Backman Returns As Las Vegas Manager In 2014, Viola Named Pitching Coach

Frank ViolaIn a press release from the New York Mets earlier today:

LAS VEGAS: The Las Vegas 51s professional baseball team of the Pacific Coast League (PCL), Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets, announced today, in conjunction with the Mets Media Relations Department, that Wally Backman will return as manager for the Mets Triple-A affiliate for the 2014 season. Backman will also begin his second season as manager of Las Vegas and is the 22nd manager in the history of the Las Vegas franchise (1983 – 2013, 31 seasons).

The 51s coaching staff was also announced as Frank Viola will begin his first season as pitching coach and George Greer will return for his third season (second season with the 51s) as hitting coach. Joe Golia will also return for his fourth season as Athletic Trainer for the Triple-A Mets (second season with the 51s) and Dustin Clarke will return for his fourth season as Strength Coach in the Mets organization and his first season with Triple-A Las Vegas.

Backman, 54, in his inaugural season at Triple-A Las Vegas, led the 51s to the second-best record in the 16-team PCL with an 81-63 (.562) mark and were the 2013 Pacific Southern Division Champions. The Las Vegas franchise recorded 80 or more wins in a season for the fourth time in its history and he also led the 51s to the PCL Playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons (since 2002). Las Vegas lost to Salt Lake three-games-to-one in the Conference Championship Series.

In 2012, he guided Buffalo of the International League to a 67-76 (.469) record in his first season on the Triple-A level. In 2014, he will enter his third season as manager on the Triple-A level and his fifth season with the Mets organization since his playing days.

“I’m excited to return to Las Vegas for my second season,” 51s Manager Wally Backman said. “I’m also excited about the fact that we will have a solid team to start the season and our pitching has the potential to be better than last season (2013). Our players did a good job getting a grip on it quickly in regards to adjusting to the PCL and knowing what the main goal is while playing in Las Vegas.”

He has compiled a 11-year minor league managerial record of 682-627 (.521) in the Chicago White Sox, Arizona and New York Mets organizations from 2001-04 & 2010-13 and three seasons in the Independent League (2007-09). In 2011, he led Double-A Binghamton of the Eastern League to a 65-76 (.461) mark and, in 2010, managed Single-A Brooklyn of the New York-Penn League to a 51-24 record (.680) and the Cyclones captured the McNamara Division title.

Backman managed the Joliet JackHammers of the Independent Northern League for two seasons (2008 & 2009). He returned to baseball in 2007 as skipper of the South Georgia Peanuts of the Independent South Coast League and led the team to the league title and was featured on a TV documentary called “Playing for Peanuts.” He was named the Arizona Diamondbacks manager on November 1, 2004 but was relieved of his duties on November 5, 2004. He led the Lancaster Jethawks (Single-A) of the California League to a 86-54 record during the 2004 campaign and was named Minor League Manager of the Year by The Sporting News. He began his managerial career in 2001 with the Chicago White Sox organization at the helm of Single-A Winston-Salem of the Carolina League. He spent two seasons with Double-A Birmingham (2002-03) of the Southern League and led the team to the 2002 League Championship.

He began his professional career in 1977 when selected by the New York Mets in the first round (16th overall pick) of the Major League Baseball Draft. He played 14 seasons in the Major Leagues as an infielder (2B, SS, 3B) with the New York Mets (1980-88), Minnesota (1989), Pittsburgh (1990), Philadelphia (1991-92) and Seattle (1993). Backman appeared in 1,102 games and batted .275 (893-for-3,245) with 138 doubles, 19 triples, 10 home runs, 240 RBI and 117 stolen bases in 169 attempts. He was a member of the 1986 Mets World Series championship team and hit a career-high .320 (124-for-387) during the season. He recorded back-to-back seasons of 30 stolen bases or more in 1984 & 1985 (32 stolen bases in 41 attempts & 30 SB’s in 42 attempts). In 1990, as a member of Pittsburgh, he collected six hits in a game on April 27 vs. San Diego.

This is great news to have our young and exciting pitching prospects, especially Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, under the watchful eye of Viola. Viola makes the jump from Savannah, where he spent the season as the Sand Gnats’ pitching coach.

I will also be interested to see if Viola working with Jack Leathersich can help him take the next step in his development and be ready for a role in the Mets’ bullpen in 2014.

  • Justin Anthony

    Welcome back Wally!

  • Hitmanᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ✔

    I hope Viola is the Mets next pitching coach. Been wanting him to be the pitching coach the last 2 years.

  • Wrightstuf

    I’ve seen Viola in a few videos talk about some young pitchers like deGrom and Fuller and such. The guy seems very knowledgeable, and seems to know how to handle a pitching staff well. He is well deserved of a promotion!

  • BadBadLeroyBrown

    Id take anybody over Warthen at this point….Every pitcher we have ends up on the RACK under this guy….

    YOURE NEXT WHEELER!!!

  • Metropolitan

    Too bad we are stuck with those morons Collins and Warthen ….for now

  • BadBadLeroyBrown

    THIS!!!!

    “Too bad we are stuck with those morons Collins and Warthen ….for now”

  • Andrew Herbst

    I’m hoping that Viola eventually takes over as pitching coach.

  • BronxMets

    yeh cause warthen has done such a terrible job with Gee, Niese, Harvey, Wheeler, Hefner.

  • Lotus1209

    Dude… I understand the hate for Collins and co… But Harvey himself credited Warthen for the development on his slider.. and Dickey had a couple of colorful comments on his behalf as well.

    Maybe in the future it’d be better off for Viola to step in eventually… but as of now? Stuck with them isnt the terminology id use cause our pitching is pretty… well… good.

  • Joanie Yan

    Warthen is the only coach I don’t have a problem with. I’m glad Wally is still with the organization in case Collins tanks again. And we desperately need a new hitting coach.

  • Harvey33

    Ass**

  • Hitmanᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ✔

    Yeah, because a ton of pitchers (including Niese, Harvey, and Hef) arms/shoulders haven’t fallen off under Warthen, or do we need to go down the list?

  • Taskmaster4450

    I agree Metro. Spot on.

    Collins is a total moron and Warthen seems to destroy every pitcher who comes through his domain. Plus, the Mets had a BP that was in the basement for 5 years running. How does everyone overlook Warthen’s part in that? Are they part of the pitching staff or does Warthen only work (destroy) starting pitchers?

  • WillisReid

    Good news I guess.

    Mixed on Backman being back with the organization though. He’s great in the capacity he’s in, but I’m growing tired of the Backman for Mets manager narrative. Would have been nice to see him get his opportunity elsewhere and no longer having to hear the Wally calls when the team struggles.

    DISCLAIMER: This is in no way, shape, or form an endorsement of Collins.

  • EzRider

    I won’t mind Viola but i really don’t get the Warthen hate. He has actually done a good job with the pitching staff.
    TC is a different story and frankly should have been gone after the end of last season. The first step towards this team actually going forward should have been some coaching changes.

    Collins/Hudgens/Geren GONE
    Teufel- Manager
    Backman- 3B
    Hitting Coach- ? I would have loved Magadan.

    This organization needs to have more consistency from year to year at all levels. I also feel that we need coaches that work one on one with players to maximize their strengths as opposed to trying to shoe horn players into a “hitting philosophy and approach”. Taking pitches and getting on base is all well and good until you’ve stressed that so much that you actually take away the aggressiveness of certain hitters. Look fastball and adjust to the offspeed. Get your pitch and do damage.

  • Taskmaster4450

    If Mejia gets beaten out for the 5th spot, the best pitching staff in baseball might be in Vegas with Montero, Mejia, and Syndergaard.

  • Taskmaster4450

    Wally wanted to be on a big league bench somewhere. The fact that he is back in Vegas ought to tell all the “wally lovers” exactly what other GMs think of him. Alderson isnt the only one who doesnt believe he can handle a major league position.

  • Lotus1209

    Definitely is. Without Question.

    Mejia beaten out for the 5th spot though is something I dont think will happen. He will be given every chance to win it.

  • CJM

    100% agree.

  • CJM

    I don’t even see how there is a competition for the 5th spot if Mejia’s healthy. What he did over his short stint in the majors last season earned him that spot, imo, provided he’s healthy.

  • WillisReid

    I think he has the clear edge going into ST. Hopefully he can stay healthy at least up to the Super 2 cutoff. Hope he can put it all together and stay healthy, but if not it just opens a door for someone else. This is a nice problem to have for a change.

  • Lotus1209

    Exactly. The upside he brings coupled with his minimum salary (a wilpon necessity) almost makes him a 100% guarantee that he will be the fifth starter coming out of the gate.

