’s a skill and he has it. This also suggests he knows these players and would transition well with them to the big-leagues. However, I’m reluctant to change this dynamic, especially since it’s quite clear Alderson is going to be running a constant shuttle from Vegas to Queens during the next few years… That’s not my big concern with Wally, though.
The above is no reason to pass him over in the event Alderson wants to replace Collins. Frankly, I think he’d be great between the lines when the game is going on. In fact, I’m not sure anyone will be better. Instead, I worry how he’ll do in the time before and after the game, specifically in regards to the media. The reality is, like it or not, New York managers have to talk to reporters twice a day – and a lot more if you consider all the sidebar, off-record discussions that occur anywhere they can. My fear is that he’ll divide the clubhouse more than he’ll motivate and unite it. This might also be an issue if he’s bench coach, by the way.
I think his message will work at first, but could so easily turn south if the team doesn’t do well, and depending on the talent that could be beyond his control. I love our local reporters and media, they’re great at what they do; but that’s the problem, they’re great at what they do. I can totally see him saying things, on record, off record, building walls, isolating people, taking shots at people above and below and – even if those comments are justified and accurate – it will spin out on control in way that, unless he’s really, really good at damage control, will create a bigger circus than already exists at Citi Field.
That said, it would be fun to watch. Again, I’m not totally against the idea of Wally as manager, but I’m not 100 percent on board either. I have plenty of concerns.