Bring Wally Back, Man

The first shoe dropped when Tony Bernazard was relieved of his services. Most recently, Latin American scouting chief Ramon Pena met the same fate. Additionally, Omar Minaya’s former mentor and current right-hand man Sandy Johnson announced he’d be retiring at the end of the season. Further, the future of the Mets’ coaching staff is “under evaluation”.

In other words, the Mets are cleaning house — and it won’t be long before Jerry Manuel finds himself in a similar situation that his “friend” Willie Randolph found himself in the late spring of 2008.

All signs from the Wilpons are that both Minaya and Manuel will retain their jobs through the winter. It’s the same modus operandi that kept Randolph employed after the infamous collapse of 2007. Randolph was given leniency, but was put on a short leash — one attached to a spiked prong collar. So is history is any indicator, we can assume that although Manuel may begin the 2010 season as Mets manager, it’s no guarantee that he will end the season in the same position.

But who will be the next in line if / when Jerry Manuel can’t get the cavalry to come out guns a-blazin’ in April and May of next year?

Turn back the clock to 1983. The Mets were in the middle of a rebuilding phase that would eventually result in the 1986 World Championship. They coaxed a former manager in their minor league system to come back to the organization and lead their AAA Tidewater Tides.

His name was Davey Johnson.

Johnson led the Tides to the AAA championship — much like he led his other minor league teams to championships. At the time, people considered him something of a loose cannon; a gruff, no-nonsense, old-school player’s manager with a hot temper. He eschewed authority and said what was on his mind, regardless of who he hurt as a result — even if it was himself. But there was one thing that separated this gunslinger from every other manager on the planet — he won everywhere he went.

Johnson knew how to motivate his squad, had a great eye for talent, an even better ability to make the most of the talent he was given, and earned a penchant for developing young players. One of his favorite soldiers was a like-minded, scrappy ballplayer named Wally Backman.

You know the story of Backman the player. You might know the story of Backman the manager. Though he’s found more notoriety for negative incidents, he’s proven himself at every level as a field general. Like Johnson, he’s won everywhere he’s been, with a room full of championship trophies — including one for Minor League Manager of the Year in 2004. He knows how to get the most out of his ballplayers — any of them will readily admit to running through the proverbial brick wall for him. As a minor league manager, he’s followed in the footsteps of his previous mentor and earned a rep for developing young ballplayers, teaching them the fundamentals and a winning approach to the game. The only reason he’s not managing in the big leagues today is because of an unfortunate combination of poor judgment, blackmail, and public relations sensitivity which we won’t get into here. The bottom line is this: Wally Backman wins, he has a strong tie to the last Mets’ World Championship, he develops young talent, and he’s exactly the right personality this organization needs right now.

It’s clear that Jerry Manuel will be the Mets manager on Opening Day in 2010, and that’s fine — the team isn’t likely to be playing “meaningful games in September” this time next year anyhow. A great move by the Mets would be to hire Backman as, say, the manager of the AAA Buffalo Bisons, or the AA Binghamton Mets, for the 2010 season. Somehow, some way, get him back into the organization. Put him in charge of one of your last-place minor league clubs and see what he can do — he just might surprise you. And if he does, you have a manager-in-waiting ready to take over the helm at the big league level when it’s time for Jerry Manuel to move on.

The Mets have nothing to lose by bringing Wally back into the fold — and everything to gain. The organization has suffered its worst campaign in terms of public relations in at least five years, and the fan base is losing hope. Hiring a beloved hero from the past — one with a strong personality, winning track record, and the no-bs, underdog persona that Mets supporters crave — would be the first step in showing the fans that there is hope: Mets do indeed have a plan, and steps in the right direction have begun. And if they’re serious about their commitment to youth, they’d do well to install a man who knows what to do with it.

The restructuring started with the removal of personnel that held the team back; it will continue with the hiring of new personnel — with new ideas and attitudes to push the team forward.

Check out the following two videos and decide for yourself whether the Mets organization can use someone like Wally to shape up the ship and reverse its farm system’s poor reputation.

Wally Backman on Aggressive Baseball

Wally Backman on Developing MLB Players

BTW – The videos are from “Playing for Peanuts” which aired briefly on SNY. Stay tuned for more great behind-the-scenes/deleted footage that show what kind of manager Wally is, because MetsToday firmly believes its time for a change in the Mets organization. It’s time to Bring Wally Back, Man!

