Will Wally Go To Washington?

Ever see that grand old flick “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington“? I have to wonder if there are similarities between the plot of that movie and the next move of Wally Backman‘s baseball career.

Despite leading the Las Vegas 51s to a first-place finish, 81-63 record, and playoff appearance, there was speculation that Wally Backman might not return to the Mets organization in 2014. For one, there were rumblings that Backman’s unbridled enthusiasm during a Mike Francesa interview concerning Ike Davis had ruffled the feathers of a few peacocks in the Flushing front offices. Secondly, there was speculation that the September promotion of Pedro Lopez was a) the Mets communicating a message that Backman was no longer wanted; and/or b) was a slap in the face / last straw that Backman would not return. As it turned out, Backman was fine with the reward handed to Lopez, saying,

“Sandy (Alderson) called me,” Backman said by phone on Friday, “and said, ‘you had a great year, but we’re only adding one guy and I’d like to give Pedro the opportunity.’ Pedro has never been on a big-league staff, so I told Sandy, ‘I think it’s a great gesture.’”

What Wally didn’t mention was that the lack of a September call-up meant he’d get an early start on hunting season — surely he didn’t mind that.

In that same article, Backman was further quoted as saying,

“I know people seem to be talking about me leaving,” Backman said, “but I’ve never said I’m not coming back.”

Still, all signs seem to point to Backman moving on to a job in a Major League dugout — be it as a manager or a coach. Again, from that same Daily News story:

“The thing that impressed me most was the way he handled the bullpen,” says an NL scout who saw a lot of Pacific Coast League games this season. “In that league, the way runs are scored, managing the bullpen is tricky, but from what I saw, Wally had a good handle on it.

“It’s pretty well-known that he relates well to players, gets a lot out of them. But he can run a game too.”

And …

… there’s some thinking the Nationals would consider him as a replacement for his old Mets’ manager, Davey Johnson, who is not coming back next season.

Washington GM Mike Rizzo knows Backman well, having worked for several years in the Diamondbacks organization, and though he may be more likely to hire bench coach Randy Knorr or D-Backs third-base coach Matt Williams, people who know him say he could be intrigued by the idea of bringing in a high-intensity guy like Backman after the Nationals underachieved this season.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the “NL scout” mentioned above happened to work for the Washington Nationals. They’ve known all year that Davey Johnson would retire at the end of 2013, and a replacement would be needed. Down in D.C., there hasn’t been much discussion about the candidates — only that there are many, and no one at this point is a clear leader. In addition to Knorr and Williams, there are rumors that Cal Ripken, Jr., could be in the mix. And Wally? It wouldn’t be the first time he’d be considered for a Nationals job — he was very nearly hired to be Johnson’s bench coach for the 2012 season. Johnson has always thought highly of Backman, as has Rizzo, and after taking a talent-challenged triple-A team to the PCL playoffs, they have to be impressed.

What do you think? Is there any chance Mr. Backman goes to Washington? If not as a manager, as a big-league coach? Answer in the comments.

Mets Item of the Day

It’s not quite as fulfilling as seeing the image of Jesus on your breakfast toast, but how about the New York Mets logo on a grilled cheese sandwich? You don’t even have to wait for such a miracle — you can make it happen yourself for less than twenty bucks by buying this New York Mets Sandwich Press. C’mon, you know you want it …

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. NormE October 15, 2013 at 7:50 am
    Joe,
    I hate to see the Mets lose Wally, but the real question ( and Alderson has already answered it) is “How important is a manager to a team that is going nowhere?”
    Now before someone jumps in to say that the Mets could contend for the playoff in 2014, I would ask you to look at the overall talent on display in this year’s playoffs. None of the four teams are perfect, but the general quality is way above that displayed by the 2013 Mets. Fans have a right to dream, but reality will bite you in the ass.
    • DaveSchneck October 15, 2013 at 4:37 pm
      NormE,
      There is an antedote for that flesh wound that you refer to – $117 million dollars. Why that number? That is the approximate payroll of the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals, and they have the lowest payroll of the final 4 participants this season. If Fred. Jeff, and Uncle Saul were intent on winning in 2014, as the GM proclaims, and willing to run the 2014 payroll to that of the mid-market Cards, they would be able to compete for the NL East title easily. And, if they were willing to spend that amount in 2014 salaries, they could structure player contracts as “front loaded” to avoid the pitfalls of backended deals that haunted them the past few seasons. Where there is a will and $117 mil, there is a way. Where there are billionnaire cheapskates gauging their fans and attempting to produce a sellable product for and underfunded $80 million, there is most likely that reality inflicted to the derriere.
      • NormE October 15, 2013 at 5:01 pm
        DaveS.,
        How to spend 117million to make the Mets into a contender?
        Hey Joe, how about asking your thousands of readers to chip in on that one?
        • DaveSchneck October 16, 2013 at 7:52 am
          Good question, and there are many ways. Perhaps Joe will do as you suggest.
      • argonbunnies October 16, 2013 at 5:35 pm
        To be the Cardinals, we’d need to spend $117mil and develop two Harveys, two Wheelers and about a dozen Parnells, and have signed our two best players before they became super expensive.
  2. DanB October 15, 2013 at 10:32 am
    I can’t believe Joe didn’t make a reference to the Mets being toast with the sandwich maker.
  3. izzy October 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm
    If he was offered a job with Davey then he must have thought he had an excellent chance to replace Collins or at least be a major league coach in the near future for the Mets. Today, every coach and manager in the Met system has to feel dead ended. With 3 losing seasons under their belt, the Met front office is content with every single coach. Wally, and the rest should all be looking for spots with opportunity. But, like the players approaching free agency, nary a word can be said except everything is perfect. Can’t risk your job without a new one.
  4. MF October 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm
    I am much more concerned with who’s taking Harvey’s spot in the rotation, and major league caliber options at SS and 1B.
  5. Excalibur October 15, 2013 at 11:44 pm
    This comment is directed more to the comments above then the subject of the post:

    One of the many things that really bothers me about the Wilpons: I watched a brief snippet of an interview of Jeff Wilpon immediately before the end of the season and he was asked if the Mets would spend in the offseason.

    The short answer?

    He said that payroll would increase commensurate with ballpark attendance so the fans would have to come before the team could afford a payroll with much of an increase.

    I think this really confuses the chicken and egg. That is, I think if you acquire better players and put a better product on the field more people will attend games. But if you listen to Jeff, more people need to attend games and then he will acquire better players.

    Honestly I am not very optimistic about who the team will acquire this winter. I hate to say that, because generally I am an eternal optimist and I find many fans like Janish to be a bit overly pessimistic, but unfortunately I think a lot of this talk about adding Choo in the OF, Abreu or Napoli at 1B, Drew or Peralta at SS is just a pipe dream. The Mets seem to try and stir interest each winter by feeding the rumor mill and then when push comes to shove and then need to pony up the money an excuse suddenly materializes…whether the person to be acquired is Bourn, A-Rod (10 years ago), or anyone else. I’m aware there are exceptions to this in Santana and Bay but I think those exceptions have gotten fewer and fewer over the past few years post-Madoff.

    Shannon of Mets Police recently said “Our new outfielder next year will be Marlon Hairston.”

    Well-played, sir, and I certainly agree it will probably be someone of the Marlon Byrd / Scott Hairston caliber.

    Even trying to be optimistic…I don’t think anyone could REALISTICALLY believe that this ownership team is going to substantially improve the team this offseason.

    I wish this wasn’t true, but all the signs point in that direction and I am not overly enthusiastic about who will be on the Opening Day roster.