Mets Merized Online » Wally Backman Mon, 27 Apr 2015 03:45:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Will Logjam Keep Syndergaard and Matz in Vegas When They’re Ready? Mon, 09 Mar 2015 10:30:57 +0000 noah syndergaard

The front end of the Mets rotation is young and looks sharp.  Even as a fan of the NY Mets, I take for granted how deep this pitching is, both in quality and in quantity.

Matt Harvey will lead fellow flame throwers Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler in a 1-2-3 punch that will buckle opposing lineups.

But if you’ve read any recent reviews on Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz , the two of thrm are storming the gates of an early call-up at some point this season.

Many feel both prospects already possess the ability to make hitters swing and miss, but there are salaries blocking those young arms in the event they’re ready.  The general feeling is that Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon will have to be moved first.  Herein lies the risk/reward of proven performance at high salary versus sky high ceiling with league minimum salary.

What if Niese, Colon and even possibly Gee are pitching to their ceilings?  Niese is no stiff, the man can sling a baseball and has been one of the best southpaws in the league over the last few years.  Gee has pitched through some outstanding stretches at various points in his career.  Colon is doing his thing, putting innings on his back and carrying a workload.

If the Mets can add another front end caliber pitcher at a time when one of the three backend starters is struggling though, financial reasons cannot be an impediment. The pitcher who gives the Mets the best chance to win more games should always be the choice.

steve matz

According to Wally Backman, Matz is the best pitching prospect in the organization and one team official “half-jokingly” told Mike Puma (NY Post) that the 23 year old Long Island native would be his choice for Opening Day starter.  He’s creating a ton of buzz for his maturity on the mound, keeping the ball down in the zone and flashing all the signs of a legit top rotation arm.

Syndergaard is still considered the crown jewel of the organization’s pitching surplus though and it’s due to his improvements over the offseason as well, both to his arsenal and his physical make-up.  The 6’6 Texas native is listed at 240 lbs, but it looks like he put on some more muscle this offseason.  His curveball and fastball are his two best commodities, but many believe his change-up has improved vastly.

Admittedly, I’m basing this off the fact that all five young pitchers (Harvey, deGrom, Wheeler, Matz and Syndergaard) stay healthy and continue progressing at their current rates.  It’s one of those great problems to have, and one I believe the Mets will have to contend with this season.

Between the three veteran pitchers, there’s over $23 million in salary and the Mets will look to get as high a return as possible. That may mean keeping them in the rotation (or bullpen), regardless of performance.

Will the team pull out all the stops to ensure winning is the only goal this year, or can fans expect the team to try and save face in the event of an underperforming starter?

Here’s to the best men getting the job, for the love of the game, not the almighty dollar.

Lets! Go! Mets!

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Will Murphy Get Traded At Deadline? Wed, 11 Feb 2015 13:45:43 +0000 daniel murphy

Alex asks…

Do you think the Mets will trade Daniel Murphy before the trade deadline? It’s pretty clear they are not extending him. Let’s say the Mets go into July with a slim one game lead on the second wild card (I wish!) and Daniel Murphy is having another All Star season and in the top five in hits, doubles, and runs scored, would they still trade him? Or do they keep him and he walks at the end of the season leaving us with nothing to show for him? How should they play this?

Daniel replies…

I say Murphy will be traded at the deadline in an attempt to improve the roster or add farm depth, especially if he is an All-Star.  His value has never been higher than it was at the All-Star break last year, a repeat performance would be a great second opportunity for the Mets to capitalize on a high return.

Even if Murphy is doing well, perhaps even a tick better than last year on both sides of the ball, with the Mets in the thick of it – I think the organization still treats it as a decision based on the long term instead of the short and opts to add depth on the farm or includes him as part of a trade to upgrade the current roster.

That being said, it all depends on the team’s position in the NL East and how the rest of the roster is playing at the time of the deadline.  If the pitching staff manages to keep this team in the thick of it, but Murphy is yet again one of the few reliable hitters on an anemic offense, he would likely be retained and allowed to walk after the season.

Back to my original sentiments though, I think this offense will be more potent than critics are giving it credit for and Murphy will end up being one of the casualties of emerging farm growth.

