Wally Backman

Wally Backman and my adventures in talk radio


I’ve come to believe that Wally Backman doesn’t have supporters for the Mets managerial job, really. He has disciples and truthers.  At least the guy I locked horns with last night fit that description: radio shouter Dino Costa, who invited me on his show on Sirius/XM’s Mad Dog Radio.  Sirius itself describes it as “a sports talk radio program with some rabid bite to it.”  It lived up to its name.

I knew generally that Costa is one of the guys who likes to stir it up before I went on, but I didn’t know which direction he was going to take. Turns out he wanted to talk Backman.  OK, I fired a missile or two in that direction yesterday, so why not?  He started by listing the following managers — La Russa, Cox, Guillen, Washington — and asking me if I’d hire them to manage my team. I said yes to all of them, with my usual “I’m not a big fan of La Russa” caveat. Then Costa hit me by yelling that all four those guys have had off-the-field issues ranging from substance abuse to spousal abuse to DUI to, well, whatever it was Ozzie has been accused of over the years, so how on Earth could I say I’d hire them when I would not hire Wally Backman.

Because, yeah, Backman is so similar to two Hall of Fame managers, a World Series champion and an AL Pennant winner.

Seems that Costa’s entire reason for having me on the show was that he believed my problem with Backman was that I disapproved of personal problems he got into back in 2001 or whenever it was. I explained to him, no, my comments that Backman wasn’t a good fit in New York had nothing to do with that stuff. It had to do with the fact that the Alderson/Ricciardi/DePodesta crew has never shown an inclination to hire a guy like Backman, and that they have, at least in the past, made it clear that they prefer calm, middle manager types, not firebrands. I thought I had explained that pretty well in the posts Costa claims he read yesterday, but I guess not.  Anyway, it’s sad when a premise on which you’ve based everything collapses, but at least his premise that I’m anti-Backman on moral grounds collapsing like that led to some fun exchanges:

  • In which Costa demanded that I call Backman today and apologize to him for my irresponsible slander of him. Sadly, he could not identify said slander;
  • In which he asked me “what has Ricciardi and DePodesta ever won?!” My response “what has Backman ever won?” was met with a reference to his low-A exploits. I noted that his lack of experience at higher levels is a big knock against Backman and that citing that experience as his top end kind of proves the point. I was then told that I don’t know Wally Backman personally so I should just shut up;
  • Costa noted that Backman gets rave reviews from former players like Dan Uggla. I said that’s great as far as it goes, but those former players were scared 19 and 20 year-old kids when he managed them, and guys that age are more impressed with the drill sergeant act. I said that managing the Jose Reyeses of the world is different. He used that as an excuse to rip Jose Reyes as a quitter and a team cancer. I asked him if he had ever spoken with Jose Reyes personally because, at least in his view, one has to have met a guy before one can criticize him. I could tell from his frustrated yelling that he didn’t much care for that. Oh, and that he’s never met Jose Reyes.
  • Finally, frustrated at having to deal with this child, I did slip up and — ladies, leave the room — I said the word “goddamn.” My first thought “oops!” because bad language on the radio is bad form. My second thought “wait, satellite radio, so it’s OK.”  But than I realized it was more than OK, because it drove Costa nutty: he shouted at me — this time literally shouted at me — to apologize to him and the listeners “for taking the Lord’s name in vain!” I told him, nah, I wasn’t going to do that. If he’s offended it’s his problem. When he kept ranting I asked him if he was four-years-old or something. At this point it was safe to say that he and I weren’t going to find common ground.

Which is fine. Because Costa closed the show with a comical “I’ll be watching you, Calcaterra. I’ll be reading your blog every day to see what you’re saying!” promise/threat.  Which is great, because I totally want more readers.  Hi Dino!

Anyway, I know a lot of people disagree with me on Backman. Reasonable people can disagree on the matter. It just seems that reasonable people who have taken issue with me on the guy have done so for what I’ve actually said rather than invented fantasy reasons like me thinking that Backman deserves to pay penance for filing bankruptcy or whatever. I don’t give a hoot about that. My team was managed for the past 20 years by a guy who was involved in a domestic violence incident for cryin’ out loud.  I’m not inviting Bobby Cox or Wally Backman into my home, but I’m not going to say that disqualifies them from a job in which it has been proven that even drunk, violent jerkwads can be effective. It’s business, not personal. And if I’m totally wrong about what I think Sandy Alderson wants in a manager and he goes ahead and hires Backman? Great, I was wrong. I’ll admit it and do my best to understand it.

