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.

Aug 02

Mets Languish Behind Small Market Royals And Pirates

It wasn’t that long ago when New York Mets’ fans and media criticized the team’s lack of aggressiveness in the free-agent market with the smug comment: “This is New York, we’re not the Kansas City Royals or Pittsburgh Pirates.’’

The Pirates are in first place in the NL Central and might be the season’s best story, while the Royals take a nine-game hitting streak into this oddly-time interleague series – Kansas City’s first trip to Queens since 2002. If the Mets and Royals were in the same division, they would be 6.5 games better than the Mets. Meanwhile, the Pirates would have a 10.5-game lead on the Mets.

The Royals are doing it with great defense, timely hitting sprinkled in amongst a few stars.

Also interesting is left fielder Alex Gordon, who switched from third base and has won a couple of Gold Gloves. My first through was if Gordon can switch position and become solid player, if not a star, then what about Wilmer Flores?

Flores’ roots are at shortstop, a position requiring athletic ability. I don’t know where he fits in, but he hits too much to languish in the minor leagues. Omar Quintanilla has cooled and the organization is far from enamored with Ruben Tejada, so, what’s the harm in trying?

When a player switches positions, it is always easier to move from infield to outfield, than the other way around.

OFFENSE STAGNANT: The Mets limp home from their 3-5 trip no doubt aggravated it could have been 7-1 with some timely hitting – or any hitting at all, for that matter.

The Mets scored 11 against the Nationals in the first game of the trip, but only 15 over the next seven games. Four times they scored only one run or were shutout.

“We don’t drive runs in. There’s no secret,’’ Terry Collins said as the Mets packed up to return home. “If I knew what it was, we’d fix it. Guys don’t drive them in. We’re not driving them in. That’s pretty much the basic line.’’

Collins then went on to say something totally confusing, saying: “There’s nothing wrong with the approach. We’re just not taking good swings on the pitches we can hit.’’

Here’s a bulletin for Collins: They are missing those pitches because the approach is off, whether it be mechanical or mental. Something is not clicking.

It isn’t for Ike Davis, who only had five hits on the trip and stranded six runners Thursday. He’s hitting better than he was prior to going down to Las Vegas, but largely remains unproductive.

WRIGHT HAS TIGHT HAMMY: David Wright has been playing with tightness in his right hamstring. Collins said Wright understands himself better than anybody, but Collins needs to understand him, too.

Wright would try to play if he had an arrow shot through his thigh. This is a man who played nearly a month with a fracture in his lower back.

Wright said he can play, invoking the standard player cliché, that if this were the playoffs it wouldn’t be an issue. But, these aren’t the playoffs.

To risk losing Wright for several weeks or longer if he blows out his hamstring is just plan stupid. Sit him for a couple of games to be sure.

SIX-MAN ROTATION IN JEOPARDY: You knew the Mets weren’t going to go long with a six-man rotation cycle.

Jonathan Niese threw four shutout innings Thursday and said he needs on more start. When he’s ready they certainly won’t go to seven.

Carlos Torres is likely to move to the bullpen.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 30

Mets Standing Pat As Deadline Nears And That’s Not Bad

Unless the New York Mets are completely blown away, they will hold on to Marlon Byrd and Bobby Parnell, and this is a positive development.

The Mets have been talking about changing their culture since bringing in GM Sandy Alderson and trading either or both would be counterproductive.

BYRD: Has made positive impact with Mets and fans.

BYRD: Has made positive impact with Mets and fans.

After several seasons of struggles, Parnell finally appears to found his niche as a closer. Trading a player who has worked hard to reach a positive level sends a poor signal throughout the organization. There should be some reward for success after hard work, and trading Parnell is not that reward.

Plus, and this is most important, if the Mets are to reach contender status next season as is their timetable – because they’ll have almost $50 million off the books – they will need a closer. Trading somebody who is effective and on a reasonable contract is taking a step back.

As for Byrd, he paid the price for his suspension and has been productive, picking up part of the power slack created by poor seasons from Ike Davis and Lucas Duda.

Byrd plays hard, hustles, and by all accounts is a positive presence in the clubhouse. He’ll probably want two years, but the Mets should counter with one and an option.

If the Mets are to make a run at .500, which is possible, they’ll need Byrd. I don’t believe the Mets will extend Byrd now, but doing so would send a powerful message.

Considering Byrd is 35 and has some baggage, they probably won’t receive much for him. His value could be greater as an example to some of the younger players.

I don’t know if he tried to work with Jordany Valdespin, but then again who knows if anybody can reach him? Valdespin, who was named Player of the Week for Triple-A Las Vegas, was also recently ejected from a game, a sign his control issues are still there.

Another thing about Byrd is the Mets have to know what direction they are heading as far as next year. They already have in mind a contract offer, including the number of years.

The Mets are trying to win with what they have now and probably won’t do anything.

Outside of Byrd and Parnell, there are other Mets who could be attractive to a contender, notably John Buck – whose time is being reduced and with the probably promotion of Travis d’Arnaud. Buck, however, has a connection with Matt Harvey, so that appears a long shot.

Detroit needs a shortstop, and if Omar Quintanilla isn’t in their plans, why not move him and bring up Wilmer Flores when he’s physically ready? Eventually, the Mets will need to see what Flores can do. I wouldn’t even be adverse to trading Ruben Tejada.

