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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Sep 21

Ten Reasons Why Mets Won’t Collapse

A week ago today the Mets held a 9.5-game lead over the Nationals and we were talking about magic numbers. There were columns, including those written here, suggesting Matt Harvey’s limitations weren’t a big concern because the Mets opened a huge gap in the NL East and the Nationals were floundering.

After Sunday night’s disaster in Flushing the Mets’ lead is six games with 13 games remaining. Three of those games are with Washington the final weekend of the season.

WRIGHT: We'll see that smile in October. Trust me. (AP)

WRIGHT: We’ll see that smile in October. Trust me. (AP)

Despite growing anxiousness, I don’t see the Mets coughing up their lead, regardless of Harvey’s innings situation, and here’s why:

1. It’s hard to believe the Mets will have another collapse like 2007, or even 2008. Three dramatic collapses in less than ten years is almost impossible to comprehend. I mean, what are the odds? History won’t repeat itself.

2. There are a core of veterans that are real leaders who won’t let it happen. David Wright, Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson are veterans with a clue. You can add Daniel Murphy and Curtis Granderson to the list.

3. The Mets folded in 2007 because of their bullpen, but despite what happened Sunday, it is significantly better this year. Jeurys Familia is a dominating closer, and if Tyler Clippard gets over his back problems, the 2015 back end is much better. Addison Reed is a plus.

4. Yoenis Cespedes is in a dreadful slump. Better to get that out of the way now. If he can turn it on again it will work wonders with the offense.

5. The starting pitching everybody raved about is going through a rough stretch, but Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are just too good to go into a group free fall.

6. Bartolo Colon seems oblivious to pressure. He’s been strong this month and I don’t see signs of him letting up.

7. With the exception of the final weekend, the schedule is working in the Mets’ favor.

8. They have a group of young, talented players in Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores and Michael Conforto who are having solid seasons. Plus, Lucas Duda is showing breakout signs.

9. The 2007 team had chemistry issues and there were a segment of players not happy with then-manager Willie Randolph. Plus, the front office wasn’t behind Randolph, evidenced by assistant general manager Tony Bernazard spying in the clubhouse. There’s a disconnect between manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson, the players generally like and respect Collins. They haven’t quit on him. There are no dogs or cancers on this team.

10. While there’s a sense of anxiousness, these Mets have played too good for so long for there to be another free-fall into winter.

None of this is to suggest the Mets don’t have issues. They do, and I’ll get to them later this week, but for now just relax as this season will be over soon enough, and in a good way.

Jun 22

Willie Randolph Deserved Better From Mets

It was nice to see the Yankees honor Willie Randolph, but it was also a reminder of how shabbily he was treated by the Mets during his short tenure as manager. Randolph’s lifetime 302-253 record is the third highest record among Mets’ managers, behind Davey Johnson and Bobby Valentine.

RANDOLPH: Back stabbed in the end. (AP)

RANDOLPH: Back stabbed in the end. (AP)

The Mets were on the verge of becoming a National League power when they last made the playoffs in 2006. Their payroll was over $140 million, and this team could hit with a healthy David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado.

Hitting was no problem, with the primary issues being the back end of the rotation and bullpen, which was exposed in 2007 when the Mets blew a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining. The Mets also coughed up the NL East on the final weekend in 2008.

The Mets’ pitching began to decline at this time because of injuries and ineffectiveness, and as the team started to lose Randolph found himself unfairly in the crosshairs in 2008. Johan Santana was injured; Mike Pelfrey failed to reach his potential; and Oliver Perez was a mess. In 2008, Randolph’s last season, the Mets used 24 pitchers.

Randolph’s tenure was also sabotaged by the front office, which made increasingly bad acquisitions, but worse spied on the manager as assistant general manager Tony Bernazard was a constant presence in the clubhouse. There were also reports Delgado, who was not a Randolph fan, ripped the manager to Jose Reyes.

So much was going on behind Randolph’s back and he was powerless. That he was fired shortly after midnight after a game in Anaheim – 3 in the morning in New York – was an inevitability.

Too bad, because the last time the Mets were formidable was under Randolph.

 

Feb 25

Gotta Love Buck Showalter

The New York Mets were roasted during their first year at Citi Field because the new stadium showed more a Brooklyn Dodgers feel than that of the Mets.

That never would have happened had Buck Showalter been running the show. Showalter, who is cut from the original old school cloth, gets it when honoring the game’s past.

Frank Robinson was in Orioles’ camp Monday and Showalter casually asked 19-year-old prospect Josh Hart if he knew about the Hall of Famer, a member of the 500-homer club and one of the three greatest players in club history along with Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken.

Incidentally, Robinson was also the first African-American manager in major league history, and as a black man, you would think that’s something Hart would want to know.

When Hart said he didn’t know, Showalter assigned the rookie to write a one-page report on Robinson. Kind of like “I will not talk in class,’’ 100 times on the blackboard.

Hart not knowing Robinson ranks just below on the ignorance scale of LeBron James – who prides himself as a basketball historian – leaving Bill Russell off his NBA Mt. Rushmore.

