backman walking on field

The engine is revving on the Wally Backman bandwagon

17 Comments

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.

Report: Extension talks between Mets, Neil Walker are “probably dead”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Neil Walker #20 of the New York Mets sits in the dugout before the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.

The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.

Rick Ankiel drank vodka before a start to deal with the yips

9 Apr 2000: Rick Ankiel #66 of the St. Louis Cardinals winds back to pitch the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Brweers at the Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals defeated the Brewers 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch  /Allsport
Getty Images
21 Comments

The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.

It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:

On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:

“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”

Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.