    A rotation of Colon, Wheeler, Niese, Gee and Mejia is a solid one to start the year. If/When Colon/Niese/Mejia get injured… we have Syndergaard and Montero to step in. I really love this pitching depth.

  • WillisReid

    Totally ruined Dickey in the time he was here.

  • I actually expect the 51s to be the best team (pound for pound) in the organization in 2014. Adding Viola and keeping Backman, now might also gift them the best staff in the organization…especially if they can find a spot for Pedro Lopez…then again, Lopez is doing just fine in Binghamton.

  • Macacawitz

    If Steinbrenner owned the Mets, Wally would be manager. Steinbrenner had a plaque on his desk that said, “Give me a B*stard that Produces”. He would have sat Wally down, told him to stay on the straight and narrow and told him to go out there and give them hell. George early in his life was a madman who settled down and did a lot of good things for very flawed people in the last 15 years of his life. Taking on Doc and Daryl being two of them. He would have seen Wally as a Billy Martin project worthy of chance when no one else would have had the nads to do it. Probably would have worked out. We’ll never know.

  • louisrstennes@yahoo.com

    The only question is when will the Wally and Ike Davis reunion take place? I guess about May 15th.

  • WillisReid

    Niese’s arm had to do with the fact there was friggin snow on the ground in Colorado. So now the weather is Warthen’s fault too? You guys are absolutely ridiculous.

    Pitcher’s everywhere are dealing with Tommy John surgery. Probably has nothing to do with the thousands of pitches they have thrown before they even make in to Queens.

  • Don’t forget about deGrom either.

  • Lotus1209

    That’s true. But he doesnt have the upside any of them bring.

    deGrom’s upside for the Mets is the same as Mazzoni’s… a relief pitcher most likely with the occasional spot start due to injury. He’d be a fifth starter on a lot of teams and a good one but due to the depth we have it’s not likely.

  • Agee’s Catch

    Love the tandem working together and developing our players. Viola has been great. Wally is Wally. I’m beginning to think he’ll get the nod after Collins. What I like about Wally is his well refined BS meter. Given a chance, he could be the next Jim Leyland.

  • I don’t think we truly know his upside due to his relative newness to pitching. I’m not worried about it though. These things always work themselves out. But you’re right, it’s great to have so many options going forward.

  • Hitmanᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ✔

    The snow was the reason? LOL man, that’s just weak. So I guess Maine’s troubles was due to the snow too, right? It’s just coincidence that a ton of guys have had these troubles more than any of our previous pitching coaches. Whatever you say.

  • WillisReid

    There are a handful of openings every year. The fact he hasn’t gotten a single one of them or in most cases even an interview should tell you all you need to know about the viability of Backman as a big league manager.

    Now go take your Yankee underoos off.

  • CJM

    I remember all the talk over the summer: “The Mets are gonna lose Wally to the Nats. Yadda, yadda, yadda.” Did it happen? Nope, not even close.

  • WillisReid

    Said it himself. You know how easy it is to pull something in 32 degree weather, or do you not watch any football?

    The Nationals probably fired St.Claire because Zimmerman and Strasburgh both had the same issues.

  • CJM

    My hope is that when it comes time to replace Collins, Pedro Lopez is the guy they go with.

  • Hitmanᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ✔

    They need to bring Natera up as hitting coach too. I was impressed with what he did last season with Puello & Vaughn.

  • Metropolitan

    Nah Alderson will go with Bob Geren LOL

  • Taskmaster4450

    “It doesn’t mean Sandy and the other GMs in the league are right.”

    LOL So you are saying that all the GMs in baseball are wrong about Backman.

    When one person views it one way, it is an option; when all view it that way, that is called consensus.

  • Hitmanᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ✔

    If he was having trouble healing between starts after having back to back starts in the cold like he said he was, he could’ve spoken up to Collins about it, especially considering that he’s an important part of the rotation and the only LH starter the team has.

  • Taskmaster4450

    Yeah right. You are telling Warthen had any input into Dickey’s success? Everyone knows Dickey was getting his insight from the other knuckleball pitchers.

  • WillisReid

    You could make the same point about Harvey’s elbow. How is that on Warthen?

  • Taskmaster4450

    You are serious.

    Perhaps you should consider the fact that Wally was interviewed for the Mets position 3 years ago and since that time has not had one single interview. Forget off….not even an interview. In the past 3 years, how many teams needed managers? More than half I would guess off the top of my head. Hell Boston went through 2 in that time period.

