Wally Backman is leaving the Mets organization


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.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

tampa bay rays
Dave Nelson/USA TODAY Sports

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.