The Robinson-Hart reminds me of something that happened in spring training several years ago, and also involved Robinson.

Then Mets-GM Omar Minaya asked former prospect Lastings Milledge to follow him across the field to the Washington dugout to introduce him to then-Nationals manager Robinson.

Milledge could not have been less interested and showed Robinson zero respect. And, in doing so showed the same amount to Minaya.

It was a precursor of things to come for Milledge, who was chastised by manager Willie Randolph for not honoring the game’s unspoken traditions, and later by his teammates, who posted a sign on his locker saying, “Know your place, Rook. Signed, your teammates.’’

Milledge never did get it and his career fell into “what might have been,’’ status. Here’s hoping Hart gets the message.

Dec 27

Hopefully, The Final Word About Carlos Beltran

Now that I am back, it is time to catch up on several matters with the New York Mets. The most important is Carlos Beltran’s shot across the Mets’ bow after he signed with the Yankees.

Was he entitled? Yes. Did the Mets deserve some of the criticism? Yes, but not all. Beltran needs to look in the mirror, too. Wonder why he felt the need to take a shot when he had numerous opportunities over the years.

BELTRAN; Took shot at Mets.

BELTRAN: Took shot at Mets.

We heard Jeff Wilpon and Beltran mended fences at the All-Star Game, and later Beltran said he was open to a Flushing return. Evidently, that wasn’t the case.

Don’t blame Beltran for saying he would consider it because he was playing the market, and as any smart future free agent, you don’t slam doors early in the process. In the end, we know the Mets would never have given Beltran the kind of deal he received from the Yankees. Forty-five million over three years. Never would have happened.

I’ve always liked Beltran and it would have been fun to see him go out a Met, but it wasn’t to be. Honestly, if sentimentality had anything to do with it, he should have gone full circle and returned to Kansas City.

At his introductory press conference with the Yankees – we all knew that’s where he would go – Beltran filled in a lot of pieces, but to a point.

Beltran said he was still upset when the Mets singled him out for missing an appearance at the Walter Reed Medical Center, when the team was in Washington. It is an annual gesture by the Mets when in Washington, something that doesn’t take the team by surprise – including Beltran.

Why it was never known until after the visit Beltran was in Puerto Rico working with one of his charities is open to speculation. Somebody had to know Beltran would not be there, and if nothing else he should have said something earlier to avoid an issue.

We can write this off as a miscommunication, but can we really? If Beltran was jumping the trip somebody had to have known. Then general manager Omar Minaya? Jeff or Fred Wilpon? Why didn’t Beltran say, `this is who gave me permission to go?’

Seems like enough was done by both parties to create confusion.

However, Beltran is absolutely correct when he says the Mets mishandled his knee problems, from keeping him on the disabled list too long, so they could see him play meaningless games in September, to the surgery itself.

This delayed surgery, which he had on his own, and his subsequent return to the team. Blame the team for that.

But, let’s hear some names, please. Who did you wrong? Minaya or Wilpon?

“All the controversy about the Walter Reed,’’ Beltran said. “The knee — the organization trying to put me as a player that was a bad apple. I was this, I was that. I can deal with 0-for-4 and three strikeouts and talk to you guys.

“But when someone is trying to hurt you in a very personal way, trying to put things out there … then we got trouble. Now, it’s personal.

“When they say all that about myself, I was hurt. You cannot believe the organization that signed you for seven years is trying to put you down. In that aspect, I felt hurt.’’

There, he said it. I wish it had come out sooner and Beltran would have done more in the matter of finger pointing.

However, before we get all weepy for Beltran finally getting a chance to play with the Yankees, always remember he had his opportunity. After the Mets gave him his last contract offer, Beltran went back to the Yankees for a discounted proposal. Seemed he didn’t really want to go to the Mets.

So, obviously, it was more about the money with Beltran regarding the Mets. Had he taken less to go with the Yankees, he would have played in at least one World Series with them – that being the one they won in 2009.

For whatever reason, Beltran was never beloved as a Met. His quiet demeanor was a contributing factor. But, we must remember, he played with a fractured face in 2005. He played through numerous injuries, and he played hard.

That should never be taken away from him. He was beaten up during that time by the fan base, and he received little support from his teammates and management.

There’s something about Beltran’s demeanor that flies under the radar. He was not a vocal presence in the clubhouse, and because of it, Jose Reyes was influenced by Carlos Delgado, who did not respect then manager Willie Randolph.

Yes, Walter Reed was a mess, but a preventable one by both parties. Yes, the knee issue was a disaster, with most of the blame directed at the Mets. Yes, if Beltran hurt then he should have made it vocal.

I was sorry to hear Beltran’s scorched-earth feelings about the Mets. However, it was weighing on him, but it should have come out sooner.

But, Beltran had plenty of time earlier to vent. I wish he hadn’t because it solved nothing and opened old wounds. It cast a black cloud over things, including how he should be remembered as a Met – which is as a marvelous player who gave his best. It also gave us a heads-up for the Subway Series.

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