Wally Backman and my adventures in talk radio

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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?

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.