Wally Backman Rejects Nationals

According to Bob Klapisch, Wally Backman has rejected an offer by Davey Johnson to join the Nationals’ coaching staff, and instead will accept the Mets’ offer to manage the AAA Buffalo Bisons in 2012.

Ironically, it was Johnson who talked Wally out of joining the Nats. After the offer was made, the two comrades spoke at length in regard to Backman’s future. From a selfish point of view, Johnson wanted his former fiery second baseman and disciple on his own staff, but long-term he felt Backman’s best chance of managing in MLB would be by proving his worth for another year as a manager in AAA. Though it’s only one step above AA, there’s a significant gap between the two levels in terms of player personnel. Specifically, a AAA team is more likely to have seasoned, veteran players on its roster — many of whom have some (if not extended) big-league experience. Since one of the raps on Backman is that much of his managerial career has been leading young, inexperienced kids, a full season at AAA with older, experienced players would be a positive point on his resume next winter.

Additionally, Backman’s strong loyalty to the Wilpons was weighed heavily; he might not be in organized baseball right now if they didn’t hire him to manage the Brooklyn Cyclones two years ago. Despite being passed over for the MLB manager job last winter, Backman still bleeds orange and blue, is greatly appreciative of the opportunities afforded him by the Mets, and believes that after Terry Collins has fulfilled his term, he is next in line for the post. Whether he really is next in line is anyone’s guess — particularly considering the fragility of Mets ownership right now. My feeling is that Wally holds his time in a Mets uniform dearly, and as such, sees himself as a Mets manager some day. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but I agree that — if his ultimate goal is to manage in the bigs — Wally is best served spending a year managing in AAA.

Though many first-time MLB managers were previously bench or third-base coaches, I would think that it’s difficult to make the jump from coach to manager unless one coached for a playoff team. And even then it’s not so easy. Think about it: Jose Oquendo has been considered a “manager in waiting” for almost a decade in St. Louis, and even with Tony LaRussa‘s retirement, he still may not be hired for the Cardinal’s open post.

Though I believe the Nationals have a good shot at finishing third in NL East again next year, they’re just as likely to finish fourth. Neither of those finishes is going to draw attention to the team’s bench coach; more likely, those on the coaching staff will be handed pink slips — and then where do they go? As a AAA manager, though, it’s nearly impossible to get fired — one has to screw up royally to get the heave-ho. Further, a AAA manager is not necessarily blamed for a poor record, considering the turnover and constant flux of his roster. However, if a AAA team does well, that is a feather in the manager’s cap. In short, it’s an ideal situation, in that the manager can get much of the credit for success, and won’t get blamed for failure.

Additionally, there is the comparison of Backman now to Davey Johnson of the early 1980s. Johnson managed both AA Jackson and AAA Tidewater before being promoted to the Mets in 1984. It was a young Mets team, and Johnson was already familiar with many of them, having managed or coached them in the minors; you could say he “grew up” with them. Similarly, Wally has led Brooklyn and Binghamton, and the Mets as a franchise right now are in a similar place they were in the early 80s. By 2013 / 2014, we are likely to see many “homegrown” Mets on the big-league roster, and because of his familiarity with them, Backman might be a perfect choice to manage when Terry Collins’ term is over — much like Johnson was in 1984.

Of course, a lot can happen in a year; and I for one am glad that Backman will still be in the Mets organization, teaching youngsters his brand of baseball, during that time.

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. danXtanna November 7, 2011 at 11:37 am
    For me the timeline for Wally to take over as Mets manager will depend a lot on how the 2012 campaign fairs (odds are it will be worse than last year) & having a piss poor season (despite TC having his 13 option picked up). It is highly unlikely TC would return to the dugout to earn that money. So I can definitely see a scenario (a reasonable one at that) where both Alderson & Collins are no longer in the organization come 2013. Wally will manage the Mets.. not a doubt in my mind.
  2. BklynCowpoke November 7, 2011 at 6:10 pm
    Glad to hear Wally is staying with the Mets. This organization needs his brand of baseball, as do the Mets fans. Hopefully, the Mets will treat him fairly, and give him a chance to manage the big club in the foreseeable future.
  3. Tommy2cat November 7, 2011 at 6:47 pm
    I strongly suspect that Alderson’s managerial plan was to have Collins come in for the first 2-3 years because of his familiarity with the entire Met minor league system. He has first-hand knowledge of many, if not most, of the near-ML ready farmhands. His status within the organization was a bit more established than Wally’s at the time he was hired as manager.

    During the interim, Wally is gaining more experience managing within the Met organization and managing ballplayers that he will likely manage at the ML level at Citi Field. I expect Wally will succeed Collins as the Mets manager.

