Sep 13

Backman Tells His Side; Could Have Helped Collins This Week

Speaking on WFAN this afternoon, deposed Las Vegas manager Wally Backman insisted the decision to leave was his, and he vehemently refuted published reports citing unnamed Mets’ sources claiming he was insubordinate.

Backman said he would have accepted a coaching position on Terry Collins‘ staff or stayed with Vegas if asked. Whether he would have fired if he didn’t leave hasn’t been reported, but based on what Backman told WFAN one can presume he would have been canned by GM Sandy Alderson.

ALDERSON: In center of Backman sacking.  (AP)

ALDERSON: In center of Backman sacking. (AP)

Backman, who managed in the Mets’ farm system for seven years, including the last five on the Triple-A level with Buffalo and Las Vegas, said he wants to pursue options to manage in the major leagues but didn’t say he had anything immediately on his radar.

“I left on my own,” Backman said. “It didn’t look like there was any future for me in New York. When you work for an organization and do everything, you want to be respected for what you do. I just felt for my time being there the respect wasn’t there. I could be wrong. They could say different.”

Backman defined respect as more than simply guiding Las Vegas to three consecutive winning seasons prior to this year. He said it should include being acknowledged by Alderson in directing the Mets to James Loney, Rene Rivera and Jose Reyes; the last coming after a two-hour conversation that acted as a screening process.

All three paid dividends this summer.

In addition, many current Mets – from Noah Syndergaard to Michael Conforto to Jacob deGrom – played under Backman. He also was instrumental in turning around Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud when they were on rehab assignments last year.

Backman was livid at reports citing unnamed sources he went rogue and disobeyed instructions on playing Conforto against left-handed pitching and batting Brandon Nimmo in the leadoff spot.

“Whoever put that out there, the source within the system, they lied,” a clearly agitated Backman said. “And that’s the part that pisses me off because I did nothing but try to help these guys.”

As for not playing Conforto against left-handers, Backman said he played in 31 of 33 games, hitting .488 (20-for-41) with three home runs against lefties. One game that Conforto didn’t play in was a day he was sent down and didn’t arrive until the fourth inning. The other came on a day prior to an off-day as to give Conforto two straight days off, which is commonplace.

Backman also said Nimmo hit first or second in 84 out of 97 games.

Backman said he got along with Collins and spoke to him frequently. Regarding his relationship Alderson, Backman took a diplomatic approach.

“I’m not going to say we never got along,” Backman said. “I thought he respected me as a baseball person. I guess I wasn’t the prototypical guy he liked.”

That became clear when the Mets bypassed Backman in favor of Dick Scott last December to be Collins’ bench coach.

We haven’t heard much about Scott this year until this past week, which hasn’t been a great one for Collins, who had three major brain cramps, all of which should have been preventable.

First, on Saturday he failed to pinch-run for Wilmer Flores, who was then subsequently thrown out at the plate, injured and hasn’t played since. On Sunday, he admitted screwing up. He said he was preoccupied talking with pitching coach Dan Warthen about setting up his pitching.

Finally, when it was apparent Rafael Montero didn’t have it Monday, Collins kept the shell-shocked starter in the game too long. He could have pulled Montero in the first or pinch-hit for him. He did neither and Montero let the game away. Would the Mets have won had Montero been pulled? Who knows, but it can’t make Collins feel any less angst.

All three events should fall under the responsibility of a bench coach, but not once did Collins point blame in his direction. That fits in with Collins’ makeup. He’s not one to throw his staff or players under the bus. For that matter, he doesn’t take shots at Alderson for leaving him shorthanded at times.

Frankly, too many times.

We don’t know what Scott said, or didn’t say. What we do know, based on reputation, Backman – no shrinking violet – wouldn’t have been shy to make a suggestion.

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Nov 21

Greetings From Ohio

Good morning. As many of you know, I was seriously injured and can’t walk. I disappeared from the blog, but when I returned you welcomed me back and I am grateful. I am now in Ohio for a few weeks to go to the Cleveland Clinic for more tests and treatment. I am very optimistic.

I promise I won’t fade this time.

