In the next few weeks Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons will be making a crucial decision and the individual they choose to take the reigns of the 2011 Mets faces an uphill battle. From overpaid/under-performing stars to players coming off injuries to a closer with a police record to a front office in disarray to an incompetent medical staff, the Mets resemble a Seinfeld episode more then a major league team.
As Sandy, Fred and Jeff make their choice I ask them to keep one thing in mind: This is OUR team. Not yours. Yes, Fred, you sign the checks. And yes, Sandy, you put the team together. But this team belongs to us. The fans. We can choose to support this team or not. We can choose to go to the park or watch it on TV. It’s our decision if we want to buy a pair of jeans or a David Wright T-shirt.
Owners come and go. GM’s come and go. Fans are forever.
For this reason I feel that Wally Backman needs to be the one handing in the lineup card on Opening Day next April 1.
Names that we’ve heard tossed around include Clint Hurdle, Ken Oberkfell, Don Wakamatsu, Terry Collins, Bob Melvin…and Wally. That in and of itself says a lot. When you say Wally, there is no last name needed.
We feel a bond with successful previous managers, a connection that only requires a first name: Davey, Gil, Bobby V. If you say ‘Art’ or ‘Jeff’ no one immediately thinks of Howe or Torborg.
In his initial press conference incoming GM Sandy Alderson stated he likes a manager with a “fiery” personality. (Wally?) He stated that a manager can make the game fun and entertaining for the fans. On the flip side, however, those who know Alderson state that he tends to be very analytical and cant see him selecting someone “fiery” or “unpredictable” like Wally.
Wally does bring lots of baggage with him. To this I say ‘So What?’ A team with a high payroll will always be hated. A big market club will be hated more. A team from NY will be despised. Win 100 or lose 100, either way people are going to hate the Mets. It’s time we focus more on winning and less on image. Championships are won by those who play the best, those who want it, those who ‘believe.’ Baseball is not American Idol. The World Series doesn’t get awarded to the team that receives the most text messages.
Do the Wilpons and Alderson have the courage to do what’s right by the fans? In spite of Wally leading the A-ball Cyclones to a 51-24 record, best in the league and winning the division by 12 games, he has no major league experience. Telling a 19 year old timid kid what to do is one thing. Telling a millionaire veteran like Santana how to pitch to Chase Utley with 2 men in scoring position is entirely different. Will the Wilpons put their $140 million dollar investment into the hands of a novice?
Wally is one of a very select few. He is not just an ex-Met, but he is an 86 ex-Met. That title holds a special place in our hearts. It allows him to have some breathing room, some leeway. On May 15, 2011 if the Mets are struggling at 18-25, people will claim Wally needs some time to adjust. On May 15, 2011 if the Mets are struggling at 18-25 and Terry Collins is the skipper, the negative blogs and second guessing will be in overdrive.
Will the Mets be World Champions in 2011? No. Will we make the post-season? Probably not. Would Wally be chosen as manager of the year or be the second coming of John McGraw? Very unlikely.
The 2006 season was like a great movie. It just had a bad ending. That heartbreak was followed by 4 years of frustration and disgust that completely tested our loyalty to this team like never before. But we have continued to support our Mets. In the darkest of times, we hearken back to Tug’s rally cry, ‘Ya Gotta Believe.’
Wally Backman deserves a shot. And we, the fans, deserve Wally Backman.