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. mic September 28, 2009 at 9:05 am

    – Indeed JM could be reasoned to be a facimile of Willie R. Really not much really changed (on the field) as Isuzu would often point out. I would also add that as the link above points out, it makes no sense to build a NEW staff around JM.

    – On your post..which IS great…NY media would eat Wilpons lunch for hiring wally….except in a dugout role.

  2. James K. September 28, 2009 at 10:59 am
    Yikes, I strongly disagree. Only difference between Backman and Bernazard is ethnicity. Toby Hyde covered this nicely a few months back:

  3. joejanish September 28, 2009 at 11:53 am
    James, you must be joking. Toby Hyde covered that “nicely”? All he did was take a few negative incidents and add in his personal opinion discounting Wally’s job in 2004 (saying he had “an extraordinarily talented” team).

    OH MY GOD — Wally threw a tirade at an umpire? You mean like Earl Weaver, Lou Piniella, Billy Martin, or Bobby Cox? Oh gee, we don’t want someone with PASSION running the team!

    OH MY GOD – Wally was arrested for DUI once? You mean like Tony LaRussa? Yeah, that right there is a reason not to hire him. It has as much to do with his baseball skills as the personal bankruptcy that was mentioned. Darryl Strawberry was bankrupt at one point but he was hired by the Mets to work with their players.

    The domestic “disturbances” has been covered before — first of all, it again has nothing to do with his ability on a baseball field and secondly, those charges were dismissed because someone was lying about what happened. (see:

    And Toby conveniently doesn’t mention that in addition to the 2004 club, Backman also managed winning teams in 2002,2003, and 2007.

    Further, your comparison to Tony Bernazard is … well … like comparing apples to scrap sheet metal — there is no comparison.

    Bernazard came from a desk job in the player’s union helping players make more money, to oversee a minor league system — his background had zero experience for his hired position. He’s a rude person and a manipulating backstabber with no track record of success doing anything.

    In stark contrast, Backman has documented experiencing leading young men and winning with them — the exact type of job the Mets should hire him for. Furthermore, he’s never been accused of screwing over anyone or going behind people’s backs. There’s nothing in either of their two personalities that is similar.

    By the way, this quote from Hyde: “He’s shown a total inability to get along with bosses and fellow employees and is known for profanity-filled tirades.” sounds a LOT like Davey Johnson.

    In short, that Hyde article does absolutely nothing to change my opinion, nor does it prove anything. It was a product of one-sided, undocumented, shallow research.

  4. gary s. September 28, 2009 at 11:55 am
    get tony larussa..WE NEED SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN A WINNER ON THE MAJOR LEAGUE LEVEL AND WILL HAVE THE RESPECT OF THE PLAYERS AND NOT KOWTOW TO THE PRIMA DONNAS ON THIS TEAM.ALSO TRADE EITHER BELTRAN OR WRIGHT.This team needs a shakeup.Beltran showed his true colors in the papers yesterday by asking for an extension.37 million coming in the next 2 years, we were a laughing stock this year and he missed half the season with injuries and he’s worried about an extension??That is the definition of a loser in my estimation.get some prospects and get rid of him.Carlos, we can lose without u.
  5. James K. September 28, 2009 at 12:02 pm
    Legit question – if Backman wasn’t on the 1986 Mets, or ever in the Mets organization at all, would you still want him?

    I didn’t expect you to instantly change your opinion based on my comment and the Hyde post. And I’m not joking at all, FYI. I also like that you left out his firing by the Joliet Jackhammers (who?) this year after he “led” his team to a 24-42 record. I guess that should just be ignored because he curses and preaches aggression.

    The guy screams and yells and bunts and plays “smallball” – he is no different from the rest of the “old baseball men” idiots current managing ballclubs and batting Anderson Hernandez 2nd in the batting order. The case against hiring Backman is a lot stronger than the case for him you presented above – a few winning records in independent league baseball? Should we be impressed? Cursing? A history of bad behavior? What do you see in this guy?

  6. Andy September 28, 2009 at 12:27 pm
    I agree with a lot of what you say, but I wanted to point out two things:

    1) The Joliet Jackhammers haven’t been doing well of late. So it’s not as if Wally wins EVERYWHERE he goes.

