Sep 12

Backman Out; Was Never Going To Get Chance

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said Wally Backman, the one time, popular pepper pot second baseman of the 1986 champion Mets, is out as Triple-A Las Vegas’ manager.

Just like that, he’s out.

Alderson said Backman left on his own, but does anybody really believe that?

BACKMAN: Inevitable happens. (MLB.com)

BACKMAN: Inevitable happens. (MLB.com)

“Wally has decided to move on,” Alderson told The New York Post. “He’s got other opportunities, presumably including possible major league coaching or managing.”

That’s nonsense. The minor league season just ended and the major league season is still going on. There are no current openings. If Backman had another job lined up, he would have said so.

When somebody desperately wants to manage in the major leagues, he doesn’t resign from a Triple-A job without something lined up. Instead, he just posted a mild tweet saying he resigned and thanked Mets’ fans for their support. He posted nothing about Alderson.

Reportedly, Backman was on the verge of being named bench coach for the 2012 season, but something happened at the last minute and the job went to Tim Teufel.

In 2004, Backman was hired to manage the Arizona Diamondbacks but was fired four days later after The New York Times reported he had been arrested twice and was under financial duress.

Amazingly, the Diamondbacks failed to do a background check.

Baseball is noted for giving second chances, but Backman has never gotten another opportunity to manage on the major league level. Instead, he found sanctuary with the Mets, the team he energized in 1986.

SNY analyst Keith Hernandez called Backman, “a dear friend and a great teammate.”

Backman managed Las Vegas for five seasons and guided them to a 70-74 record this year. Although Las Vegas had three winning seasons prior to this year, Backman never was enamored by Alderson, who was very complimentary in The Post.

“I thought he did a fine job for us,” Alderson said. “We had many players come through Las Vegas and graduate to the major league level and establish themselves in New York.

“He was part of that development process. In addition, other than this year, the teams were very competitive and successful on a won-loss basis. He did a good job for us.”

So, what was the problem?

Backman has a reputation as a loose cannon that irritated the button-down Alderson. There always seemed to be friction between them, and Alderson has a reputation for holding a grudge.

There are reports of Backman defying Alderson by not batting Brandon Nimmo leadoff and – heaven forbid – or starting Michael Conforto against left-handed pitchers.

On the major league level, Terry Collins said he would, but never followed through on hitting Conforto against lefties. Backman was also critical of how Conforto was used by the Mets. Come to think of it, who hasn’t been critical of the way the Mets are using Conforto.

The Mets’ current outfield situation, in large part made by their eagerness to placate Yoenis Cespedes, is currently a mess. There are no plans for what to do with Conforto – whom Collins said in April was destined to be the Mets’ No. 3 hitter for the next decade – and Nimmo.

There is actually a chance they won’t have either Cespedes or Jay Bruce in 2017.

Collins was hired to replace Jerry Manuel in 2011 and had four losing seasons. There were opportunities to hire Backman then, but Collins survived, getting the benefit of the doubt by numerous injuries and ownership’s financial problems.

The thinking was the Mets couldn’t fire Collins because he hadn’t been given a representative team. It wouldn’t be fair. However, everything fell into place and the Mets reached the World Series in 2015. And, with the Mets serious wild-card contenders this year, Collins’ job seems secure.

Part of the success of last year was because of the performances of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Conforto and Travis d’Arnaud, players who did well under Backman.

The Mets could have promoted Backman to bench coach after last year to replace Bob Geren, who left for the Dodgers. However, when the job went to Dick Scott, it became clear there was no place for him on the major league level despite Jeff Wilpon’s initial gesture of support when they hired him.

With the friction between Backman and the Mets this year, it was only a matter of time before today happened. Do you still don’t think there isn’t animosity between Backman and the Mets? On SNY during the game, Backman wasn’t mentioned until the seventh inning of a blowout, and ended its Baseball Tonight broadcast with basically a throw-away line. It was the last item, but should have been the first.

Don’t think the Mets didn’t have anything to do with that? It sure looks like the Mets wanted to bury this. Makes you wonder why they didn’t wait until 3 in morning Eastern time – the Mets were on the West Coast at the time – like they did when they axed Willie Randolph.

The bottom line is the Mets didn’t want Backman. That’s too bad, and I hope some team takes a chance on him.

Please follow me on Twitter

Jul 11

Harvey Pitches, And Hits, Above Expectations

If Matt Harvey keeps having more days like today he could buy his own jet … even afford to take a helicopter from his Manhattan apartment to Mets’ games.

HARVEY: Plays like a star. (AP)

HARVEY: Plays like a star. (AP)

Harvey had one of those games like in high school, where he struck out nine Arizona Diamondbacks and hit a two-run homer in the Mets’ 4-2 victory.

It was a strong effort in a frustratingly erratic first-half for Harvey.

“For me, flushing the first half and going back out the second half with a fresh start is something I’m looking forward to,’’ Harvey told reporters. “There were ups and downs obviously – after the hot start, more ups and downs than I expected or wanted.’’

