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.

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Aug 29

Three Mets’ Storylines: Cespedes Makes Statement

It is hard to say what was the more deafening sound, the Citi Field crowd after Yoenis Cespedes’ game-winning homer or the cash register in Jeff Wilpon’s mind ringing up what the Mets might have to pay to bring him back next summer and beyond.

Cespedes has two years remaining on his contract, but can opt out after this season. The contract calls for him to make $27.5 million this year and $25 million in each of the next two seasons.

CESPEDES: Flexes Mets to win. (AP)

CESPEDES: Flexes Mets to win. (AP)

Cespedes said he’d like to stay with the Mets, but stopped short of saying he will come back. If stands to reason that the better Cespedes performs – he had three hits, including his 27th homer in the 10th inning to beat Miami, 2-1 – the greater his leverage.

To bring Cespedes back, they’ll have to increase both dollars and years. It’s easy to say, “well, just give him the money,’’ after what he did Monday, but the Mets will then have to make a decision on Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson, and what to do with Michael Conforto.

Bruce has done little since coming over from the Reds. They could buy out Granderson. And, in April, Conforto was penciled in to be the Mets’ No. 3 hitter for the next decade.

However, none of them have what Cespedes does, which is the ability to jumpstart and carry a team with one swing. The Mets have had only a handful of players that no matter, they force you to watch and not look away when they come to the plate. Dave Kingman was one, then Darryl Strawberry and Mike Piazza. Finally, there is Cespedes, who carried the Mets last season into October, and has been doing it again since coming off the disabled list.

“He’s that kind of player,” manager Terry Collins said. “You expect to see big things from him each and every time he comes up. People pay to see him. They want to see what he can do.”

Cespedes can be infuriating, such as not running out a pop-up that fell for a hit in the first. Against Jose Fernandez, you knew runs would be at a premium and not hustling into scoring position could have bitten them in the end.

Even with his tight right quad, he should have been on second. However, that gets filed away when he takes control of a game as he did facing off against Nick Wittgren with two outs in the tenth.

“In big moments I really try to focus and deliver,” Cespedes said through an interpreter. “I know they were pitching me away, but I was looking for something in.”

Cespedes’ game-winning drive was clearly the top storyline of the night. Jose Reyes stealing a run in the eighth and the pitching from Rafael Montero and the bullpen were the other two.

A REYES RUN: When the Mets signed Reyes at the end of June, they sold the fan base on the premise he would bring energy and speed to their station-to-station offense. What they had in mind was the eighth inning.

Down by a run, Reyes lead off the eighth with a line double into the right field corner. When it appeared Alejandro De Aza failed to advance him on a fly to left, Reyes tagged and moved to third, then scored on a head-first slide following A.J. Ramos’ wild pitch.

Reyes appeared to be hurt on the play when Ramos fell on the Met infielder’s head and left shoulder. Reyes remained in the game, but we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.

MONTERO FILLS BILL: Montero made the spot start because the Mets believed normally scheduled starter Jacob deGrom – who gave up a combined 13 runs in his last two starts – was fatigued. Montero, brought up from Double-A Binghamton, gave up only two hits in five scoreless innings, but threw 100 pitches in large part because he walked six.

If Collins wanted to see if Montero could respond to a challenge, his concerns were answered in the positive. Montero was in constant trouble and left the Marlins stranded with RISP in the first, fourth and fifth.

Montero left the bases loaded in the fourth and needed a double play to get out of the fifth. With how he pitched, Montero will stay after the rosters are expanded, Sept. 1.

While Montero was the unexpected, the bullpen was something they counted on.

Addison Reed gave up a run in the eighth on doubles by Ichiro Suzuki and Xavier Scruggs. The Mets also received scoreless innings from Sean Gilmartin (6th inning), Jerry Blevins (7th), Jeurys Familia (9th) and Josh Smoker (10th).

Combined, the bullpen gave up one run on three hits, one walk and six strikeouts.

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Dec 04

Alderson Diagnosed With Cancer; Will Not Attend Winter Meetings

The Mets announced Friday GM Sandy Alderson has been diagnosed a treatable form of and will undergo chemotherapy for the next eight to 12 weeks.

