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.

Sean Manaea pitches the first no-hitter of 2018

Getty Images
10 Comments

Athletics southpaw Sean Manaea delivered his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox in a decisive 3-0 victory on Saturday night. Any thought of a perfect game was banished in the first at-bat, when Mookie Betts drew a leadoff six-pitch walk to open the first inning. From there, Manaea was nearly flawless, holding the Sox to four total baserunners and striking out 10 of 30 batters faced — a career record.

Manaea was gifted a three-run lead thanks to RBI doubles from Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty and Marcus Semien‘s solo shot off of Chris Sale in the fifth inning. While the Red Sox managed to draw two walks off of Manaea, they didn’t come anywhere close to plating a run. Andrew Benintendi tried to break up the no-no in the sixth inning with an infield hit down the first base line, but strayed out of bounds and later saw his hit reversed on a call of batter interference.

Entering the ninth inning, the 26-year-old lefty was sitting at just 95 pitches through eight frames of no-hit ball. He quickly deposed Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts with a groundout and fly out, then walked Benintendi on seven pitches. Any threat the Red Sox might have posed was soon eliminated, however, as Hanley Ramirez ground into a force out to complete the no-hitter.

Manaea is the first A’s pitcher to toss a no-no since Dallas Braden’s perfect game against the Rays eight years ago. The last time the Red Sox were on the losing end of a no-hitter was also against an AL West rival, when the Mariners’ Chris Bosio clinched a 2-0 no-no on April 22, 1993. Manaea’s feat is even more outstanding given how dominant the Red Sox have looked this season: prior to Saturday’s defeat, they boasted a 17-2 record and had yet to be shut out during the regular season.