Wally Backman, Tim Teufel

Oh good, New York sportswriters are stumping for Wally Backman again

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The idea that Wally Backman is the cure for everything that ills the New York Mets is one of the New York pres corps strongest convinctions. They believe that he’s entitled to manage the Mets and that the fact that he hasn’t been granted that right yet is evidence that he has been blackballed and otherwise treated unfairly by Sandy Alderson and the Mets.

They’ve believed this for years. They believe that if only he were given a chance he’d lead the Mets to glory. And that there is some sort of conspiracy to keep him down. The latest example of this comes in Bob Klapisch’s pro-Backman column today:

You couldn’t help but wonder how Sandy Alderson really felt about Wally Backman winning the Pacific Coast League’s Manager of the Year award, considering the GM has shown no intention of giving Backman a chance in New York. It’s time to reconsider this de facto blackball, and see Backman as an asset who can help the Mets ascend toward respectability.

Of course, this would require Alderson shedding his prejudice against the very trait that makes Backman unique: He’s an independent thinker with a strong personality, as old-school as it gets. Alderson is a dominant GM who values managers that act as corporate messengers.

See, it’s not just Alderson who thinks that, though. If you look around baseball, the dominant view these days is that managers are subordinate to the GM and their job is to be a company man. To carry out the wishes of the baseball operations department and create as little controversy and provide as little color as possible. Maybe that’s not a great idea. Maybe the old model of hiring Billy Martin-types will one day be shown to be better. But that’s not what’s happening in baseball now, so to claim that Alderson has some unique and regrettable grudge here is simply wrong. Hiring independent thinkers with strong personalities is the exception in baseball these days, not the rule.

You know who likes independent thinkers and strong personalities? Sports writers. Especially sports writers who have spent several decades covering the independent thinker because it means they’ll get great quotes and access to the independent thinker. But I’m sure that has nothing to do with the support Backman gets.

As for Backman himself? I have no idea how he’d do as a manager. Maybe he’d be fine. But when he wasn’t hired several years ago he was not some wronged man. He had no high level managing experience and he had a spotty off-the-field history that involved him being dishonest with the one team — the Diamondbacks — who hired him to manage in the bigs. Maybe Kalpisch is right when he argues that Backman has served his sentence for all of that, but he knows more than anyone that people in baseball do not forget such things. That baseball is a conservative institution in which people in front offices are rarely rewarded for taking chances like that.

That being said, that Wally Backman doesn’t have a big league job now does not make him the target of a vendetta. There are guys who spend decades in the minors managing, scouting, coaching — you name it — who never get a chance to manage in the bigs. That’s not injustice. It’s just a function of there only being 30 jobs. Backman is nothing special in this regard. No matter what people who really, really like him say to the contrary.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.