Dilson Herrera has been projected as a future All-Star and already showed a ton of promise during his surprise call-up last year.  He seems like a quick learner and under the tutelage of Wally Backman and George Greer, it’s highly likely he could be ready to compete at the major league level for a job by the All-Star break.   Even if Herrera becomes part of a trade package, SS incumbent Wilmer Flores showed serious promise at second base in a brief stint last year that only deepens the talent at the position and increases the need to move Murphy’s salary (not that I care how many dollars the Mets save).

It’s a tough decision, but it’ll be a business decision at the end of the day, that’s for sure.  Murphy, along with Bobby Parnell,  Jon Niese (also facing the trade block) and David Wright, are the last Amazins to play in Shea Stadium.  I suppose there’s always a sense of nostalgia when you consider that thought.  He’s a hard worker, loves the fans, the city and has always made it known that his loyalties  are with the NY Mets.  For that, I hope Murphy has a great 2015 with this team and gets to enjoy a championship with the club, but if not, I still hope he enjoys continued success wherever the road leads him next.

Lets! Go! Mets!

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Numbers Point To A Big Season For Travis d’Arnaud Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:27:12 +0000 travis d'arnaud

Very few backstops have the ability to manipulate the strike zone and manufacture K’s like Travis d’Arnaud. That talent immediately caught the eye of the Mets front office following his 2013 debut.  His quick hands translates at the plate into raw power and bat speed.

There were obstacles and defensive flaws that d’Arnaud had to hurdle last year, but by the end of season, he had not only realized his offensive potential – but sustained it over the remaining 53% of his career at-bats.  With his high grade power, is it too soon to ordain him the catcher of the future, especially on the heels of a promotion by Kevin Plawecki?

Since June 24thof last year, after d’Arnaud was called back up from the minors, he batted .272 with an .805 OPS for the remainder of the year.  Translated into advanced metrics, that production was equal to a .350 wOBA and 128 wRC+.  Experience-wise, that accounted for 257 of his 484 total at bats (53%), representing the majority of his major league career.  The Mets are placing a high bet on his output so it’s important to determine what ailed him initially.

The first outlier that became immediately noticeable through his first 227 at-bats was a .219 BABIP.  That’s the time between his 2013 debut and 2014 demotion, where he was a .189 hitter with a .269 slugging percentage.  Most major league hitters eventually trend towards the league norm for BABIP which is around .300 and varying slightly from year to year.  While the sample size is small, there’s such a drastic difference in that same figure once he returned from Triple A Las Vegas.  What effect could the coaches out in the dessert really have had in that short period of time?

Credit Triple-A manager Wally Backman and hitting coach George Greer for implementing a simple, yet repeatable approach.  The idea was to swing at good pitches in the strike zone, regardless of the count.  The mechanical fix was even more simple, just a little back foot shuffle, but it arguably had the biggest impact on the rest of his season and possibly his career.

The major league staff had instructed TDA to move his back foot away from the plate in order to promote plate discipline.  The result was an inability to cover the strike zone with the barrel of the bat and pitchers took full advantage of it (ESPN Heat Map).  Once the AAA coaching staff recognized the issue, they moved his back foot closer to the plate, allowing him to square his hips up, be a power threat and cover that outside corner of the plate.

Also upon his return, d’Arnaud quickly joined teammate Lucas Duda on the hard-hit ball leader board, otherwise known as Exit Velocity.  He broke in at #33 in the major leagues following the All-Star break and kept climbing on the list up to #17 by mid-August.

A major statistical improvement that emerged as a result of his mechanical fix and improved exit velocity was a spike in BABIP.  His balls in play rate jumped to .287 over his final 257 at-bats, a far more believable career stat than his earlier .219 figure.  Common sense tells us that the mechanical improvement to his stance was simple, but it allowed him to square up the ball and drive it with power again.  Plus, you don’t need an advanced degree in sabermetrics to accept that a harder hit ball is more difficult to defend against and take out of play.  As a result, the fixes created a higher percentage of line drive hits.   There’s more to drill into on those 257 AB’s though, Citi Field might be a mental hurdle, but it has had adverse affects on hitter regardless.