Harvey finished the first half with an 8-6 record, but the most important number were his 111.1 innings. He’s on pace for 205 innings, which is more than what GM Sandy Alderson wanted. But, that doesn’t include the playoffs, which is the ultimate goal.

Can you imagine the outcry should the Mets actually make it, but have to shut down Harvey. You think he complains now? That’s why the innings Harvey needlessly pitched in April when the Mets blew chances to rest him can’t be overlooked.

Of course this puts the six-man rotation issue back into the forefront. With Steven Matz down for at least five weeks – don’t forget he’ll have to go on a minor league rehab assignment when he’s cleared – the Mets must decide whether they’ll use Logan Verrett or Dillon Gee for the sixth spot or scrap their innings limitations.

It wasn’t a good start for Harvey, who walked four, but settled into a groove to with his eighth game. It was an effort the Mets have been waiting a long time to see.

Harvey has thrown hard this year coming off Tommy John surgery, but what usually happens in the first season back from the procedure is a lack of command.

That manifests itself not only in walks – nine in his last two starts – but also in home runs allowed.

He gave up a two-run homer to David Peralta in the first inning, but regrouped.

“I really wanted to do everything I could to keep the team within striking distance,’’ Harvey said. “When you look up at the scoreboard and it’s 2-0 and you only faced two batters, the last thing you want to do is keep that rolling. I really just had to buckle down and try to pound the zone as much as possible.’’

Which he did, marvelously so.

 

Dec 22

Mets Outbid For Liriano And Ross

It has come to this, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks have outbid the Mets.

The now pitching-deficient and long-time outfield void Mets had their sights on left-hander Francisco Liriano and outfielder Cody Ross, but lost them to the Pirates and Diamondbacks, respectively, who offered multi-year deals they wouldn’t have dreamt of giving.

The Pirates, who were a feel-good story for much of the season before fading late because of their pitching, gave Liriano a two-year, $14-million deal.

Ross, who hit 22 homers with 81 RBI last year for Boston, was given a three-year, $26-million contract.

The Mets are interested in retaining outfielder Scott Hairston, but are reluctant to go longer than two years or more than $2 million, so there’s no chance they could have signed Ross.

As far as Liriano, they could have easily signed him with the money they saved by not bringing back R.A. Dickey.

But, neither happened, and signing Hairston probably won’t happen, either.

Oct 09

Something with your morning coffee ….

This Day in Baseball History

This Day in Baseball History

It was a lightning moment, a sudden burst and it was over.

On this day in 1999, with Mike Piazza out with a thumb injury, the Mets got a home run from backup catcher Todd Pratt in the 10th inning for a 4-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Pratt’s line drive just eluded Arizona center fielder Steve Finley, at the time one the best defensive outfielders in the game.

The Mets went on to the NLCS against the Atlanta, where they fell behind 3-0 on the series but rallied to force a sixth game, which they lost on a bases-loaded walk from Kenny Rogers.

*************************************************************************************

They Said It

They Said It

One of the interesting story lines in the Yankees-Twins ALDS, is the decision to start backup catcher Jose Molina in Game 2 tonight in New York over Jorge Posada to catch AJ Burnett.

Burnett said he did not lobby manager Joe Girardi to make the switch.

Said Burnett: “It was the manager’s decision, I had no part in it. I’ve thrown good to both. My good games, I’m right. My bad games, it’s not the catcher, it’s me … When I’m good, it doesn’t matter which one is behind the plate.”

*************************************************************************************
BY THE NUMBERS

3.28: Burnett’s ERA when pitching to Jose Molina in comparison to 4.96 when pitching to Jorge Posada.

Oct 22

James: Mets’ core pretty good.

James: Likes Wright and Reyes.

James: Likes Wright and Reyes.

The young core some people would like to break up ranks high with analyst Bill James, who ranks David Wright fourth and Jose Reyes ninth in his list of the top major leaguers under 30 years old in his book, “Young Talent Inventory.”

Overall, the Mets are ranked 16th in terms of young talent, which is in the middle of the pack and nothing to get excited about.

Here’s James’ top 25:

?1. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman, age 24
?2. Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins shortstop, age 24
?3. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants pitcher, age 24
?4. David Wright, New York Mets third baseman, age 25
?5. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers left fielder, age 24
?6. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox second baseman, age 24
?7. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder, age 23
?8. Francisco Rodriguez, Los Angeles Angels pitcher, age 26
?9. Jose Reyes, New York Mets shortstop, age 25
10. Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles right fielder, age 24
11. Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals pitcher, age 24
12. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals third baseman, age 23
13. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher, age 24
14. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies shortstop, age 23
15. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners pitcher, age 22
16. Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox pitcher, age 24
17. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays third baseman, age 22
18. John Danks, Chicago White Sox pitcher, age 23
19. Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres first baseman, age 26
20. James Loney, Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman, age 24
21. Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop, age 25
22. Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves catcher, age 24
23. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers first baseman, age 25
24. Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians center fielder, age 25
25. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds first baseman, age 24

Three other Mets’ prospects, reliever Eddie Kunz, catcher Josh Thole and outfielder Daniel Murphy were selected to play in AFL All-Star Game Friday night.