Oct 09

Backman Is “Sweet Lou” With Baggage

wally backman

John Erardi of the Cincinnati Enquirer had some glowing remarks about former Met and current Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman as he wonders if he could be the right man to manage the Reds going forward. Much as I like the idea of Reds pitching coach Bryan Price being elevated to manage the Reds, he writes, I’d also think about going in search of a young version of Lou Piniella.

I have no idea of who, almost a quarter of a century later, is the modern-day ‘‘Sweet Lou,’’ that is, somebody with attitude and confidence (even swagger), most notably with something to prove. he opines before answering his own question by saying he’d consider interviewing a Wally Backman-type, or better yet, Wally Backman himself. What are the odds of that happening? Click here to view MLB odds.

If the Reds are looking for a fiery manager, I think Backman fits that mold. Of course, this is all speculation by Erardi and there’s no rumors out there that the Reds have any interest in interviewing Wally for the job, but maybe the Cincinnati front office should take heed here.

Lord knows, Backman’s got something to prove, he says. “It’s obvious his former team — he was the second baseman for the 1986 World Champion New York Mets, for whom he’s managed and rehabilitated his way through the minors, and is slated to return to Triple-A affiliate Las Vegas next year — isn’t going to elevate him anytime soon.”

I love how he refers to Backman as ‘‘Sweet Lou with baggage’’ in his article. It’s perfect.

“There are worse things one could be called. If I were the Reds, I’d give him a call. Even if Backman isn’t envisioned to be a young Sweet Lou by the Reds’ brass, I’m willing to bet he would have some very interesting things to say about what he would do to light a fire underneath the players.”

I feel bad for Wally, and as I’ve said many times before, the Mets front office would never put their team in his hands. They hardly even view him as a coach on the major league level, let alone manager. Sadly, managing the Mets Triple-A affiliate will be the apex of Backman’s managerial exploits for the Mets organization.

May 10

Wally Backman Out Of Line On Wheeler Comments

Like everybody else, I am anxious to see Zack Wheeler with the Mets. Even if he’s half of what he’s been cranked up to be, he has to be some improvement, if not a gate draw, from what the Mets have now.

BACKMAN: Out of line.

BACKMAN: Out of line.

Yesterday, Las Vegas manager Wally Backman told a local radio station: “Personally, I think if he has a couple of more starts like his last start he’ll be headed to the big leagues, and rightfully so.’’

Huh? I don’t recall GM Sandy Alderson saying something like that.

I’m not saying Backman is right or wrong in his analysis or projection of Wheeler, just wrong in saying anything of that nature in the first place.

Backman manages Triple-A Las Vegas. He does not speak for the Mets’ organization, and his comments put undue pressure on everybody, from Backman, to Wheeler, to Terry Collins, to Alderson.

Once somebody from the organization, even Alderson, suggests a timetable, a clock starts ticking. So, what happens if Wheeler isn’t up in two starts? What then? Another timetable? You can’t keep teasing the fan base that way.

Backman is out of line in making such statements. But, could it be he spoke because the Mets don’t have a policy in place on how to publicly handle Wheeler?

There were no such conflicting messages with Washington about promoting Stephen Strasburg. Why aren’t similar precautions and guidelines in place for Wheeler?

There was more structure to Matt Harvey’s promotion this year in that everybody knew he would go north with the team coming out of spring training. There seemed more structure to Harvey’s promotion last year, primarily because Alderson did most of the talking.

The only structure with Wheeler is we knew he wouldn’t be up at the beginning of the year because of the contractual links to his arbitration and free-agency eligibility seasons. The best-guess estimate for that is the end of the month or early June, but either way that exceeds a couple of more starts.

At least the Mets made a determination, although there was the caveat of “if we really needed someone,’’ that could be waived. Wheeler wasn’t pitching well enough early in his season to warrant a promotion, but he has been good his last two starts. Perhaps, two or three more and he’ll be ready, but that’s Alderson’s call and not Backman’s.

It’s confusing when not all the parties are on the same page. It is Alderson’s responsibility to define that page, and Backman’s to follow the guidelines.

There should be no loose cannons here, just one voice. That’s the case with winning organizations.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 07

Zack Wheeler Very Close To Big League Debut

zack wheeler

According to Mark Hale of the New York Post, Triple-A manager Wally Backman believes Zack Wheeler is not far away from being promoted to the Mets despite his rough outing on Thursday, and drew comparisons to Matt Harvey.

“He is the same spot Matt Harvey was at last year, I would say,” Backman said of Wheeler in a phone interview with The Post Friday. “It’s a matter of command. I think it’s going to be a matter of consistency.”

“He struggled with command a little bit Thursday night. It was the first game. He was rushing a little bit. He showed signs of just dominating, and then he’d get a little bit erratic.”

Wheeler had big command issues walking three of the first six batters he faced. He was unable to complete the fourth inning after tossing 86 pitches in 3.1 innings.

Last season, Wheeler went 2-2 with a 3.27 ERA in six Triple-A starts, striking out 31 and walking 16 in 33 innings.

