Wally Backman

Would hiring Wally Backman set a bad precedent for the Mets?

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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.

“La Vida Baseball,” celebrating Latino baseball, launches

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A new website has launched. It’s called “La Vida Baseball,” and it’s all about celebrating the past, present and future of Latino baseball from a Latino perspective.

The site, produced in partnership with the Hall of Fame, has four general areas of focus:

  • Who’s Now: Focusing on current Latino players;
  • Who’s Next: Focusing on top prospects here, in the Caribbean and in Central and South America;
  • Our Life: Off-the-Field stuff, including player’s lives, lifestyles and hobbies; and
  • Our Legends: Focusing on Latino baseball history, Hall of Famers and overlooked players.

As the site has just launched there aren’t yet a ton of stories up there, but there is one about Roberto Clemente, another about Felix Hernandez and some other stuff.

The site is much-needed. Baseball reporters for American outlets are overwhelmingly white, non-Spanish speakers. Reporters, who, generally, gravitate to the players who are the most like they are. Which is understandable on some level. When you’re writing stories about people you need to be able to communicate with them and relate to them on more than a mere perfunctory level. As such, no matter how good the intentions of baseball media, we tend to see the clubhouse and the culture of baseball from a distinctly American perspective. And we tend to paint Latino players with a broad, broad brush.

La Vida Baseball will, hopefully, remedy all of that and will, hopefully, give us a fresh and insightful depiction Latino players and their culture.

 

David Ross to compete on “Dancing with the Stars”

David Ross
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Do you miss David Ross? I miss David Ross. The season hasn’t even started yet and I miss David Ross. There’s something comforting about having a likable graybeard catcher in the game with bonus points for being bald. His loss will be felt.

But while we won’t have David Ross in baseball all this year — at least on the field; he’s a special assistant with the Cubs — we’ll still have David Ross someplace:

Johnny Damon did “Celebrity Apprentice” — Trump fired him, sadly — but we’ve never had a ballplayer on “Dancing With The Stars.” There have been several football players and some Olympians, but no baseball guys. Which makes some amount of sense as, outside of the middle infielders and first basemen, footwork isn’t necessarily the most important tool.

Catchers are particularly plodding for athletes, so good luck, David. Unless you have some moves you haven’t flashed in the past, you’ll probably need it.