The cancer was detected when Alderson underwent a medical procedure three weeks ago.

“Surgery was performed at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York and as a result of that procedure, the doctors confirmed that Sandy has cancer,’’ Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said in a statement. “The doctors believe and have told Sandy that the cancer is very treatable and are optimistic about a full recovery.’’

Wilpon said Alderson will not attend next week’s Winter Meetings and will receive treatment at Sloan Kettering.

Assistant general manager John Ricco, and J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta will go to the meetings with the following priorities: sign infielder Ben Zobrist; obtain a center fielder; and restock the bullpen.

Jan 13

How Would Wilpons Answer Question: Why I Should Root For The Mets?

There was an interesting story on-line the other day about a 12-year boy, Cade Pope, who wrote the owner of each NFL team asking the simple question: Why should I root for your team?

Took a lot of initiative on his part, but very little initiative was made by the league’s 32 owners as only one, Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers replied, and with it sent an autographed helmet of Luke Kuechly. Richardson wrote he would be “honored if the Carolina Panthers became your team.’’

Richardson’s letter was handwritten, by the way.

Of course, this got me thinking, what if Fred Wilpon were to get such a letter? How about Jeff Wilpon? What would their reply be? What would they say to some 12-year old kid without a team to root for?

What would be their magic words to make him a Met fans for life?

 

Feb 17

Jeff Wilpon Defends Mets’ Financial Plan

Jeff Wilpon, New York Mets chief operating officer, addressed several financial issues with MLB.com as the club opened spring training.

The Mets’ projected payroll for this season is to be shy of $95 million, but Wilpon said it isn’t necessary to have a Yankees-like payroll to compete.

WILPON: Defending plan.

WILPON: Defending plan.

“I would point to the fact that you don’t have to have that kind of payroll to win,’’ Wilpon said of the $140-million plus payrolls the Mets had prior to bringing in Sandy Alderson as general manager.

Alderson’s first objective was to clear the books of the unproductive salaries of Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez, Jason Bay and Johan Santana, all brought in under former general manager Omar Minaya. Alderson also traded Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler.

The Mets’ payrolls the past five seasons, all of which they finished below .500 were: $149.4 million (2009); $126.5 million (2010); $143 million (2011); $96 million (2012); and $94 million (2013). The Mets currently have $75 million earmarked for 12 players this season. Barring a surprise signing, they won’t break $100 million. That’s a reflection of Alderson.

“I think he’s put the plan in place, and we’re ready to see the fruits of that labor now,’’ Wilpon said.

The Mets were more active this winter than the past two, and at best are expected to challenge to be a .500 team. Even had they signed shortstop Stephen Drew as most Mets fans want the organization to do, it’s questionable how much better he’d make them.

Another free-agent the Mets passed on was outfielder Nelson Cruz. Alderson wasn’t interested in either, despite a need in those areas.

“If those one or two things were there, we would have expanded the budget for them,’’ Wilpon said. “Just to get a guy because the fans think that’s the right thing to do, that’s not part of the plan.

“Sandy’s not going to overspend for something he doesn’t see value in. The value that we see in those guys versus what their agents were asking for does not meet.’’

The Mets aren’t the only ones thinking that way as both Drew and Cruz remain unsigned.

The Mets are stockpiling young pitching, but have little position-player chips. Wilpon believes that’s their biggest weakness.

“I don’t think we have enough position-player prospects that are ready to compete for jobs at the major-league level right now,’’ Wilpon said. “We’d like to have more, like we have with the pitchers. We’d like to have that same stable of young guys competing for position-player jobs. The guys we have are a couple years away.’’

While Wilpon said it isn’t necessary to have a monster payroll to win, the Mets haven’t won with their $90 million payrolls the past two seasons, either.

The Mets did spend more this year, bringing in Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young, but counter those additions with the loss of Matt Harvey and several questions in other areas and what defines a successful season remains unknown.

One thing for certain, it isn’t anything less than a winning record.

ON DECK:  Matt Harvey faces frustrating summer.