Wally Backman, Tim Teufel

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

23 Comments

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.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.