    The analogy drawn between Davey in the 1980’s and Wally at present are logical as both are consistent with a movement to build from within. There is no better way.

    • izzy November 7, 2011 at 7:25 pm
      Build from within Tommy? Build from within and at the same time deciding you can’t build around the guys you had from within while still in their 20’s is not building from within. its the brand of baseball mis-management that the Pirates have followed for about 2 decades now and the Royals have followed for almost as long. The only difference neither of those teams has their own TV cable network and neither charges anything colse to what the Mets charge at the park. Building from within is a fraud on the fans if you perennially stay young and the fans have to suffer through endless growing pains only to see the success stories moved because of some lie like Alderson spews out that the team can’t build aaround these guys. Well when Jose is gone without a serious bif I will thank Alderson for saving me a bunch of money. Because if they don’t care about winning, I ain’t buying the lies and giving them when they won’t give back. Guys act like kids come up and are instant stars. Well there are few Tom Seavers. Even most great ones struggle, and when the time comes to pay the Mets, Pirates and Royals dump dump dump. The future is nada until the Stealpons are gone and forgotten.
      • Mike B November 8, 2011 at 10:48 am
        Izzy, you are right on. Its a joke and a fraud. Reyes is Reyes, He is a superstar he needs to be resigned. The Problem with Wright is we treat him like a Superstar but really he is a very very very good support player. His best years were with beltran and delgado and I think if he was ever put around those type of players he would excel again. For instance between pujos and holliday in St louis like Berkman. But you cant wait 4 years for the ups and downs of murphy ike duda ect ect.
  4. Tommy2cat November 7, 2011 at 9:02 pm
    Izzy – I hear you, man.

    I am a proponent of retaining Wright & Reyes, but the Mets are in a financial mess right now.

    I’d like to see a clearer vision from Met brass. If you keep Wright & Reyes, then the purse strings will continue to be tight until Santana & Bay’s contracts expire.

    If you move Wright & Reyes **for the right pieces**, then by 2013-4, we will have a young, talent laden team that is very ready to compete, plus the financial ability to bring in the necessary pieces after the roster shakes out.

    Regardless, I respect your appreciation for tradition and the value of retaining our own ballplayers, especially the superstars.

    At the end of the day, there is no one “right answer” as to how to we can develop into a perrennial winner. What the past few years has shown us all are the dangers associated with fiscal irresponsibility and downright impatience.

    Getting back to basics, a team must have good pitching, a good defense, especially up the middle, interchangeable parts where each player on the roster has an important role and a strong bullpen.

    Wright and Reyes fit into that scheme. Now, Fred & Jeff, show us the money…

  5. Jeff November 7, 2011 at 9:50 pm
    The only “problem” with Wally staying is that he probably feels he is assured of being the next Mets manager, almost regardless of how his teams perform in the minors. That’s just not right. What about Tim Teufel? He has paid his dues in the Mets organization for a number of years now, including several levels of minor league managing. In my opinion, he is far more deserving of a chance to manage the Mets than Wally. Is it fair for Wally to leapfrog over Timmy Tuff just because he is more vocal about his desire to manage? Not to me it isn’t. Timmy Tuff deserves to get rewarded for his loyalty.
    • Joe Janish November 7, 2011 at 10:17 pm
      Why not let them platoon, just like the old days?
      • Jeff November 7, 2011 at 11:38 pm
        When the Going Got Tough, Teufel Got Going.
  6. derek November 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm
    what has timmy t won as a coach….im all for guys “paying dues” but in the end..backman has won as a mngr and was also hired for a big league job already…you shouldnt get a job just because you have been there longer.

    Tim was with Single-A St. Lucie Mets for 2004 and 2005. After two seasons near .500, the Mets announced Teufel was being replaced by new Baseball Hall of Fame member, Gary Carter, for 2006. Teufel decided to take a break from baseball for the year.

    that doesnt sound to me like the guy that should “get a chance cause he paid his dues” that sounds more like the problem with the country…oh you came in 8th place…here is your trophy!!!!!

    • derek November 9, 2011 at 10:05 am
      It looks like Tim T is getting fired from his winter mngr job….
  7. Bklyn54 November 11, 2011 at 8:51 pm
    Good move on Wally’s part to sit tight in AAA. He is a proven winner at all levels and he deserves a second chance in the bigs, I see him following Davey’s path to Flushing. As for Teufel, he’d make a good 3rd base coach opposite Mookie on 1st. It’s not just about ’86, it’s about the way the game should be played, and they both played for a great manager. Be patient, Wally.