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.

Please follow me on Twitter

Sep 13

Did Collins Fall On Sword For Scott?

It hasn’t been a great week for Mets manager Terry 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 his pitching.

BACKMAN: Could he have saved Collins this week? (AP)

BACKMAN: Could he have saved Collins this week? (AP)

That day, in a blowout win over the Braves, he left shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and left fielder Yoenis Cespedes – both of whom spent time on the disabled list with leg injuries and still aren’t running well – in the game too long. Blowout wins are rare and represent a chance to grab rest for tired players.

Finally, Monday, when it was apparent Rafael Montero didn’t have it, he 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.

Ironically, the Montero gaffe occurred hours after the Mets split with Triple-A manager Wally Backman.

All three events should fall under the responsibility of bench coach Dick Scott, 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 GM Sandy Alderson for leaving him shorthanded at times.

Frankly, too many times.

Scott, it should be mentioned, beat out Backman for the bench coach job last winter. Alderson had his reasons for choosing Scott, but it should also be noted his relationship with Backman is frosty at best.

Many decisions a manager makes these days are on the fly. However, with the abundance of statistics and scouting reports available, the bench coach has come into play. The bench coach has to analyze this information and be able to think two or three moves ahead and give it to the manager when the need arises.

In all three decisions within the past week, Collins didn’t shuffle blame on Scott. That’s not who he is; he’s not one to throw his staff or players under the bus.

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.

Please follow me on Twitter

Aug 17

Why Push It With Wheeler?

Sure, I would have liked to have seen Zack Wheeler this season, but he’s been diagnosed with a mild flexor strain and will be shut down for at least two weeks. That shoves his return to the first week of September when the original projection was the start of July.

After a couple of weeks of rehab, there will be only two weeks left in the season. If the Mets are still in the race then, would they really want to force him in a game? That doesn’t seem smart. It’s not as if adding Wheeler will put them over the top.

If they want to bring him up to be around the team and rehab in front of manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen, that’s fine, but anything else is pushing the envelope.

Let him rehab and get stronger, then start over next spring.

Should be simple, actually.

Please follow me on Twitter

May 30

What Will Mets Get From Harvey?

The Mets set the bar low for Matt Harvey’s last start. It’s been set even lower for what could be a water-logged Memorial Day start this afternoon against the Chicago White Sox.

Before the Nationals ripped him last week, manager Terry Collins wanted a “quality’’ outing from his former No. 1 starter. He didn’t get it, Harvey’s ERA zoomed to 6.08 and he left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters.

HARVEY: What will we get? (AP)

HARVEY: What will we get? (AP)

This time out, “I’m hoping that he relaxes,” said Collins.

If he does, Harvey will have to shift it into a higher mental gear we haven’t seen before.

“I’m hoping that he just goes out and pitches like he knows how – and that is worrying about making pitches, not so much about the mechanics,” Collins said.

Meanwhile, Collins believes Harvey’s problems are a combination mechanical and mental. In addition to working with pitching coach Dan Warthen on his mechanics – from release point to where his lead foot lands – Collins said Harvey is also working with the Mets’ mental skills coach.

Collins wouldn’t specify the next step for Harvey if he gets routed.

“I just think we’ve got to wring the rag dry here,” Collins said. “This is not just a Triple-A guys who’s up for a tryout. This is a guy who pitched in an All-Star Game a couple of years ago and was one of the best in the game. And, I think we need to push a little bit farther.”

Nobody knows what will happen today, but perhaps Harvey will come up with a performance worth talking about.

Apr 23

Mets Matters: Harvey Still Searching

Mets manager Terry Collins finally admitted the team’s handling of its pitchers perhaps contributed to Matt Harvey‘s sluggish start. The Mets held their pitchers back a week because of last season’s workloads. Harvey threw 12 innings in spring training whereas most starters log close to 30 innings. Harvey’s spring was further cut short by a urinary tract infection.

mets-matters logo“He really never got to where he was game-ready at the end of spring training,” Collins told reporters. “It just kind of carried over into the season.”

Now, was that so hard?

Harvey lost his first three starts before winning an unimpressive start Friday night.

“It’s still a work in progress,” Harvey said. “Parts of the game obviously felt better, and it felt like I was releasing the ball the way I should be. Other times it was not that way. I’m still working. There’s more positives than negatives out of this game.”

Perhaps the biggest negative was Harvey throwing 101 pitches in five innings.

“Obviously throwing that many pitches in five innings is not ideal,” Harvey said. “My goal today was going out there and really trying to work on what we had worked on this past week. At times, I was able to do that, and at times I fell out of that. I have to re-find that.”

Prior to the game, pitching coach Dan Warthen said Harvey had developed a mechanical flaw where he collapsed his push-off leg working out of the stretch.

“The majority of the time out of the stretch I did feel better,” Harvey said. “Like I said, there’s still work to be done.”

If this is the work in progress Harvey proclaims it to be, it could take a few more starts before he gets it right.

But, on a positive note, at least the Mets seem to have an idea of what’s wrong with Harvey.

DeGROM READY FOR SUNDAY:  Jacob deGrom rejoined the Mets today after being on emergency family leave and will start Sunday against the Braves.

DeGrom said his two-week-old son, Jaxon, was suffering from apnea and would stop breathing while he slept.

“It was definitely scary,” deGrom said told reporters. “When all the tests came back and nothing was seriously wrong, we were pretty relieved.”

Sunday’s start will be his first since April 8, a game he left with tightness in his right lat after six innings. After studying video, deGrom theorizes his landing leg was too stiff.

“I feel good,” deGrom said. “The last few bullpen sessions have been good.”

CESPEDES SIDELINED: Collins said Yoenis Cespedes aggravated the bruise on his right leg sliding into second and would probably not play the remaining two games during this series.

“The bruise is pretty big,” Collins said. “He’s aggravated it, and he’s limping pretty bad. … He’s pretty swelled. He’s certainly not going to be available today.”

 

Please follow me on Twitter.