Four Answers To Anti-Wally Questions

Before the interview process starts, the beat writers and blogosphere are already counting out Wally Backman as a viable candidate for Mets manager in 2011.

Let’s address the top 4 “reasons” Wally won’t be hired by Sandy Alderson:

1. If Alderson hires Wally Backman, it proves to all of baseball that he is Jeff Wilpon’s puppet. Alderson has to hire someone else to show he’s in charge.

Nonsense. If Wally Backman is the “right” man for the job, why would Alderson allow an ego trip to get in the way? And why does he have to show all of baseball that he’s in charge? How does it help him do his job? Will it help him make better trades, sign better free agents, or draft better prospects? Of course not. And it’s not like he’s working on his resume — this is likely his last GM position. If Alderson does intentionally hire someone other than Wally to prove a point, wouldn’t he then be a puppet of the media — who have fabricated and are now feeding this notion?

2. Alderson wants someone with more experience — particularly MLB experience.

Wally Backman has been managing for 10 years; how many years is “enough”? And why would it matter whether the experience occurred in the minors or the majors? Backman’s job is to execute the plan established by Alderson, and how much experience does one need to carry out orders?

3. Alderson favors low-key managers who follow the overall philosophy and strategy set forth by him as general manager, and Backman doesn’t seem to fit that mold.

Why doesn’t Backman fit that mold? Is there one example of Backman not being a “good soldier” when working in organized ball, either as a player or a manager? Davey Johnson absolutely adored Backman because he would do anything he had to do for the team and his manager. Backman was the same way when managing in the White Sox, Diamondbacks, and Mets organizations. His job as assigned from above was to develop winning ballplayers, and that’s exactly what he did. As for low-key, Backman is exactly that — when he’s not arguing with umpires. Yes, Backman is intense and fiery when on the field, but he is a different person when dealing with players and his superiors. Anyone who has worked with him or watched Playing For Peanuts knows that.

4. It’s not wise to use emotion and story to pick a manager, no matter how much the fan base or Ownership gets romanced by it.

Because why? Isn’t Ownership’s bottom line to make the fans happy and sell tickets? And as long as Alderson sticks to the strategy everyone expects him to — which is, that the manager’s job is to carry out the orders commissioned by the front office, then it doesn’t matter who the manager is — as long as he does as he’s told. In which case, hiring someone that people want to see in the dugout is an incredibly wise decision. Under Alderson, the manager has no effect on the team’s success or failure — so why not find someone who can be trusted to a) carry out orders and b) get the fans excited?

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. Andy October 28, 2010 at 12:42 pm
    I think the most important question (which you haven’t addressed), is Backman’s ability as an in-game tactician. That is a skill that can’t necessarily be dictated by the GM or the front office, who can’t be phoning orders in to the manager every inning.

    The AA guys have some very persuasive arguments against sacrifice bunts, particularly by non-pitchers or anyone with any kind of a decent on-base percentage. Supposedly the Cyclones this past season lead their league in BOTH sacrifice bunts AND on-base percentage. This is used as an argument that he is not a great in-game tactician.

    • Joe Janish October 28, 2010 at 1:25 pm
      The “buntapalooza” argument is ridiculous. Wally had his players bunt because it was part of their skills development. If anything, the calling of bunts was evidence that Wally was able to follow orders from the top — because the top wants the minor league players to learn specific skills.

      The other thing about the bunting in Brooklyn argument that makes no sense at all is this: THEY WON 68% of their games. So maybe all that bunting had something to do with it? Further, maybe that high OBP was in some part due to Wally teaching his hitters a proper approach?

      It should be noted that the Cyclones HR leader Cory Vaughn had zero sacrifice bunts on the season, which should help dissuade the fear that David Wright and Carlos Beltran will be laying down bunts if Wally is their manager.

      • Andy October 28, 2010 at 2:47 pm
        Pretty sure the response about the Cyclones’ high OBP goes something like: “The Cyclones are a higher profile team than the others in their league, so the Mets organization keeps older/better players there who in other organizations would already be playing in high A or AA. This is reflected in the fact that the Cyclones have never had a losing season and are consistently more packed with talent than their competitors in short-season-A. It’s not that Wally taught them anything. Wally’s record (like the records of other Cyclones managers before him) benefits from the Mets organization’s mismanagement of talent in the lower tiers of the system.”
        • Joe Janish October 28, 2010 at 3:01 pm
          LOL! Yes I’m sure that’s the standard response. It doesn’t matter, of course, that there were older teams in the NY-Penn League last year who did worse — nor that despite all this “stocking of older/better players” has resulted in only 3 first-place finishes in 11 years.