    Couple that with the fact that probably the same number of teams had opening on their bench. Did Wally get an offer for one of them? Nope. Nobody wants him as a bench coach.

    How about AAA? That is usually where a team can bring a guy in to groom him to replace the existing manager ala the Phils with Sandburg. Did Wally get any AAA offers from other teams to manage? Again, we see a no.

    I think between openings at AAA, the major league level, and on the bench, that about covers all the teams in baseball.

    So yes I think it is pretty obvious nobody is beating the door down to have Wally as their major league manager. And that appears to be the consensus around baseball.

  • THIS!!

    I think Lopez is the best coaching prospect in the system.

  • Sylow59

    Nobody will say that publicly. Not one team called him for any position: MLB manager, bench coach, or coach. ‘Nuff said.

  • CJM

    I have to admit I didn’t even know who Lopez was before last season. Someone clued me into him and the more I’ve learned about him, the more I’ve seen him in interviews, the more I want him to manage the Mets one day.

  • yep – Wally would make a great bench coach or 1B/3B though. Don’t actually have him in charge but get that fire in there

  • I go to a lot of Gnats games and have been very impressed with Viola. You would think he is the manager.

  • EzRider

    Yeah because we all know that Warthen had a top flight BP to work with. Not one real strikeout pitcher and not a single pitcher who threw the ball over the plate. High walks and contact rate is the bane of all BP. Also note that it is not the pitching coaches job actually bring in relievers or over work the pitching staff. That solely rests with TC along with his not wanting to abuse the kids but clearly has let players continue to play after injured like WILMER FLORES AFTER AN ANKLE INJURY.

  • EzRider

    I’ll have to look into him. Not to familiar with the man.

  • mitchpetanick

    I didn’t know you were from down south

  • Yup, live near Charlotte NC.

  • The last few years, the big league team has forced me to be super INTO our minor league system. First really noticed Pedro at St. Lucie during the 2011 season, but, he’s been steadily climbing the ladder and winning since Kingsport in 2008. Vegas is the only level he’s yet to manage in the system.

    I appreciate all the Wally love, but the guy who knows the system best and has had just as much if not more success has been Lopez.

  • http://www.examiner.com/article/pedro-lopez-set-to-lead-2012-binghamton-mets

    That was an article before his recent run of success at Binghamton.

  • Guest

    Super nice guy, too!!

  • vigouge

    Don’t forget Warthen’s magical abilities to cause clotting problems retroactive a half decade.

  • CJM

    From what I’ve seen/read/heard, it also seems like Lopez is more of a new age manager. He likes to use advanced stats to inform his decisions and isn’t so much into small ball. I haven’t watched him manage, so I don’t know how accurate that all is, but that’s the kind of manager I like. Someone like Joe Maddon. Not to mention it might be a nice change of pace to bring in a fairly young guy to manage.

  • Captain Clutch

    Off topic but Congrats to Jeff Francouer who got a deal with the Indians. He has had lasik surgery. Maybe he can see again!!! Yesterday was his birthday as well. Good luck, Frenchy!

  • Hotstreak

    Joanie keep independent from the crowd here. Who would rather have players quit on team than run thru brick walls?

    Wally is TC’s replacement. If not; as soon as bypassed he will get a managerial gig with a team like Houston, Miami, Oakland, or even the Angels. If Braves tank then them too.

  • EzRider

    Thanks. I’ll give it a read when i get some time.

  • Hotstreak

    The question really is in Vegas or New York?

  • DrDooby

    Yes, Viola has done a tremendous job with several young arms who took significant steps forward under his watch. Also, it seems that almost none of his pitching pupils had any significant injury issues either.

    It’s great to see him get rewarded and if he wants to, I suppose there’s a good chance that he may be the next Mets pitching coach (or roving instructor Ron Romanick who also has received good reviews).

    The 51s staff projects to feature Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Jake DeGrom, Cory Mazzoni, Jack Leathersich, Jeff Walters, quite possibly Jeurys Familia and other promising young arms that could play big roles for the Mets going forward.

  • BadBadLeroyBrown

    HELL YEAH!!!

    To THIS….Natera has done a magnificent job almost every hitter improves under him and they all rave about the guy

  • METS62FAN

    TRS86, THAT’S A MIGHTY LONG DRIVE FROM CHARLOTTE,NC TO SAVANNAH, GA; I’M PRESENTLY LIVING IN MATTHEWS,NC & SPENT A FEW YEARS PRIOR IN COLUMBUS & MACON, GA.

