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.

Sep 30

Did Collins Deserve A New Contract?

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Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson will address the media at 12 p.m. on Monday, September 30 in the Citi Field Press Conference Room.

He is expected to announce a two-year contract extension for Terry Collins to remain the manager of the Mets. The deal is reportedly valued at $1 million per season and includes an option for  2016.

A fourth straight losing season; another fourth-place finish in the NL East and another .400 something-or-other win percentage – the Mets have not improved this year.

In fact, the majority of MLB betting fans would argue we’ve devolved since 2008, the club becoming preoccupied in the huge vanity project that is Citi Field and the problems we’ve had filling it.

Overseeing three of these four disappointing seasons is Terry Collins, who has not exactly been the revelation we expected when GM Sandy Anderson promoted him in November 2010:

“We were not looking for someone who was an extension of us,” Alderson said back in 2010. “We were looking for someone who was going to be complementary to us. I think that’s what we’re getting.”

Sadly, we haven’t got that. Instead of a complimentary manager that develops the team, Collins has seen players leave, newcomers fail and win percentages drop. The general trend of underperforming year on year has set into the Mets locker room and something must change soon to correct this.

While the Mets played out a meaningless series with Milwaukee this weekend, the top brass thrashed out a new deal for Collins – despite his 224-260 record (by Saturday). The new two-year contract is effectively a 12-month one, for if we don’t improve in 2014 Collins is out the door.

But do we trust him to progress this raw team and save his job – and do we even want him to? Another year is a long time to realize you’ve made a mistake hiring the same guy and, as respected as he is in the majors, Collins has proven he cannot get this team fighting on all fronts.

Sep 21

David Wright Delivers For Mets In Return; Matsuzaka Continues To Disappoint

The New York Mets got what they hoped for Friday night in David Wright’s return, but remain wanting with Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Backed by Wright’s first-inning homer, the Mets gave Matsuzaka a 5-0 lead, but he gave up four runs in the fourth inning. Never mind two of the runs were unearned, but a pitcher’s job is to pitch out of trouble.

Matsuzaka not only didn’t escape trouble, but with three walks and four hits in six innings, he contributed to his own demise.

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (MLB)

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (MLB)

Those are not acceptable numbers, and his performance doesn’t even define a No. 5 starter. Aaron Harang has pitched well enough to warrant a spring training invite, but Matsuzaka has not.

Yes, he pitched six innings, and yes, the Mets came away with a victory, but it was a stressful outing and they can’t afford having their bullpen drained once every fifth day.

As for Wright, who played for the first time in seven weeks, he came out of the night sore, but confident: “I want to be able to just flow and react, and I’m not quite there yet as far as the rhythm of the game and that kind of explosiveness that I feel I had before I got hurt.’’

Prior to the game, Wright said he wanted to play in eight of the Mets’ last ten games.

GEE GOES TODAY: Nobody thought it would happen in April, but Dillon Gee will lead the Mets with victories this season. He goes after his 12th victory today and will get another start Thursday against Milwaukee at Citi Field.

Gee’s season turned around with a 12-strikeout game, May 30, at Yankee Stadium.

It was as if switch was flipped.

“I started pitching with more command,’’ Gee said.

HAWKINS GOES FOR MILESTONE: LaTroy Hawkins has 99 career saves, 11 of them coming this season when he assumed the closer role when Bobby Parnell was injured.

At 40, Hawkins still throws in the mid-90s, but more to the point, he still knows how to pitch. Hawkins has been a positive influence in the bullpen and the Mets should bring him back.

They could do far worse.

FLORES TO PLAY SECOND: Wilmer Flores might get more starts at second base in the remaining nine games.

For several years, the Mets struggled to find a position for Daniel Murphy. Ironically, they appear to be trying to replace him with Flores, a player, like Murphy, who had trouble finding a position.

WINTER BALL METS: The Mets are seeking to find winter ball teams for Lucas Duda and Matt den Dekker, both of whom lost at-bats this summer because of injuries.

Duda would get time at first base, a further indication the Mets appear to be moving away from Ike Davis.

As for den Dekker, he could earn a spot next spring if he can hit.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 11

Reports Say Japanese Phenom Masahiro Tanaka Will Post For MLB After Season

masahiro tanaka

Brett Bull of the New York Times reports that 24-year old Japanese pitching phenom Masahiro Tanaka, who improved to 20-0 on the season after a 3-2 complete game victory last night, will request to be posted for Major League Baseball at the end of this season.