          Why people spend so much time finding ways to discredit Backman’s success is befuddling. Why not give the guy a shot, after all his winning and the fans’ support of him? He couldn’t possibly be any worse than Jerry Manuel – or any other Mets manager not named Hodges, Johnson, or Valentine.

        • Andy October 28, 2010 at 3:55 pm
          I do like Wally and I hope he is the new manager. But I’m open to the argument that he’s been lucky to have good talent around him. There’s a sense that Oberkfell has consistently gotten the shaft by being stuck with crappy players, while Backman just lucked out by being surrounded with good talent for him to take credit for. It’s very hard to argue that case either way, since you don’t know how the same players would have performed under a different manager, and it would be extremely hard to crunch all the numbers necessary to figure out whether a given team had an advantage or disadvantage in raw talent vis-a-vis the other teams in the league.

          I know this is not your preferred scenario, and I agree with you, but I think it wouldn’t be so bad an outcome if the Mets were to promote Oberkfell to Flushing and Backman to Buffalo, just to see how it works out for a season or two. If it doesn’t work out, then Wally can take a turn. If it does, then I’m sure if Wally manages the Bisons well he can find another MLB managing job soon.

  2. Omir Santos' Butler October 28, 2010 at 12:58 pm
    Cerrone’s latest:

    This morning, I listened to Craig Carton on WFAN talk about how he wants Backman because he’ll show ‘fire and emotion.’ That’s fine. I love a good show too. But, there is no evidence that ‘showmanship = winning.’

    Ha! Does AA write his posts for free? Or is there handie in it for someone?

  3. metsie October 28, 2010 at 4:08 pm
    To answer you response to Q1. “What if he is the right guy for the job” Well if he WAS then you wouldn’t be reading what they said about Wally. He has never managed above AA and right now what the team needs is someone who can get something out of and work well with Veterans which Backman has never done!

    Resonse to Q2: Backman has 10 years managing…YES NEVER above AA which means never managed a guy making 10 mil! Which we have quite a few of!

    Response to Q3: Backman fitting Mold – Well because he has never managed in a situation where he has to take orders from the GM or work with his philosophy! His entire Management experience is in teaching kids the fundamentals (yes like Bunting) and working on things like mechanical flaws in their swings and pitching motions. He takes after Davey Johnson in that he teaches but strategy and in game maneuverings is not really what he does! He may make substitutions but as far as strategy and strategic moves are concerned he really doesn’t do a lot of that until you manage AAA, Which I will say again, Backman has NEVER DONE!

    RE Q4 “Isn’t owners job to make fans happy?” NO it is to build a WINNING franchise! It’s not a popularity contest! And having popular guys is not the way you WIN GAMES! Lots of people HATED Davey Johnson at the time for playing Dykstra instead of Mookie who was quite POPULAR with the fans!
    But he WON GAMES which made the fans happy!

    Bottom line here is if you win games the fans will be happy even if they don’t think much of the players who won! And if they win enough even a player they HATE will soon be loved because he is the one helping you to win those games!

    • Joe Janish October 28, 2010 at 4:53 pm
      Funny, you mention Davey Johnson — he never managed in MLB before taking the job with the Mets. Oh but he did manage one year in AAA, which is somehow more relevant to you, even though there aren’t any $10M players there either.

      Lou Piniella never managed in MLB (nor the minors) before his first job with the Yankees. Same with Gil Hodges. Same with a bunch of others, which were covered in a post written here a month ago. Where were you then?

      As for “winning games” — the reason owners want their team to win is because it makes fans happy and sells tickets.

      BTW you do a lot of yelling !

  4. MrZoSo October 28, 2010 at 7:49 pm
    I like Backman simply because he has a burning desire to win, if for no other reason. he would be my second choice if it were up to me. BTW, I put that bid in with Jeff.
    Wish me luck. ;0)