At Citi Field last year, following his demotion, d’Arnaud hit .237 with a .729 OPS and a .243 BABIP at home, despite being a league leader in exit velocity.  He struggled to get a high frequency of balls to land for hits, but when he made contact, it was strong.  Notice the difference between his OPS and OBP?  That’s a .450 slugging percentage, it’s yet again odd that he’s driving with that much power but still landing so few balls for hits.  Strength and power will only improve with his offseason regimen and it’s reasonable to assume that home batting average will improve.  Let’s, take it to the road.

His statistics away from Citi Field were astonishing during that stretch, almost as if he felt a clear comfort at the plate.  By comparison to his output in Queens, he was a .314/.367/.901 player with a .330 BABIP on the road following June 24th.  The issue for the wide difference?  The Mets BABIP has dropped annually since the fences were first brought in to start the 2012 season.  A partial explanation is the high frequency of defensive shifts that were applied to Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson last year.  However, unless the ball leaves the park, the Mets have the worst chance in all of baseball to land a hit at home if their .266 home BABIP last year means anything.  It’s only been three seasons with the previous dimensions, but this would be something good to pay attention to in 2015.

One quick anecdote that stood out during this evaluation was his ability to manufacture offense against divisional opponents, in any ballpark.  The Mets had a healthy number of divisional matchups following his demotion and those were great moments for d’Arnaud.  His .277/.326/.844 slash line was produced over 23 games at home against the NL East during that stretch.  He managed to topple those numbers on the road, mashing the ball at a .298/.377/.931 rate in 12 remaining divisional games away from Citi Field.

There is a consistent correlation between d’Arnaud’s BABIP and his offensive production, so it’s reasonable to assume he’ll range anywhere from .250 hitter at home and a .290 hitter on the road.  I allowed for some regression to settle in on the road because I believe his home average will come up, within reason.  The power should remain consistent too, as he maintained that production throughout his resurgence.

His offense wasn’t perfect during those 257 at-bats though, there were issues that needed to be addressed this offseason.  As I mentioned, his power was simply incredible and ultimately, it hid the fact that he only registered a .319 on base percentage during that stretch.  That can partially be attributed to his aggressive new approach that focused solely on attacking pitches in the strike zone, but still, it needs to come up a tick.  As a result his BB% dropped by an astounding 5.2% compared to his first 227 at bats, although, his K% did also reduce by 3.1% to help offset the lower number of walks.  Let’s be honest though, does anyone really have an issue with that OBP if he’s slugging at a high rate in the middle of the lineup?

While it’s reasonable to assume top end prospect Kevin Plawecki will get his shot at some point this year, it’s hard to imagine GM Sandy Alderson awarding the job to the younger, less experienced player if d’Arnaud is mashing at the plate and providing the young aces with a high percentage of called-strikes.  While power may not be a word that’s synonymous with the Mets, it’s a known commodity to Alderson and basically any GM who wants to win ball games.

This season looks to be something special for d’Arnaud, although this is just one man’s perspective. When the book is closed on his career, what do you believe TDA will accomplish in Queens?


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Backman Expresses Concern About Playing Flores and Murphy Up The Middle Sun, 11 Jan 2015 17:01:03 +0000 wally backman

Wally Backman takes a photo with avid Mets fan Reymundo at the QBC

Always a fan favorite, Wally Backman was a big hit on Saturday at the Queens Baseball Convention where he signed autographs, took photos with fans, and participated in a Q&A panel with ESPN’s Adam Rubin.

Backman, who will return for his fourth season as manager of the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s, had a lot of great things to say about the state of the Mets farm system.

He tabbed outfielder Michael Conforto as the best hitting prospect in the organization, and said LHP Steven Matz was the best pitching prospect Mets have.

wally backman las vegas review-journalBill Price of the Daily News did a nice job of summarizing what Backman had to say, as the 1986 Mets hero spent the day raving about many of the Mets prospects and even calling the organization’s pitching pipeline “second to none.”

Speaking about the Mets number one ranked prospect Noah Syndergaard, Backman said “he has the stuff to win a Cy Young,” but also said he has some things to work on. “His command is an issue and he’s slow from the stretch, but he has the stuff.”