  • Hotstreak

    He seen enough of CitiField.

    The Mets did him a favor trading him to a contender and get bad mouthed. What if he was hispanic? Nobody would give a damn. I Actually I really liked him until I heard sour grapes.

  • Alex68 (Ch)

    Good news… i believe sandy has done a great job keeping all coaches intact. TC needed a good team around him and sandy has provided that this year and going forward. we are in great hands with them..
    #LetsGoMets

  • Vin

    I agree, I think DeGrom has more upside then the talent we’ve seen thus far as he’s new to pitching, came back from injury, and rose through the levels very quickly last year.

    Viola likes him a lot, so I’m interested in seeing if Frankie can help him to 5 or 4 starter status or, in fact, if he is best suited to the BP.

  • I go see their road games. Hickory, Greensboro, Kannapolis, Asheville, Greenville, Charleston, this area has a ton of incredible minor league stadiums.

    If you haven’t been to the Greenville little Fenway, it’s worth the trip.

  • Alwayzamazin

    Alex there has been a banning.

  • Alex68 (Ch)

    Ohhh has there now? well, why should i care?

  • Alwayzamazin

    It was bay

  • Alex68 (Ch)

    Not surprise at all… guys who speak their mind and are realist are not really quite fond of here. it’s either be positive and love sandy or get out….

  • Come on Alex, give Joe more credit than that. He puts up with more than any other place and you have called this place home for a long time, and while maybe sent to the tank for a while are always given chances to come back and express your opinion.

  • Alex68 (Ch)

    I have been expressing my opinions. noticed any change in them? think about as to why. How can in reality anyone be positive about this team? CG will be byrd, CY will be Cowgill and pretty much every PO’ss brought in by sandy to play OF in 13, D’arnaud won’t give you what BUCK gave us, yet, somehow we’re supposed to be “positive” about the team or else? come on….

  • Did I say your concerns weren’t valid? I am saying you are able to express your opinions on here and have been for years and you still remain while some others do not. This it isn’t the fact Joe doesn’t like negative comments. So what could the other conclusion be?

  • 2aSupport

    All this Wally love is tiresome. I remember back on Metsblog a couple years ago the sodomites in the comments section were bleating how the Great Ken Oberkfell was going to be a great Mets Manager…

  • 2aSupport

    And in other words, AAA manager for the Mets is the LAST place Wally wants to be.

  • JDTerrific

    I’m happy for Frank Viola. He seems to have a way with the young prospects coming up through the system. Having him in Vegas with several prospects on the verge of making their major league debuts in Syndergaard, Montero and others, he’s the perfect coach to have there to guide them through.

  • Alex68 (Ch)

    There are some things behind the scene you don’t know about. again, my difference is i hardly curse people out or attack them on a consistent basis as maybe others do and have done, but trust me, it’s not easy being a mets fan and being forced to be positive for the sake of the site etc…
    Bayonne has more knowledge of the game of baseball than a lot of people in here and is a shame he’s not here while others who bring nothing to the discussion roam here free. i won’t get into how the site is run, i love joe and i feel for him, but some things are just not right.

  • Andrew Herbst

    Yep. Agreed. I like what he has done to help mentor and develop all of our young arms. It’d be nice to see him rewarded with a big league job.

  • Hotstreak

    Davey told him he is better off managing in AAA than being his bench coach.’Nuff said.

  • Taskmaster4450

    The other aspect that Viola brings to the table is that he was a front end of the rotation, major league pitcher. While talking mechanics and approach is important, Viola can also speak first hand about the pressures and other things that come with being a big league pitcher, especially in NYC. Work ethic, focus, dealing with the media, and the temptations that exist all must be handled and come with being a professional. It never hurts having someone who went through that relate his experiences with it.

  • Captain Clutch

    Hi Hotstreak,
    was the sour grapes that Jeff said citi field was a damn joke? or was there more to it than that? because if I remember correctly they brought the walls in after that and also even David Wright called it “frustrating”. Did Jeff actually say something that wasn’t true?

  • Hotstreak

    Hi Captain Crunch,

    No one is perfect as my post was not a good one. I withdraw it. Have a great weekend and stay positive. As long as Frenchy does not play the Mets I wish him the best.