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.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.