Backman spoke highly about the offensive potential of Wilmer Flores, whom he believes will be a big run producer. However, he pulled no punches and said his biggest concern for the 2015 Mets is the up-the-middle defense of Flores and second baseman Daniel Murphy.

“Are we going to be able to turn those double plays that get us out of an inning?” asked Backman. Well that’s certainly the big question heading into the season, no doubt about that.

I really love Backman and just find his straightforward and honest demeanor so refreshing. He’s such an intelligent baseball guy and a wonderful judge of talent. I hope he does eventually get a shot to manage in the big leagues – and if it does happen, I sincerely do hope it’s with the Mets. It just feels right.

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Viola Returns As Pitching Coach For Triple-A Las Vegas Fri, 09 Jan 2015 21:15:05 +0000 frank viola wally backman

Frank Viola will return as pitching coach for the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s, a source told Adam Rubin of ESPN New York.

The Triple-A staff is now set as Viola joins manager Wally Backman and hitting coach Jack Voigt who succeeds George Greer.

Sweet Music interviewed for the pitching coach vacancy with the Twins, but Minnesota decided to go with former Met Neil Allen. This will be Viola’s second season with Backman in Triple-A.

If you could only hear how our pitching prospects rave about Viola who is so highly regarded by all of them. I’m glad we get to keep him.


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Featured Post: Can Wilmer Flores Find Stardom At Second Base? Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:12:16 +0000 wilmer flores

The Mets have more than a back-up plan should Daniel Murphy be moved in the offseason, they quite possibly have upgrades.  It’s still a gamble though, Murphy’s production is solid and he has sustained it over the course of several years.  In 126 games at second base this year, he batted (.302) with 34 doubles, 9 home runs and 53 RBI’s.  A critical issue with the Mets offense this year was the inability to hit with men on base.  However, Daniel’s numbers over the last few years suggest he’s part of the solution to that problem, particularly in high pressure scoring situations.  Since 2011, he’s posted remarkable slashline of (.337/.404/.902) when there are runners in scoring position with two outs.

The caveat to Murphy’s offensive talent is his defense.  In a recent ESPN article, Mark Simon noted that, Murphy has been at -10 or worse in Defensive Runs Saved for three straight seasons, meaning that his glove “neutralizes” his offensive upside.  Overall, Daniel is a unique asset and I do not agree wholeheartedly with Simon’s analysis.  Murphy possesses a set of tools that does come with extreme highs and lows, but the net result of his production is still valuable.  So, if he were traded this offseason, what options do the Mets have internally?

One possibility is Dilson Herrera, considered by most scouts to be a top 100 prospect in all of baseball.  The 20 year old Columbian received a surprise call-up from Double-A Binghamton in September and showed a lot of promise.  Herrera only hit .220 during his brief stint, but managed to crank three home runs, a triple and eight RBI in just 59 at-bats.  He flashed the tremendous bat speed that evaluators raved about, but he needs more polishing, which is why he’ll likely start 2015 at Triple-A Las Vegas.  The idea of trading a productive Murphy before Herrera has proven he is ready for a full time promotion brings a ton of risk.  Then there’s the ever forgotten man, Wilmer Flores.

I say forgotten man because Flores didn’t burst on to the scene like many fans expected and his name began to disappear more and more from conversations regarding the future of the Mets.  In all fairness though, he played in another stratosphere when his glove was at second base this year.  The numbers are relatively similar to Murphy’s, except for one category, power.  Get this, Wilmer’s (.563) slugging percentage was (.266) points above his (.297) batting average.  That isolated power (Batting Average – Slugging) was tops in the major leagues among any player who swung a bat as a second basemen.  Wilmer played 18 games at the keystone, so there isn’t a tremendous sample size to evaluate him off of, but every scout and organizational evaluator believed he was capable of that production from the moment he was drafted.

Wally Backman stated that Flores was the best RBI guy he ever managed, which is why he often batted the young Venezuelan third in the lineup.  The defense was never expected to be a premium tool of Wilmer’s, and while his efforts at shortstop were commendable, his glove, footwork and range all improved significantly at second base. Couple that with a powerful arm and he posted some nice little web gems at second, like this one.

