One Nut Job For Another?
You may have heard over the weekend that Wally Backman was fired from his job as manager of the Joliet Jack Hammers of the Northern League. I love Wally, he was a great Met, but I’m not surprised he was let go.
What is surprising though, is that some Mets fans are considering and hoping that the Mets hire Backman to replace Tony Bernazard as Vice President in charge of Player Development or Jerry Manuel as manager.
Please God, no. Let me explain why this would be a total catastrophe in the making and one that could haunt us for years to come.
Unlike his other dismissals, Wally Backman was let go for a more traditional reason this time around; his team (24-42) wasn’t winning.
“The fans in Joliet deserve a winner,” said Backman. “I’m disappointed that we could not get the job done.”
Backman is no stranger to controversy, and he has had a long history of bizarre and outlandish behavior. So much so, that he would make Tony Bernazard look like Mahatma Gandhi in comparison.
Not too long ago, while manager of the South Georgia Peanuts, Backman had a complete meltdown after one of his players had been thrown out of a game for arguing balls and strikes. It was Child Care Day and at Anderson Memorial Stadium, when a half-crazed Backman stormed out of the dugout and all hell broke loose. This is how a local journalist reported it.
Backman dropped several F-bombs on Height, then kicked dirt on home plate, prompting Height to eject Backman. The former New York Mets star responded to the move by tossing equipment onto the playing field. Not only did he hurl 22 bats onto the grass, he also emptied a bucket of baseballs down the third base line. The situation was made worse by the fact that Backman’s foul language was clearly audible since there were only a handful of fans left in the stadium. Some of those fans were, in fact, children.
When the game ended, with the host Anderson Joes claiming a 6-5 victory, Backman made his way to the Joes radio booth to confront play-by-play man Mike Janela about comments Janela made referring to Backman’s “childish”outburst.
This particular outburst took place after Backman returned from a prior three game suspension for bumping an umpire. Backman would eventually unexpectedly quit as manager of the Peanuts, with half the season left to play.
Backman showed signs of being an uncontrolled hot-head going all the way back to his first managerial job with the Lancaster Jet Hawks.
In case you’re keeping score, add five bats and three chairs to Wally Backman’s growing collection of post-ejection objects tossed onto the field. The fiery Jet Hawks manager’s most recent tirade came in the sixth inning of Tuesday night’s 8-3 loss to Inland Empire, with a wildly entertained crowd of 4,522 at Arrowhead Credit Union Park cheering Backman as each item came flying out of the Jet Hawks dugout. Backman, who’s already received five ejections, has tossed a bat rack and emptied a trash can after previous differences of opinions with California League umpiring crews.
In 2004, Wally Backman was about to fulfill his dream of managing in the majors, but after just four days on the job, Backman was fired as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks following revelations that he had been arrested twice and had serious financial problems. Backman was asked during his D-Backs interview whether there was anything in his past that the Diamondbacks should know, and he answered no. Days later, Arizona officials were so shocked and dismayed at the results of their background check, that they had no choice but to let Backman go.
He was arrested in 2001 after a fight at his home involving his wife and one of her friends in Prineville, Ore. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment and was sentenced to 12 months’ probation, ordered to undergo an anger management evaluation and donate $1,000 to the local Boys and Girls Club.
Backman was also arrested, and later convicted, on a driving under the influence charge in Kennewick, Wash., in 2000. He also filed for bankruptcy that year to avoid paying 20 creditors as well as the IRS.
Now, I’m a firm believer in giving people second chances and in some cases third and fourth chances. I also believe that some people can change. However, the last thing the Mets need right now is Wally Backman.
What this team needs more than anything else right now is some calm in what has been a raging storm.
Many reporters and fans have called out Omar Minaya for hiring Tony Bernazard in the first place because his outbursts and outlandish behavior were well documented. None were surprised by Tony B’s antics, only that he managed to stay on as long as he did.
Backman fits this mold so perfectly. The red flags and warning signs are all there. He would be the worst choice to replace Bernazard. It would be cruel and unusual punishment to subject our prospects to yet another potential train wreck. We have suffered through enough embarrassing moments this past season. Lets not compound that by hiring Wally Backman.
About the Author: Joe DeCaro
I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.
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