Relievers LaTroy Hawkins could also help a contender, as could Jeremy Hefner or Carlos Torres if the Mets are convinced of Jon Niese’s return.

Finally, there is Ike Davis, who is playing considerably better since returning from Las Vegas. If the Mets already made up their mind in the negative as far as bringing back Davis, they why are they holding on to him?

There must be a team out there needing a power left-handed bat and believes a change of scenery would help Davis.

 

Jul 24

Ike Davis Showing Signs

Ike Davis is nowhere close to where he wants to be as a player, and the New York Mets are taking the second half to see if he fits into their plans. Unless Davis goes on a complete tear the next two months, the odds are very good the Mets will not tender a contract and let him go as a free agent.

Understandably, their fear is he’ll walk and become a start someplace else. Nobody will blow them away with a trade offer, so he’s staying out the season.

DAVIS: Looking to smile again. (AP)

DAVIS: Looking to smile again. (AP)

Davis is currently in a platoon with Josh Satin, which he’s understandably not happy about, but he’s not moaning or complaining. He is supportive of Satin. Davis is being the good soldier, albeit publicly, about a disappointing time in his career.

Davis doubled in the tie-breaking run in the sixth inning Tuesday night, but I liked his failed bunt attempt more. It shows his head is in the game; it shows he’s trying to improvise. It shows he’s not going through the motions.

“I mean, I get out a lot anyway, so might as well give it a try,’’ Davis said. “If I get it down in the right spot, it’s a hit. I’m definitely gonna try to do that more often.’’

Davis is supposed to be a power hitter, but with only five homers on the year, he needs to just try to get on base. It doesn’t matter if it is a walk, or broken-bat bloop or a bunt.

Bunting against the shift is difficult because pitchers often pitch inside to induce the hitter to pull into the shift. Davis bunted back to the mound, but the important thing was he wasn’t thinking about driving the ball, but about getting on base.

It was a team first play by Davis, when he could have been tempted to swing for the fences. Later, Davis stayed back on a curveball for a double off the wall in right.

“It definitely feels great to get [a hit], off a curveball, and to get the winning run across the plate,’’ Davis said. “And to drive the ball — I hadn’t driven the ball in a while.’’

Davis is a young player with a lot of room to grow. He’s had good moments, such as hitting 32 homers last year. When he first came up he showed a propensity of going the other way with a pitch and showing patience enough to wait out a pitcher.

He’s hitting .178 overall, but .257 since returning from Las Vegas.  That’s certainly not great, but a sign of progress. We’re not going to see 32 homers from Davis, and probably not even 20. But, after how this season started, progress is a good thing.

ON DECK: Mets notebook

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Jul 05

Ike Davis Promotion Imminent; Mets Have Decisions To Make

Reports are the New York Mets are about to recall first baseman Ike Davis from the minor leagues in time for Friday’s game in Milwaukee.

Davis was demoted June 10, and although his Triple-A Las Vegas numbers are good, the timing is interesting. When Zack Wheeler as in Vegas, the Mets harped on disregarding statistics because the atmosphere was conducive to hitting.

DAVIS: Hope he's gotten things ironed out.

DAVIS: Hope he’s gotten things ironed out.

Using that logic, Davis’ .293 average with seven homers, 13 RBI and .424 on-base percentage must also be looked at skeptically. Davis’ mechanics and approach were a mess when he was with the Mets, evidenced by his .161 average with 66 strikeouts in 186 at-bats.

Although Davis’ minor league average is good, he does have 18 strikeouts in 75 at-bats, which is still a high strikeout ratio. Using those numbers, the Mets must wonder if his approach is what it should be.

Las Vegas manager Wally Backman said Davis’ hitch isn’t as pronounced as it once was and he’s taking more balls to left field. They will know for sure when they see him firsthand.

If Davis goes back to his old habits, then he didn’t accomplish anything. If he doesn’t and produces, it gives the Mets’ two options, 1) they could decide they want to extend his contract, and if not, 2) they could opt to trade him.

Should the Mets decide they don’t want to bring him back and make a deal, they have a little less than four weeks before the July 31 trade deadline.

The backdrop to all this is Davis, at 26, has shown signs of being a power hitter with 32 homers last year. The Mets are a rebuilding team wary of finances, and might think his $3.1 million salary that would go up in arbitration, is too high.

However, whatever Davis makes in arbitration – if he becomes the player the Mets envisioned – IS NOT TOO HIGH.

I’ve been writing his salary is a factor because that’s the way it has been for the Mets. However, CEO Jeff Wilpon said the Mets have resources to add a player, and that should also apply to Davis, because for all practical purposes he hasn’t been here all year.

And, wouldn’t they want to add a 30-homer bat?

The Mets have not made any overtures of wanting to extend him, but they rarely do during a season. David Wright and Jose Reyes were exceptions in 2006.

Caught in the middle of all this is Josh Satin, who is riding a ten-game hitting streak and is batting .353. He can’t play the outfield, so it is curious if Davis’ demotion was also an attempt to showcase Satin for a trade.

While this is a transition season, there’s no law saying they have to make all their key moves in the off-season. They could be on the verge of doing something significant now.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos