Wally Backman

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?

Julio Urias is on his way back to the majors

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 27:  Julio Urias #78 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the New York Mets during their game at Citi Field on May 27, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images
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Dodgers 19-year-old rookie Julio Urias is coming back to the majors and Alex Wood is headed to the 15-day disabled list with left elbow soreness, Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports. Urias will likely start Saturday against the Braves, which will mark his debut in front of the home crowd.

Urias made his major league debut on Friday against the Mets at Citi Field, but lasted only 2 2/3 innings. He yielded three runs on five hits and four walks with three strikeouts.

Urias came into the season rated as the Dodgers’ #1 prospect and the #2 overall prospect in baseball. Prior to his promotion, he had compiled a 1.10 ERA with 44 strikeouts and eight walks over 41 innings with Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Mookie Betts enjoys a three-homer game against the Orioles

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 31: Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox follows his three run homer against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 31, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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The Red Sox seem to have hit the jackpot on all of their young players so far this year. Jackie Bradley, Jr. just had a 29-game hitting streak snapped. Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 24 games on Tuesday night. And Mookie Betts has been quite productive batting leadoff for the Red Sox this year, entering Tuesday with an even .800 OPS.

Betts, 23, hit 18 home runs in his first full season last year. With a three-homer night against the Orioles on Tuesday, he’s already up to 12 in 2016 with four months of season left. The first was of the solo variety, a line drive to center field off of Kevin Gausman in the first inning. Betts followed up in the third with a liner to left field for a three-run dinger off of Gausman. He made it three in the seventh, drilling a Dylan Bundy offering to right field.

Here’s video of homer number two:

Betts finished 3-for-5 as the Red Sox won 6-2 at Camden Yards.

The stats show the Pirates as an outlier in throwing “headhunter” pitches

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 5: Reliever Arquimedes Caminero #37 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh inning at Busch Stadium on September 5, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
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Last week at ESPN Sweetspot’s Inside the Zona, Ryan Morrison looked into the data and found that the Pirates stand out among the rest when it comes to throwing “headhunter” pitches. Those are defined as fastballs 3.2 feet or higher and 1.2 feet towards the batter from the center of the plate.

The research was prompted because Diamondbacks second baseman Jean Segura was hit in the helmet by Pirates reliever Arquimedes Caminero last Tuesday in the seventh inning. The next inning, Caminero hit shortstop Nick Ahmed in the jaw with a pitch and was instantly ejected.

Morrison illustrated the data in a nice chart, which you should check out. The Pirates have thrown 93 of those pitches, which is way more than any other team. The next closest team is the Reds at 68 pitches. The major league average is approximately 48 pitches.

The Pirates have had an organizational philosophy of pitching inside since at least 2013, as MLB.com’s Tom Singer quoted manager Clint Hurdle as saying, “We’re not trying to hurt people, just staying in with conviction.”

Morrison goes on to suggest that the Diamondbacks should have forfeited last Wednesday and Thursday’s games against the Pirates in protest, out of concern for their players’ safety. As it happened, the D-Backs lost both games anyway, suffering a series sweep. The two clubs don’t meet again this season.

D-Backs manager Chip Hale said after last Tuesday’s game that Caminero “shouldn’t be at this level”. Caminero responded to those comments today, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. “I’m actually glad you asked me about that,” Caminero said. “The only thing I’ve got to say about (Hale) is that he is a perfect manager. And he was a perfect player, too. That’s it. I know what I did wasn’t good, but it happens in baseball. I wasn’t trying to hit anyone.”

I realize I’m late on pointing out Morrison’s terrific article and the whole debacle between the two teams, but I felt it was worth highlighting.

Jose Bautista: “I’d be stupid to leave” Toronto

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 29: Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jayshits a two-run home run in the fifth inning during MLB game action against the Boston Red Sox on May 29, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
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Also included in a recent report on Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista by Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated — along with his belief that Rougned Odor was the only bad guy in the May 15 debacle — was the slugger’s desire to remain a Blue Jay. Per Verducci, Bautista said, “I love the city. I’d be stupid to leave” Toronto.

Bautista, 35, is in the final year of a five-year, $65 million extension signed in February 2011. Back in November, the Jays exercised their 2016 club option for $14 million. Bautista isn’t willing to discuss contract details during the season, so the two sides will have to wait until at least October to come to an agreement.

Entering Tuesday’s game against the Yankees, Bautista is hitting .237/.371/.489 with 11 home runs, 37 RBI, and 40 walks, the latter of which leads the American League.