News media outlets in Japan are suggesting that Tanaka will request the Eagles put him up for auction via the posting system later this year. Such a move will make him the most sought-after Japanese export since Yu Darvish, one of baseball’s best pitchers, and a member of the Texas Rangers for the last two seasons.

With last night’s victory, Tanaka now has 24 consecutive wins, a streak that matches the major league mark in the United States set by the New York Giants’ Carl Hubbell in 1936-37.

Interestingly enough, his latest win came thanks to a tie-breaking homer from former Mets Kazuo Matsui. After recording the final out on a called third strike, he emphatically pumped his fist toward third base as the home crowd of 22,316 roared.

“It was a true team effort,” Tanaka said. “In the future, I’ll do my best to continue.”

The 6-foot-2 right-hander has an arsenal that includes a fastball that touches 95 mph, a sharp-breaking slider and a split-finger fastball. In his 24 starts this season, he has 1.24 ERA while striking out 155 batters over 181 innings. It’s the third straight season he’s has an ERA under 2.00, and earlier this season he had a streak of 42 scoreless innings.

What’s amazing here is that he’s only 24 and getting better. Earlier this week, Ben Badler of Baseball America tweeted the following:

If his team does post him this Fall or Winter, expect some high bids from teams like the Dodgers, D’Backs, Rangers, Mariners, Yankees and Braves. All six teams were on hand to see him win his 20th game.

“I’ve always liked his slider, but his split-finger has really come on in the last couple of seasons,” said one MLB scout. “He definitely has enough velocity to play at the major league level, and the other two pitches would compete for sure.”

I know I’m just dreaming, but I miss the days when the Mets wouldn’t be discounted from any serious pursuit of players like Tanaka or Cuban sensation Jose Abreu.

Aug 15

Upon Further Review, Instant Replay Still Has Gaps

It is a start. That’s where we can begin to analyze Major League Baseball’s new instant replay format, which now includes giving managers up to three video challenges per game, with the final decision rendered in the MLB offices in New York.

Theoretically, this would eliminate the hat-flinging, dirt-kicking, bat-and-base throwing tantrums that elevated Earl Weaver and Billy Martin to folk status. I will miss those. Go ahead, Google Earl Weaver umpire fights, especially those with Ron Luciano.

There’s some good to the new system, but several shortcomings must be mentioned:

NUMBER OF CHALLENGES

The system calls for only one challenge through the first six innings and two for the remainder of the game, regardless of how long it goes. It was said on one radio call-in show this afternoon the intent is to speed the game along, which should never be the primary reason for anything. The primary goal should always be to get it right.

Why not allow one challenge every three innings, regardless of how long the game lasts? There’s a sense of proportion that way.

Technically, to allow for full integrity to the process, replay challenges should be unlimited, because getting it right is the only true goal. However, in leaving unlimited replays on the table, all it would take is one ANGRY manager to challenge every play.

WHAT IS REVIEWABLE AND WHAT IS NOT?

As of now nothing changed, just home runs. Balls and strikes will never be under challenge, but so many types of plays should be reviewable.

Unlike football, where the action can happen anytime and anywhere on the field, that isn’t the case with baseball. So much of what happens on a baseball field does so at a fixed location, such as the foul lines, bases and home plate and the fences. Even trapped balls in the outfield would seem easier than football, because there’s rarely an obstructed view.

Why not include everything but balls and strikes? Get it right, so there will never be another travesty as the botched infield fly rule play in Atlanta during the NLDS?

Major League Baseball, if it wanted, could readily identify where most of the contested plays are, and why. MLB has stats on everything and can pinpoint what plays created the most disputes, and getting back to the innings issue, where they occurred in the game. That’s why keying the bulk of the challenges in the last three innings is a misnomer.

What the makers of this rule don’t get is things can explode any time.

THE UMPIRE ISSUE

This gets us to the umpires, whose union had to be on board for this to happen. Hopefully, this format will diffuse many of the player-umpire confrontations.

I’ve always maintained each umpire should be wired for sound they can’t control. This way we know who said the words to ignite the argument.

The accusation against many umpires is they don’t care to improve. There’s a perception they can be lazy and confrontational.

Hopefully, this format will prove the umpires are more right than wrong, but that isn’t the current perception.

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