I am not going to sugar-coat things. I LOVE Wally Backman. Was so disappointed when the Mets pursued Willie Randolph and not Backman, upset when Backman got a bum rap and subsequently was blackballed from baseball for a few years and happy when he finally got some redemption and a good baseball reputation, and was named Cyclones manager.
I am going to a Brooklyn Cyclones game tonight -- I used to go all the time, but Coney Island is kind of a pain in the ass to get to, but it's Labor Day weekend and the Other Half has not been to the I'm-Calling-It-KeySpan Park yet. And it's our time to give credit where due. Backman's team is currently tearing it up in the NY Penn League, and when a team is that young and hungry, it takes a special manager to be able to bring it all together.
That is why I am giving my hearty endorsement for the Mets to go after Wally Backman no holds barred in the offseason. I know this is the topic-du-jour these days in blogland, but come on. We all know Jerry Manuel is a lame duck (as TOH calls him, "Dead Manuel Walking"). Ken Oberkfell I think is still the best "tenured" coach in the organization, and if the Mets are truly going through the youth movement as evideced with the line up against the Cubs today, they need a manager who is going to guide them and try to get every ounce of potential out of them NOW, rather than this lackadaisical "let the players play" management we've had for two terms in Randolph and Manuel.
I wrote a piece a while back, calling out the on-field leadership on the Mets. People want David Wright to be the Captain -- I could not disagree more. He's a player who needs GUIDANCE. Why do you think Howard Johnson is still on the coaching staff: it's because David -- the "franchise part two" -- needs him there for a touchstone, whether he is helping the team or not. I liked Jeff Francoeur, I'm sure he's a really nice guy, but to call a guy with a .230 BA a "clubhouse leader...." I suppose I guess my point is, this team is in bigger trouble than we originally thought if HE was considered the leader.
My point is, I got in a lot of trouble by saying that players these days are different. It's very rare there are the Tony LaRussa's and Terry Francona's our there who get the respect of both the kids and the vets in the clubhouse. I grew up in an era where the manager had less weighting -- they basically just had to be a nice guy. Now, players these days are coddled since Day One. They win trophies in Little League for just showing up. You throw them into a mix in the clubhouse and they have no idea how to WIN.
Enter Wally Backman. Even Bobby Valentine to a lesser extent, but I think his brash attitude wouldn't gel with the team "unit" structured now, and "reunions" typically don't go as well as the first time. Backman has established that he can extract every ounce of talent on his team out. Backman knows how to win. He's not afraid to take shit from anyone. Put aside the fact he's a former '86er. He has a proven track record and if the Mets are truly going the youth route in 2011, we need a guy who was coached by Davey Johnson (and by all account, Johnson was the only one who was willing to give him a chance based on his scrappy attitude) and knows how to get the best out of his players and isn't afraid to push the envelope.
In other words, he knows how to win.
I hope they can right a wrong. Backman should have been the Mets manager in 2005. He can be manager in 2011. I hope for once, they get THIS go 'round right.