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?

Cubs sign Brett Anderson to a $3.5 million deal

Brett Anderson
AP Photo/J Pat Carter
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Cubs have signed pitcher Brett Anderson to a contract, pending a physical. Anderson, apparently, impressed the Cubs during a bullpen session held in Arizona recently. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the deal is for $3.5 million, but incentives can bring the total value up to $10 million.

Anderson, 28, has only made a total of 53 starts and 12 relief appearances over the past five seasons due to a litany of injuries. This past season, he made just three starts and one relief appearance, yielding 15 runs on 25 hits and four walks with five strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings. The lefty dealt with back, wrist, and blister issues throughout the year.

When he’s healthy, Anderson is a solid arm to have at the back of a starting rotation or in the bullpen. The defending world champion Cubs aren’t risking much in bringing him on board.

Yordano Ventura’s remaining contract hinges on the results of his toxicology report

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Comerica Park on September 24, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provides an interesting window into how teams handle a player’s contract after he has died in an accident. It was reported on Sunday that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. He had three guaranteed years at a combined $19.25 million as well as two $12 million club options with a $1 million buyout each for the 2020-21 seasons.

What happens to that money? Well, that depends on the results of a toxicology report, Rosenthal explains. If it is revealed that Ventura was driving under the influence, payment to his estate can be nullified. The Royals may still choose to pay his estate some money as a gesture of good will, but they would be under no obligation to do so. However, if Ventura’s death was accidental and not caused by his driving under the influence, then his contract remains fully guaranteed and the Royals would have to pay it towards his estate. The Royals would be reimbursed by insurance for an as yet unknown portion of that contract.

The results of the toxicology report won’t be known for another three weeks, according to Royals GM Dayton Moore. Dominican Republic authorities said that there was no alcohol found at the scene.

Ventura’s situation is different than that of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident this past September. Fernandez was not under contract beyond 2016. He was also legally drunk and cocaine was found in his system after the accident. Still, it is unclear whether or not Fernandez was driving the boat. As a result, his estate will receive an accidental death payment of $1.05 million as well as $450,000 through the players’ standard benefits package, Rosenthal points out.