Normally it’s not a big deal when a Triple-A manager leaves an organization. But Wally Backman — whom Sandy Alderson just said was leaving the Mets organization — is no ordinary minor league manager and the Mets no ordinary organization. At least when it comes to this stuff.
Backman, a member of the 1986 World Series champion Mets, has been with the Mets as a minor league manager since 2010. For much of that time, he was a favorite of fans and many in the media to become the Mets major league manager. The reasons for this tended to be bound up in nostalgia and personal relationships and some vague desire for a straight-talking everyman at the helm. When Jerry Manuel was replaced with Terry Collins, many thought it should’ve been Backman. At various points, all the way up until last year’s pennant winning season, many lobbied for Backman to replace Collins.
The organization never made even the slightest suggestion that it wanted what the media and the fans wanted, though, and given the tendencies of Sandy Alderson and his team, Backman would’ve always been an unlikely fit. That said: if Backman was totally incompatible with the Mets brass, he wouldn’t have lasted as long as he did, trusted as he was to help develop Mets prospects, most of whom played for him in Las Vegas at one point or another. It’s also worth reminding folks that, for a brief time, Backman had the confidence of a big league club to take the helm: the Diamondbacks hired him to be their manager in November 2004 but fired him four days later after stories about his legal and financial troubles arose. Which seemed odd at the time — other managers have had DUIs and declared bankruptcy in the past; the last two Cardinals managers did those things, in fact — but obviously something freaked the Dbacks out. It’s a feather in Backman’s cap that he almost came all the way back from that, starting over in the independent leagues and low minors and working his way onto the Mets radar a few years later. No quit in that guy when he could’ve just taken his big league pension and went fishing.
There are mixed reports as to whether Backman was fired or quit. Marc Carig of Newsday is hearing that he was fired and that it was because he was increasingly defiant and not on the same page as the Mets brass. Maybe that team player stuff mentioned above had a shelf life or maybe it was just a matter of him being too long in the same place. If he’s leaving of his own volition, it would reflect his desire to find a big league manager’s job elsewhere or, at the very least, to get out of an organization which views him as having topped out. Or maybe he just wants to go fishing. We’ll likely hear soon, as he has a lot of friends in the media who would be eager to tell his story. Backman news is always read by folks who remember 1986.
Good luck, Wally.