    2) This isn’t relevant to your larger point about Wally, but I as a Mets fan am still a little bitter about Davey Johnson. Yes, he won us a lot of games, but his over-use of Dwight Gooden may have burnt out a potential hall of fame pitcher.

  7. joejanish September 28, 2009 at 12:40 pm
    Andy, maybe Johnson had a hand in Gooden’s shoulder issues (which he eventually recovered from). But I think something else “burnt out” Dwight Gooden’s path to the HOF. It was a white powder.

    But you’re right, Wally doesn’t win EVERYWHERE he goes. Shame on me. I’ll also point out he didn’t win in his first season as a minor league manager, either. But the guy HAS won at every level he’s managed.

    James, I could care less whether Wally played for the ’86 Mets. He WINS — that’s what I care about. He teaches fundamental baseball — something the Mets haven’t been doing for a long time, at any level of their organization.

    And he doesn’t have “a few winning records in independent baseball”. He has several winning records in both indy AND affiliated baseball. But apparently winning isn’t something you value, so I can’t argue that point with you. Maybe if his fingers were punching numbers on a calculator and churning out VORPs, FIPs, and BABIPs, you’d be more impressed.

    I don’t know how to further argue for a leader of men, other than to point out that he has a past history of success in leading men.

    So from your comment I’m going to assume you think Bobby Cox is an “old baseball idiot” for his small-ball strategies? I’ll take an “idiot” with 14 straight division titles any day.

    But you’re probably right. The Mets would be better off with (yet another) pushbutton manager who can keep his nose clean, not stir up publicity, not anger any umpires, and say all the right things to the press. Someone who can “light up a room” with his smile. I think Art Howe is still available.

  8. Andy September 28, 2009 at 12:46 pm
    BTW, Joe, if they were to offer you a coaching job, would you take it?
  9. James K. September 28, 2009 at 1:19 pm
    “Maybe if his fingers were punching numbers on a calculator and churning out VORPs, FIPs, and BABIPs, you’d be more impressed.”

    That’s what it always comes down to for you Joe isn’t it? Your sabermetric phobia is quite bizarre dude. Why don’t you learn what something is before you knock it – I’d bet $$ you couldn’t explain those acronyms to me. The epitome of ignorance – knocking something that you don’t understand.

    By the way, you forgot to mention in this post that you once played college baseball and are therefore more qualified to discuss the game than those that haven’t – you usually mention that atleast once a post. Why so defensive and ornery in this comments section? I don’t think any of the comments preceding your last one warranted it, but whatever.

  10. joejanish September 28, 2009 at 1:36 pm
    James – put your money where your mouth is. I’ve been reading Bill James’ work since the late 1970s and have been following the evolution of sabermetrics ever since. I do see its value, but I don’t see it as the only way to evaluate baseball players nor do I see it as the best way to predict future performance in terms of winning championships. So there goes your ignorance theory — just because I don’t buy into Moneyball as the be-all / end-all doesn’t mean I don’t know anything about it.

    I’m qualified to discuss the game from the perspective of a baseball player. That doesn’t make me more or less qualified than a journalist or a fan blogger, it simply creates a different perspective. You seem to enjoy reading that perspective enough to know that I mention it “every post” — so thank you for the support!

    I’m defensive and ornery all the time, not just in the comments section. But you should know that from your being such a loyal reader.

    What set me off about your comment and reference to Toby Hyde’s article is that it was a poorly researched, one-sided piece that you positioned as “evidence”. In fact it is closer to yellow journalism. Non-facts and opinions reported as “facts” tend to make me especially ornery.

    And you want to talk to me about ignorance?

  11. Kenny September 28, 2009 at 1:40 pm
    I’m not sure about Wally, but if the sabremetric nerds don’t want Wally, then I would love to see him get the chance to prove them wrong. Because sabremetrics never won a World Series (without the help of steroids).
  12. James K. September 28, 2009 at 1:43 pm
    Alright, probably last time I comment here. Jeez man, freakin relax. And I would still bet money you couldn’t explain VORP or FIP to me, without looking it up right now.
  13. joejanish September 28, 2009 at 1:52 pm
    James, I guess you’re too young to know the term “put your money where your mouth is”.

    Again, just because I’ve read the Baseball Abstract or any other sabermetric book or website doesn’t mean I believe stats are the answer to any baseball team’s problems. I also read Mein Kampf, and don’t believe in ANY of the ideas in that book, for example.

