Buster Olney said something interesting about Wally Backman this morning:
Wally Backman remains under consideration to be the Mets’ manager. Look, I don’t know how good of a manager he is; he might be a great major league manager. But I’m not sure if the Mets have come to grip with the box they would put themselves in if they hire Backman, given his history of domestic violence. If a player has a domestic violence incident, as Francisco Rodriguez did, and the team wants to take a stand, they won’t be in a great position to do that having picked Backman.
Is this really so? I suppose if you take an unbending, zero tolerance approach it could be the case that Backman hamstrings the Mets efforts to punish or part ways with players who commit violence. But why must a team take such an approach?
Backman’s domestic violence arrest came in 2001. It was pleaded down to a harassment conviction. I’m not understating the seriousness of that incident — my personal views on domestic violence are not that different from Bud White’s in “L.A. Confidential” — but is it not possible that an organization can, if it wishes to, make a reasonable distinction between a nine year-old conviction followed by mostly good behavior and public contrition on the one hand, and an incident that just occurred today — or might occur tomorrow — on the other?
In more concrete terms, why would Backman’s history stop the Mets from taking a hard line against a player who commits domestic violence now? If the Mets were to DFA that player and publicly condemn him, and then were to be accused of having a double standard, would it not be fair to say (theoretically anyway) “Player X can call us back after paying for his transgressions and spending nine years learning from his mistakes out in the professional wilderness.”
I guess the point here is that no matter how sketchy Backman’s history is, it is history, not something that happened yesterday. If there is no reason to think that now, in 2010, he’s a bad seed, and if he is able to reasonably address his past and proceed with his job in a way that doesn’t set a bad example, I don’t see the problem here.