But I sure would like the crazy faction of Backman supporters — which Costa either is or is pretending to be — to admit that Backman is not the Alpha and Omega of managerial candidates, that he does lack experience compared to other candidates, and that if he is ultimately hired by Alderson, he would be an unconventional pick given Alderson’s track record.  That’s all I’m saying.

But hey, talk radio is fun, ain’t it?

UPDATE: Barry Bonds tentatively plans to accept the Marlins hitting coach job

Barry Bonds

UPDATE: Bob Nightengale reports that while negotiations are not yet finalized, Barry Bonds “tentatively plans to accept the Marlins’ offer to be hitting coach with Frank Menechino.” Which is a good reminder that Menechino is still the Marlins’ hitting coach. Who would be the assistant and who would be the coach — or if they’d be co-coaches — is unclear.

12:00PM: The matter of Barry Bonds as the Marlins hitting coach has gone from “consideration” to “offer,” reports Bob Nightengale. The Marlins now await Barry Bonds’ response.

The biggest mystery in all of this is whether Bonds is actually interested. No one has reported that he was willing or even that there have been serious conversations between the Marlins and Bonds. That could be because Bonds, as has always been his practice, doesn’t talk too much to the media. Indeed, we learn more about him from his social media presence than anything reported about him. So it’s possible that Bonds and Jeff Loria have been in contact about all of this and he’s strongly considering it as well.

It’s also possible that this is all nothing and the Marlins are just trying to make a long shot happen.

MONDAY, 5:01 PM: This shouldn’t cause any controversy, lead to a lot of people saying dumb things or provide fodder for jokes at all. Nope, none whatsoever:

In what promises to be a bombshell move, if executed, all-time great slugger Barry Bonds is under consideration to become Marlins hitting coach.

Team higherups have quietly been discussing this possibility for weeks.

That’s Jon Heyman, who reminds us that Bonds has worked with the Giants in the spring in recent years. And who, no matter what else you can say about him, was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Also worth remembering that despite his controversial past, that greatness came not just from physical gifts, naturally or artificially bestowed. It came from his approach, preparation and strategy at the plate. No one can teach a hitter to hit like Barry Bonds, but you’d think that hitters could be taught to try to approach an at bat the way Barry Bonds would. And who better to do it than Barry Bonds?

That is, if Bonds is willing to drop his seemingly ideal retired life in San Francisco, move to Miami and work for Jeff Loria for nine months a year. Which, eh, who knows? But the possibility of it is pretty fascinating to think about.

Royals avoid arbitration with Tim Collins for $1.475 million

Tim Collins Getty
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Left-hander Tim Collins, who missed the entire 2015 season following Tommy John elbow surgery, will remain with the Royals after avoiding arbitration for a one-year, $1.475 million contract.

Collins was a non-tender candidate due to his injury and projected salary via arbitration, but the Royals are convinced he can bounce back to be a valuable part of the bullpen again in 2016 and beyond. He agreed to the same salary he made in 2015.

Prior to blowing out his elbow Collins posted a 3.54 ERA with 220 strikeouts in 211 innings from 2011-2014 and he’s still just 26 years old. He figures to begin 2016 in a middle relief role.

Joba Chamberlain signs with the Indians

Joba Chamberlain

When you think “Joba Chamberlain” and “Cleveland” you think of the then-Yankees phenom being attacked by midges in the 2007 ALDS. If you don’t remember that somehow, the video evidence is below.

But all of that changes now, as the Indians have just announced that they have signed Chamberlain to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training. That’s no promise of a big league job, but the Indians did make at least one promise to him:


I can vouch for that. The Indians’ Triple-A team is in Columbus and we don’t have midges here.

Chamberlain split time with the Royals and the Tigers in 2015, posting a composite ERA of 4.88 in 36 games of mostly mopup work.

Mariners trying to trade Mark Trumbo by Wednesday

Mark Trumbo

Seattle making Mark Trumbo available has been known for a while now, but Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that the Mariners are trying to trade the first baseman/outfielder before Wednesday.

That’s the deadline to tender 2016 contracts to arbitration eligible players and with Trumbo set to make around $9 million via that process the Mariners would rather move on before any decision needs to be made. In other words: They don’t want to be stuck with him.

Trumbo has elite power, averaging 30 homers per 160 games for his career, but that power comes with a .250 batting average, poor plate discipline and a .299 on-base percentage, and sub par defense. Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has already traded Trumbo once, dealing him to the Diamondbacks back when he was the Angels’ general manager, and now he’s working hard to part ways again.

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Rockies are among the interested teams.