It is bitter cold here. Snow, but not as bad as Buffalo. Even without practicing this week, and probably not having their full roster, they’ll still beat the Jets.

All this makes me think about spring training. I could stand for it being 60 degrees warmer. Then again, can’t we all?

I’ll be back later with thoughts on the Mets and free agency in general. Take care. JD

Aug 20

Mets Matters: Santana Decision And Shuffling Off From Buffalo

Sometime this afternoon we could get a clearer reading on what’s to happen with Johan Santana for the remainder of the season: Do they keep running him out there are shut him down to give him a head start on preparation for 2013?

Currently, Santana is scheduled to start Thursday against Colorado with extra rest. If he comes through, the Mets might opt to keep giving him extended rest between starts.

What we need to remember is this has been a grueling rehab for Santana coming off shoulder surgery and his arm has already exceeded what it normally goes through in a regular season. 

If Santana’s current problems are fatigue related, then shutting him down might be the prudent decision.

In other Mets’ news:

* It appears the Mets will lose ties with their Class AAA Buffalo affiliate, which is a shame as that locale makes it easier to shuttle players up and down. 

Most disappointing is Buffalo is the Mets’ third Triple-A attachment in the past decade (Norfolk, Va., and New Orleans). Las Vegas could be next.

Word is Buffalo, like Norfolk, because disenchanted from the Mets’ lack of attention or promotion to their affiliates, not to mention a poor quality of play.  Buffalo has a major league caliber stadium, so would it kill the Mets to play an exhibition game there (coming out of spring training) or even a regular season game? I would think a Mets-Pirates games would be attractive and fill the place.

Ideally, you’d like a strong relationship between the big club and its top minor league affiliate.

* The Mets open a stretch tonight of seven straight games against NL weaklings Colorado and Houston, the latter just sacked its manager. 

“Well, we’re not exactly playing great right now,’’ Terry Collins said.

The Mets follow those two series with series at Philadelphia and Miami. So, this would be the Mets’ best opportunity to get on a roll to finish over .500. That’s still what I’d like for this team.

Jul 17

Matt Harvey Effectively Wild In Audition

A no-hitter would have been too much to ask for, but Matt Harvey took one into the sixth. Harvey walked four, hit a batter and gave up three hits, but pitched with poise as he passed his audition Monday night in Buffalo.

HARVEY: Kept his head (Mets)

Expect him to pitch this weekend against the Dodgers. Does he believe he’s ready?

“I do,” he told reporters. “Today I obviously wasn’t happy with as many walks. I feel like my last couple of starts have been pretty good. And I’m feeling confident with all of my pitches.”

Of course, what else is he going to say?

As I watched, I didn’t care too much about the walks – he’ll have to do better Saturday – but instead paid attention to how he kept his composure in pitching out of trouble. He did an admirable job.

The Mets made no announcement after the game, but I’d bet on seeing him at Citi Field this weekend.

Jun 05

Trying To Figure Out Ike Davis

I remember when Ike Davis first came up to the Mets. His plate presence was praised. He would regularly take the outside pitch – breaking balls, too – to left field. He was strong as a bull, and the thinking was the power would eventually come.

You don’t hear that kind of talk much anymore.

He seems to be chasing everything, especially low-and-away junk with the intent to pull. Can you remember the last time he went the other way with a pitch?

With Davis’ impatience, there’s no reason for any pitcher to throw him a fastball, especially on the inner half of the plate.

There was talk earlier about possibly sending Davis to the minors to work out his problem. Initially, I was against this because the Mets didn’t have a first base alternative. They still don’t have, but Justin Turner could make do for a week or so.

The topic came up again this week, but Davis, whom I had the impression was a total team guy, said he didn’t think the minors were a good idea, claiming he had to learn to hit on this level. It wasn’t quite the response I was hoping for from Davis.

I would like to think if the Mets decided Davis needed a respite in the minors that he’d accept it and not go all Oliver Perez on us. I believe Davis will eventually find it and I’m leaning more and more to thinking if that’s in Buffalo, then so be it.

If nothing else, he’ll be able to get some killer wings.