    BTW did you even watch the videos posted here? Did you ever do any research about Backman, beyond the outlandish headlines that ran across media outlets when AZ fired him?

  14. James K. September 28, 2009 at 2:05 pm
    I did actually. I’ve seen “Playing For Peanuts”. I’ve watched the 1986 Mets Season Video about 1000 times, which features Backman. I closely followed his D-Backs incident a few years back. I have done my homework on him and in my humble opinion he would be a terrible hire for the New York Mets for a ton of reasons. I take pride in my writing and opinion because it is always based on facts and research. I don’t make comments on things that I don’t fully understand. Thankfully it doesn’t seem at all likely that he will even be considered, we can all rest easy.
  15. John Fitzgerald September 28, 2009 at 2:19 pm
    Guys… relax. I have to say a few things:

    1.) Joe – thanks for posting these videos. I’ve spent the last year putting up hundreds of unreleased clips so people could get a better idea of who Wally Backman is. It’s nice to see them get some attention.

    2.) James & Joe – Wally is more of a student of the game than he gets credit for. While I doubt he is reading Bill James, his coaching staff with the Peanuts described him as a “stat rat.” He could tell you at any time what any player in the league was hitting against RHP, LHP or over the last 7 days. He could tell you the same for players in other minor leagues and MLB. It was incredible.

    3.) Toby Hyde’s article is a joke. To credit all of Wally Backman’s managerial success to one season in Lancaster (A) is absurd. He won numerous championships and manager of the year awards before and after. Besides, Dan Uggla, Conor Jackson and Aaron Rowand all credit Backman with furthering their careers. So he can’t be all bad, right?

    Anyway, thanks again.

    John Fitzgerald

  16. Walnutz15 September 28, 2009 at 2:27 pm
    Not for nuthin’, but Wally Backman catches a raw-deal on almost every baseball-blog in America. Good to see someone stepping up as an advocate, in lieu of story-after-story, spewing out the same b.s. about his divorce, money-problems, etc.

    For what it’s worth, I take personal endorsements of Backman — from actual players who’ve played for him — and look at them instead of the “usual stuff” we’ll see written about him, over and over.

    Just this winter, I had the opportunity to pick the brain of one of his former players (at Lancaster) – while working out for this season; and it was told to me that Wally Backman was aces…..matching that with what the likes of Conor Jackson, Dan Uggla, etc. have said — I start to look at things in a bit of a different perspective from “the popular crowd”.

    No matter who is brought in — and I DO think they need to make a complete overhaul this winter (shocking, I know)….they should be preaching about “making the adjustments”.

    Through the years, an overall “constant” has remained. The Mets, whether player not following — or coach not drilling — have not been committed to a plan.

    This is why we rarely see any sort of true development within the Mets; at the farm-level…..or while here in The Bigs. What you see from a player is what you typically get — until he falls off the radar; or excels with another organization.

    There’s equal blame across the board for that…management doesn’t stay committed to putting the best product out there, the coaching staff seems to tolerate alot of the same crap we see year-after-year, and the players don’t seem smart (cooperative) enough to realize that many of their approaches aren’t going to get them past their current levels of production.

    Whatever the problem is: it stinks to high-heavens.

    I’d hope that Wally Backman finds himself on a Major League coaching staff one day. Being the greatest guy in the world (**cough** Razor Shines) doesn’t get you jack, or mean that you’re any better an instructor than anyone else.

    Lotta traffic over here today, eh Joe?

  17. Frank Quinn September 28, 2009 at 2:42 pm
    Unable to post.
  18. Walnutz15 September 28, 2009 at 2:45 pm
    Me too, until very recently…
  19. John Fitzgerald September 28, 2009 at 3:02 pm
    Walnutz –

    Good point about players wanting to play for him. I’ve never spoken to a player who doesn’t speak highly of Backman. This includes players who he traded or released.

  20. Frank Quinn September 28, 2009 at 3:19 pm
    Why not give Wally Redneck a shot? He was a MAJOR part of out last success. It can’t hurt.
    Might actually wake up the prima donnas like St. David Wright, Jose ‘olala’ Reyes, and Carlos ‘my knee hurts, I can’t slide but I want a contract extension’ Beltran, among too MANY others. Perez and Pelfrey should be taken behind the barn.

    And if you hire Wally; let him bring in his own coaches. We need new ideas from new minds. Not these re-treads who failed in other places.

