There is an old football saying that states, “the most popular guy in town is always the backup quarterback.” Although that phrase may not directly translate to the game of baseball, I think we can all relate it to the Mets current managerial situation. The incumbent skipper, Terry Collins, has seen his tenure dominated by poor play thanks in part to a poor roster. Lurking in the distance is current Las Vegas manager, Wally Backman, who at the very least has developed a bit of a cult following amongst Mets fans.
The weaker the Mets have looked, the stronger the cry for Backman to take over has gotten. As you would imagine, Dave Lennon’s piece in yesterday’s Newsday that Collins’ job is not only safe, but that Wally has no chance of the big league managerial spot, wasn’t well received by those residing in Backman’s corner. Whether or not that’s accurate is currently a non-factor, but I can’t help but wonder what difference, if any, Backman would have on the current state of affairs in Queens?
I think its safe to assume that there are very few Mets fans who have actually watched Backman manage a game. Therefore, I’m forced to believe that his popularity is due to both his comments to the press, and his theatrical, profanity laced ejections that you can find on YouTube with little effort. While I admit they are comical, I question whether or not they have a place in today’s game.
People have to realize that there is quite a difference between motivating young players in the minor leagues, who still have much to learn, and established big league players with established big league egos. Its foolish to assume that such tirades would simply light a fire under the current roster, and its extremely possible that he would ostracize as many players as he would motivate. Those thinking that the current roster is comprised of minor league caliber talent are correct, but on the off chance that the Mets do bring in better talent in the coming months, there is a much better chance that Backman’s criticisms could fall on deaf ears.
The other, and quite possibly more devastating effect of Backman’s antics is the impact it would have on the media. Fans needn’t look back any farther than last month, when Terry Collins made a comment about not having to answer to the fans, to see how managerial comments can be blown out of proportion. That was a rare lapse in judgement for Collins. For Wally, that’s a Tuesday. While I genuinely enjoy it when a manager gets ejected and I agree that the more animated the disagreement, the more fun it is to watch, Backman could be a few press conferences away from turning Flushing into a three ring circus.
Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps Wally Backman not only possesses the ability to set his ego aside, but also brings with him the surgical precision necessary to manage the egos of a big league baseball team. Perhaps he could better manage the bullpen, and find a lineup that works on a daily basis. Perhaps he is the right man for the job. I’m not saying he isn’t. What I am saying, is that Backman’s campaign (if you will) to be Mets manager is not one based on great managerial decisions, its one focused on a very blunt and very boisterous technique that fans find entertaining.
Whether or not Backman’s entertainment would produce more wins is an answer we may never get. Has he put in his time with the Mets organization? Yes. Is he deserving of the managerial spot if it should become available? Probably. It would even be beneficial to add a connection to the 1986 World Series winning team into the current fold. But for all the positives, the potential for disaster would always be present with Backman at the helm. For an organization still searching for positive consistency, that may not be a risk the Mets can afford to take.
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