The engine is revving on the Wally Backman bandwagon

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Wally Backman is probably as good a candidate as any to be the Mets next manager. He’s the Triple-A manager. He’s popular among fans, especially ones who remember the 1980s. I was skeptical of his candidacy a couple of years ago because he really hadn’t had a lot of experience yet, but he’s worked his way up through the organization. I don’t know if he’s the best choice to succeed Terry Collins, but he’s obviously going to be a candidate.

Bob Klapisch, however, believes his candidacy has already begun. What kicked it off? The demotion of Ike Davis:

Now Davis is Wally Backman’s problem, although it’s worth asking the question that could lead to a more intriguing dialogue: What happens if Backman and his old-school, man’s-man approach actually fixes Davis? Then what?

Such a reclamation project would be more of a reflection of Backman’s interpersonal skills than Davis’ ability to hit for a respectable average. At least we know Davis has talent – we’ve seen it in the past, albeit not consistently since the second half of last season. But Backman is the wild card here, especially because he’s been languishing in the Mets’ farm system for four summers hoping to prove to someone, anyone, that he’s long since outrun his darker demons.

There are a lot of assumptions in here. The first being that Davis remembering how to hit would be a function of Backman’s magic or Davis simply being among less-talented pitchers in a hitting-friendly environment. Davis has shown, you know, that he can hit major league pitching, so if he hits PCL pitching in that launching pad in Las Vegas, I dont think it’s necessarily a function of Wally Backman being The Ike Davis Whisperer.

The other assumption is that the Mets, as an organization, don’t know what they have in Wally Backman. Like I said before, he’s been with the organization for several seasons now and has moved up. To think that they don’t really have a handle on his “darker demons” by now seems a bit off to me. Actually, it seems a bit more in keeping with the Wally Backman debates the media enjoyed a couple of years ago with the people who were interested in personalities and good stories pulling for Backman.

Which is to say that this seems like narrative-building to me, not actual analysis. The Mets have a lot of people in the organization whose job it is to assess their talent and assess their management. And those people are doing both with Davis and Backman already. It just doesn’t seem reasonable to think that whatever happens with Ike Davis in the next couple of weeks in the desert is going to make or break Wally Backman’s managerial career.

But I doubt that will stop the folks who have long been on the Backman bandwagon. They’re looking for magic and stories in what will be a far more boring organizational decision made by a deliberate general manager in Sandy Alderson. And I doubt they’ll stop looking between now and the end of Terry Collins’ contract come this October.

The Yankees attendance and revenue is down, but it makes sense

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There’s a long article in the New York Times today noting that the Yankees attendance is down and that, based on financial figures released as part of their stadium bond disclosures, ticket and suite revenues through last season have fallen by $166 million since the end of 2009.

There is a lot of talk in the article about the exciting young team the Yankees have put together and how much they’ve won so far in the early going. And there is a lot of talk about marketing and demographics — Hal Steinbrenner talks about baseball’s “millennial problem” — but the story of the Yankees’ box office issues, such as they are, is pretty straightforward.

All teams suffer attendance and revenue decline when they play poorly. While the Yankees have not been bad for a long, long time, that’s a somewhat relative thing. They Yankees have sold themselves and sold their fans on the idea that nothing short of a championship is acceptable, so missing the playoffs for three of the past four years is bad for them. Fans don’t want to go see a bad team, be it Yankees fans, Rays fans, Royals fans or whoever.

Despite the recent lack of success, the Yankees have still, perversely, continued to price their tickets, concessions, parking and everything else as though they’re the only game in town. When demand falls and prices remain super high, fewer people are buying your product. Even if you’re the New York Yankees.

The Yankees are good this year. What’s more, they’re good in that exciting way that only young promising players bursting out onto the scene can deliver. It’s a wonderful thing for marketing and stuff, but even under the best of circumstances, ticket sales tend to lag on field success, often by as much as a year. Go back and look at World Series winning teams — especially the surprise winners — and you’ll see that it’s the year after on-field success when the real attendance bumps happen. I expect, if the Yankees continue to play well, their gate will get really nice by the end of the summer, but I suspect we’ll also see a more dramatic bump next year.

Taken all together, this is a dog-bites-man story. The Yankees are not some transcendent institution, immune from market forces. They’re just one of 30 Major League Baseball teams competing against other entertainments for a finite amount of the public’s money and attention. Nothin’ to see here.

David Price had a rocky rehab start last night

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Red Sox starter David Price has been rehabbing a left elbow injury since early March. Last night he made his latest rehab outing for Triple-A Pawtucket. It didn’t go well.

Price allowed six runs — three earned — on seven hits in three and two-thirds innings, requiring 89 pitches to do it. His velocity was good, but otherwise it was a night to forget. This was supposed to be Price’s last rehab start before returning to the Sox’ big league rotation, but one wonders if he’s ready for it.

Price didn’t talk to the media after the game, but Pawtucket’s manager said he was “upbeat” and “felt good.” For his part, John Farrell, upon hearing about the outing, said this:

“There’s no announcement at this point. We’ve got to sit with him and talk about what’s best for him, best for us as we move forward.”

The Sox could really use Price back in the rotation given their injury problems, but rushing him back if he’s not ready is certainly not ideal.

Stay tuned.