Mar 04

Will Dwight Gooden Ever Turn His Life Around?

It usually is not a good sign when a name not recently in the news shows up on the “What’s Trending Now,’’ list when one logs onto the Internet.

Dwight Gooden was there this morning and we can expect to see future postings as his latest issue with the law unravels.

GOODEN: Once upon a time. (AP)

Gooden, long out of baseball but not forgotten by Mets fans, allegedly threatened his estranged wife, Monique, on Friday, when he should have been on a back field in Port St. Lucie tutoring what he once was – a hot, young prospect.

It would have been nice if Gooden had a second career in the sun, literally and figuratively. It’s not like he hasn’t had chances. The Yankees gave him several when George Steinbrenner was alive and he would have been welcomed by the Mets had he not struggled with drug, alcohol and law issues.

Monique Gooden called police and filed a restraining order. He was forced to move out of the house he and his wife are living in until their divorce becomes final.

Reportedly, Gooden threatened his wife, saying: “All bets are off and I will hurt you and your family. You’ll see, just wait.’’

A DUI, well, a team can live with that on a player’s record. Not pleasant, but doable. It is especially possible if the player had a remarkable career and once was a face of that franchise, as Gooden was with the Mets.

However, such a threat, especially if carried out, is not the image a team wants to project. There has to be considerable damage control if Gooden is to ever again represent the Mets.

Or, any other major league team for that matter.

That is, of course, unless something bad happens to him, such as jail, or worse.

Gooden will no longer have visitation rights with his two children until a hearing, March 11. In the interim, Gooden can contemplate where it all went wrong.

The drug problems began shortly after the 1985 and 1986 seasons, which were his early days with the Mets, and unfortunately, the highlight of his career. There once was a night a decade later, when nearing the end with the Yankees, he threw the no-hitter one expected of him whenever he took the mound at Shea Stadium.

Throwing what Kevin Costner said in “Bull Durham’’ was “ungodly stuff in the show,’’ Gooden was the inspiration of the “Ks’’ banners fans hung over the stadium railings. Gooden was electric in those days when he owned the summer nights at Shea.

We knew it wouldn’t last forever as it never does, but were shocked and angered and saddened knowing Gooden was throwing away his career with drugs and booze. We once were enthralled with the hard- partying Mets of 1986 and even glorified them, but also knew at the same time knew life on the ledge couldn’t end happily.

For different reasons, but ultimately the same one – a lack of self-control – it didn’t well for Gooden. For Darryl Strawberry. For Lenny Dykstra. Wally Backman is still paying the price.

Nearing the end of his life, Mickey Mantle talked of role models and said, “don’t be like me.’’ At one time, there wasn’t a kid around who didn’t want to be like Gooden, standing alone on the mound awash in the cheers and adulation that comes with greatest.

Gooden is again alone as he faces another life crisis, but there’s nobody who wants to be like him.

And, that’s just sad.

Sep 15

Jenrry Mejia Getting His Chance

A mark of a good manager is putting his players in position to succeed. He shouldn’t force a player to do something he’s unfamiliar or uncomfortable with, thereby increasing the chance of failure.

That’s what Jerry Manuel did to Jenrry Mejia in 2010. With his job clearly in jeopardy and no bullpen to speak of, Manuel insisted on putting Jenrry Mejia in a relief role coming out of spring training despite no experience at it and, no definable role with the Mets.

Mejia didn’t work for long stretches and struggled when he did get in games. Eventually, he performed so poorly he was optioned out. Once in the minors, they tried him as a starter again. He was eventually injured.

He starts tonight at Milwaukee, despite his last three appearances at Triple-A Buffalo being in relief, this after a solid stretch as a starter.

You guessed it, the Mets still don’t have an idea where Mejia fits into their 2013 plans.

Mejia had dramatically more success at Triple-A Buffalo this season as a starting pitcher than working in the bullpen. He had a 2.75 ERA in ten starts and a 5.48 ERA in 16 relief outings.

His manager at Buffalo, Wally Backman, has faith in him as a reliever.

“You know what? He had never really relieved before, until he got to the big leagues for the short time [in 2010],’’ Backman said. “They sent him back to Triple-A and he started. And then he got hurt. So this year he started as a starter.

“`And [then] we put him in the bullpen. And, believe it or not, I think it was his last three outings in the bullpen, he was pretty good. Then we all of a sudden started him again. To me, he was figuring it out.’’

Mejia has it figured out in his mind as to what he wants to do and where he’s most comfortable and it is starting.

“That’s what I’m looking forward (to),’’ Mejia said. “I want to show them I want to be a starter. I can do my job like a starter.’’

Mejia said he feels more in control with his pitches starting, perhaps because at the start of the game there’s less pressure and more a margin for error than in the eighth or ninth innings.

On paper the Mets’ rotation seems set for 2013, but it must be remembered Johan Santana and Dillon Gee are coming off injuries; Jonathan Niese has a way to go before reaching his potential and might have regressed this year; and Matt Harvey is unproven over the long haul.

All those variables could open up a spot for Mejia.