Hire Wally Backman! He tries to win!

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Interesting conversation in the comment thread to yesterday’s post about how much impact a manager has on team performance.  In response to a commenter who asked if I thought managers had absolutely no affect, I said, no, I thought that managers are ultimately limited on the top end by the talent on their team, but that they can do harm by not using their resources optimally, pursuing short-sighted, one-run strategies when they’re not called for and by creating dissension in the clubhouse.  All of this, mind you, was set against the backdrop of the Wally Backman situation, so I was not terribly surprised when I received this comment in response:

I hope all the other candidates lead with “My view of it is that while managers can’t really help too much on the top end, they can certainly do harm” That should seal the deal for Wally, he simply tries to win and does.

Which pretty much encapsulates the Backman lobby.  “Hire Wally because he’s a winner!” they cry.  To which I respond:  name me one manager who doesn’t “try to win.”  They all try to win. If you ask them what their job is, they’ll say that they try to win. Yet, somehow — amazingly! — there are still bad and unsuccessful managers out there.

Which means that the measure of a managerial candidate, in my view, isn’t solely how badly he wants to win. It’s about whether he’s aware of what a manager can and can’t control in doing so.  A guy who is aware of his limitations and his team’s limitations — and strengths, of course — and who doesn’t assume he can win by force of will.  The only guy I can even think of who came close to simply willing his team to victory, talent limitations be damned — was Billy Martin. And he wore out his welcome everywhere he went due to being a near-psychopath, by burning out pitchers’ arms and by alienating the players on his team that he needed to help him win over the long term.

None of which, I must add, I can say describes Wally Backman.  I have no reason to believe that he thinks he can rah-rah his way to the World Series.  Indeed, my guess is that Sandy Alderson wouldn’t have given him a second interview if he gave off such an impression.  For all I know, Wally Backman is the most centered, thoughtful managerial candidate in the slate the Mets are considering, and would be, if hired, a revelation.  I haven’t spoken to the man, nor have I heard him speak on such matters.

But neither have the Backman backers, and basically the only thing I hear them citing in Backman’s favor is their perception that Backman is “a winner.”  That he has passion and fire and all of that.  That stuff alone isn’t enough, and taken too far is probably counterproductive to a team’s long-term health.

If Backman gets the Mets’ job it will not be because he has impressed Sandy Alderson that “he tries to win and does.”  That should be assumed. It will be because he has shown himself to be a well-rounded candidate, aware of his strengths and his weaknesses, and willing to work within the framework of  both of those things, the roster provided and the front office’s philosophy in order to steer the Mets towards winning baseball.

In other news, I hope Alderson chooses someone soon, because I don’t think I can handle five Wally Backman stories every single day.

Nothing went Adrian Beltre’s way last night

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It was an unfortunate night on the base paths for future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre in the A’s-Rangers game. First because of, you guessed it, The Man, and second because of the Fates and maybe Father Time.

As far as The Man goes, someplace in the rule book it says that, after a foul ball, the ball is dead until pitcher has the new ball and is ready to pitch. Beltre was counting on people either not knowing that rule or acknowledging that it’s a lame rule which kills the chances for fun. He was standing on first base when Jurickson Profar fouled one off. After the ump handed Jonathan Lucroy a new ball, Lucroy tossed it back wildly to the pitcher and . . . Beltre just took the hell off, ending up on third.

It’s the third highlight in this three-part highlight reel:

 

Here it is in GIF form:

I think he should’ve been award third base on chutzpah alone, but no one asks me about such things.

Less fun was when Beltre singled in the bottom of the eighth. It would’ve been a double — he hit a line drive to right-center that one-hopped the wall — but he just barely got to first, having strained his left hamstring running down the line, forcing him out of the game.

Beltre will be evaluated today, but this will almost certainly mean a trip to the DL for the 39-year-old. He’s the third Opening Day infielder the Rangers have lost to injury so far on the young season.