The defensive confidence certainly had an impact at the plate, as Flores’ wRC+ of 152 and wOBA of (.385) were better than all qualified second baggers.  Again, I’ll reel in the enthusiasm because it’s only 18 games, but it’s fascinating where advanced sabermetrics rank him during that time nonetheless.  His extra base hit totals during that span, spread over a conservative season of 150 games, would give him 50 doubles and 25 home runs, respectably.

By comparison, Murphy is more of a pure hitter, but Flores wasn’t far behind and his bat has way more pop than Daniel.  Wilmer’s performance at second base was what the Mets were hoping to see from Dilson Herrera someday, so if it’s already here, do the Mets take a gamble and hand the reigns to Flores?  This is a critical decision for GM Sandy Alderson, make the wrong move and it could either weaken the Mets offense or impair player development.  Make the right move and its money well spent or tremendous bang for the buck.

So, is Wilmer Flores the next big second baseman in NY?  Let us know your thoughts.

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A Bag of Balls, A Lot of Questions Mon, 13 Oct 2014 13:00:22 +0000 mike scott astros mets 1986

Former New York Mets catcher Ed Hearn says he has a bag of baseballs in his cellar. They are all from 1986; all from the National League Championship Series; all evidence that Michael Warren Scott cheated.

The rumors started long before the NLCS. In May 1985, during one of Scott’s starts at Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs first baseman Leon Durham found a piece of sandpaper near the mound, “brand new, cut in a circle, big enough to hide in his glove,” Durham told the Chicago Tribune.

In September 1986, two weeks before Scott no-hit the San Francisco Giants to clinch the National League West, the Cincinnati Reds were in Houston. Starter Tom Browning took the mound to warm up. When he picked up the ball, Browning claimed the ball had “… a big ol’ scuff mark … as clear as a quarter on a piece of paper. That wasn’t an accidental scuff from contact.”

“It’s the consensus around the league that Mike Scott cheats,” Mets catcher Gary Carter said after Scott threw his no-hitter.

Scott denied the accusation. His catcher Alan Ashby denied the accusation. Ashby credited the aces split-finger fastball. “If everybody in the league learns to throw that pitch like that, you’ll have a batting champion hitting about .210,” Ashby said.

On July 19, in his only regular season start against New York, Scott’s split-finger neutralized the Mets at the Astrodome, pitching 8 1/3 innings, allowing five hits in a 5-4 Houston win.

keith hernandez

In Game One of the NLCS, Scott did more than hold off the Mets, he humbled them. The Cy Young Award winner struck out a record-tying 14, including Keith Hernandez (three times), Darryl Strawberry (three times) and Carter (twice), and allowed only five hits as the Astros won the opening game of the National League playoffs 1-0 before 44,131 at the Astrodome.

In the first inning, Carter swung at strike two and asked plate umpire Doug Harvey to check the ball. Harvey examined the ball, and tossed it back to Scott. Carter struck out on the next pitch.

“Carter said, ‘Harvey, Harvey, no way. Look at that ball,’” Harvey said after Game One. “So I looked at it. I purposely turned toward Carter. I turned it over one way, then the other. That ball was clean. The man just exploded two tremendous pitches.”

“I saw the ball do some things that are different than you normally see the ball do,” Carter told reporters. “He was just unbelievable. I’d never felt so dominated by a pitcher. All I can say is if he is cheating and getting away with it, I tip my hat to him.”

“The guy is unhittable,” mumbled Strawberry as he reached the Mets bench after striking out in the second inning.

The allegations amused Scott. “If that’s what they want to think, fine,” he said.

Scott’s career was on life support in 1984. He finished the season 5-11. If Mike Scott wanted to continue pitching in the big leagues he needed eight days in San Diego with Roger Craig. That’s how long it took one of the original 1962 Mets pitchers to teach Scott a split-finger.

The next season Craig was managing the Giants and watching his former pupil frustrate his team. Craig was barking at the homeplate umpire all game. Ironically, the man behind the plate was Harvey.

“I finally went toward the dugout and said, ‘Roger, the ball is clean. Do you want it?’” asked Harvey.