    Great Great piece Joe J.

  21. Walnutz15 September 28, 2009 at 3:29 pm
    Tip o’the cap to you too, Mr. Fitzgerald.

    This particular player is a friend of mine, who pitched at Lancaster in 2002 and 2004.

    He was ultimately released after the 2005 season at Port St. Lucie.

    I’m of the firm belief that Backman will be a successful big league coach one day; even if it doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll manage.

    Sad to see things develop the way they did for him, amidst the Arizona debacle of a few years ago.

  22. John Fitzgerald September 28, 2009 at 3:54 pm
    Hey Walnutz,

    Ask your friend how the players view Wally’s umpire tirades. I didn’t realize how much players appreciate those things until I filmed a few of them and interviewed the players about it.

    Re: Arizona… Stay tuned. I just spoke to Joe and he is planning to address this in another post.

    Here’s a hint:

  23. Walnutz15 September 28, 2009 at 5:00 pm
    Well, I wouldn’t really have to ask anyone about coaching/managerial tirades…it’s just part of baseball.

    Whether or not a player enjoys it — or even supports it — depends on the situation. I’ve rarely been part of anything that a roster was fully “against”, in terms of managerial blow-ups.

    Even the most upstanding player is able to separate themselves, unless the manager’s 100% stupid in his timing — and laugh over it (or at least comically shake their head in remembrance) at a certain point.

    And while “passion” is one of the most argued-points/myths between traditionalist fans and statisticians — it’s still something I want to see in my manager or coaching staff.

  24. Walnutz15 September 28, 2009 at 5:04 pm
    And I didn’t mean for that to come across in a condescending manner, either — just that I could answer it on my own.

    I’m one of the players who’d think it was hilarious……and glad that my manager stuck up for me on the field.

  25. John Fitzgerald September 28, 2009 at 5:14 pm
    Walnutz –

    I didn’t take your comment as condescending. I was just pointing out that Wally’s players NEVER have anything bad to say about the timing or magnitude of his arguments – including throwing 22 bats onto the field. I had assumed they viewed it as something of a circus, albeit a necessary part of the game – I was wrong.

    So when you see people complaining about Wally’s ‘profanity filled tirades,’ its just good managing. Just sayin’

  26. Walnutz15 September 28, 2009 at 5:32 pm
    Unless, of course, you have a team full of pansies……like the one we do (see: LoDuca tirade vs. Oakland, circa 2007).

    It doesn’t always work; but is part of the house-cleaning that MANY of us would like to see with this current crop.

  27. Frank Quinn September 28, 2009 at 5:49 pm
    I am old school and really don’t care what the players think (thats a joke). I know I am dating myself but I doubt that The Earl ever cared if the players liked him. And according to Jim Palmer they did not. But they respected (feared) him and played HARD for him or rode the bench. The Mets make stupid dumb plays, don’t hustle and/or slide, throw to the wrong bases, make mental errors, walk too many automatic outs. Too many guys get hits on 0-2 pitches. ridiculous. I stopped going to ML games because it is rampant.

    Mets desparately need a butt kicker and FAST.

    Wally Redneck or Buck would suit me fine.

  28. gary s. September 28, 2009 at 7:50 pm
    Joe, u make some good u really think uncle fred and little jeffie would hire backman in a million years?? i say no way.I always liked backman as a player, but i’d rather get a proven winner..the only thing that would make backman attractive to the wilpons is that he would work for peanuts..I don’t think that would overcome the wilpons p.r. worries though..
  29. joejanish September 28, 2009 at 8:26 pm
    Interesting point, Gary. I don’t know whether the Wilpons would hire Wally in any capacity, but there will be significant pressure for them to do something wildly different from what they’ve done over the past 5-6 years. Bringing in someone like Wally — even as a minor league manager or some type of coordinator — would show that they’re taking a step in a new direction.

    There isn’t much argument that the current compass is broken.

  30. Teufel Back - Wally Next? : Mets Today October 15, 2009 at 5:32 pm
    […] I’d love to see Wally Backman and John Stearns hired in similar positions. They may be two of the toughest players ever to wear a Mets uniform, and right now the organization can use that kind of element. “Bad Dude” was instrumental in the development of several future Blue Jays in the early 1990s, and most recently managed in the Washington Nationals system. You already know my stance on Wally Backman. […]