“No, I’m just trying to get to his mind,” replied Craig.

Harvey said he “checked 65 or 70 balls thrown by Mike Scott and I haven’t found anything … in my heart, the man is clean.”

The Mets were spooked by Scott’s dominance in Game One. “That may have been the first time all year I’d seen our team not believe in itself,” third baseman Ray Knight said in The Bad Guys Won. Mike Scott was quickly becoming baseball’s version of The Mentalist.

Scott again dominated the Mets – mentally and physically — in Game Four at Shea Stadium, pitching the Astros to a 3-1 win to even the series at two games each. If the Mets didn’t feel cheated after Game One, they did now – and told everyone who would listen.

“Every single ball was scuffed,” said Wally Backman. “You know there are people in the game who cheat. I never knew until late in the game, but when you have 15-20 balls that have been scuffed you know it’s not done by fouling them off. I assume it is something in his glove hand.”

When reporters told Scott what Backman said, the Astros ace replied sarcastically, “Then I’m convinced he corks his bat. This has been going on for two years now.”

The Mets scratched out three hits (four base runners) in Game Four. In two starts, Scott set a playoff record for most consecutive scoreless innings (16) and strikeouts in a league playoff series (19). In 18 innings, Scott surrendered one run and struck out 19 Mets batters.


Scouts reportedly watched Scott with binoculars and could not offer any conclusive evidence of scuffing the baseball, leading one reporter to write: “Until they find Mike Scott in possession of a nail file, corkscrew or table saw, the New York Mets will lack the hard evidence to back up their opinion as to why he is so unhittable.”

The next day it rained in New York, postponing Game Five and providing the Mets with another opportunity to make their case against Scott. The team asked National League president Chub Feeney to examine 15 baseballs. Feeney promised to examine the baseballs himself before Scott pitched a possible Game Seven.

“We have some balls that were defaced,” said Johnson. “A lot of people believe it was done by Scott. I think Mike Scott could make a cue ball dance. But if he is defacing the ball, I’d like to see him stopped. What we have is circumstantial evidence. But I’d take a lie detector test on it.”

The controversy was getting ugly. Through the media, the Mets and Astros started a war of words. Backman and Howard Johnson, who saved baseballs hit into the Mets dugout, turned them over to the league. The move angered Astros manager Hal Lanier.

“If Backman and Johnson are such big fans of Mike’s, they can bring those baseballs over and Mike will autograph them for them,” said Lanier. “They say they have all these balls that are scuffed up. Who knows what happens to baseballs when they get in locker room. Mike (Scott) has never been found guilty of anything.”

Mental edge: New York.

Mike Scott peered out the Astros dugout as the Mets and Astros weaved and bobbed through 16 innings of Game Six. Everyone in the Mets dugout knew if they lost that night, the only way to get to the World Series was to beat the seemingly unbeatable Scott.

The Mets escaped a third showdown against Scott, winning 7-6.

“He watched from the dugout, he haunted us,” said Carter. “He stuck in the back of our minds. No, sir, we didn’t want to face him the following day for all the marbles … The man had a power over us even when he was spending the game on the bench.”

“I feel like I’ve been pardoned,” said Mets manager Davey Johnson after clinching in Game Six. “I really don’t want to see Scott again until next April.”

Post Script:

In 2009, Gary Carter was managing the Long Island Ducks and writing a blog for Newsday. More than two decades had passed since Carter whiffed helplessly against Scott.

Carter wrote, I have often been asked if I thought we could have beaten the Astros in Game 7 back in ’86 … Knowing Scott was looming for a Game 7 was big, and having to face him might have written a completely different story. He was dominant in the other two games we faced him, but knowing our team’s character, we would of found a way to win.

Time restores confidence, even if it takes two decades.

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Mets Discussing Adding Backman To 2015 Coaching Staff Thu, 18 Sep 2014 22:07:55 +0000 wally backman las vegas review-journal

A team insider told ESPN New York that they are currently considering having Wally Backman permanently join Terry Collins’  coaching staff in 2015. Adam Rubin adds that Collins views Backman as an ally, and not a threat.

“We have a very strong relationship,” Collins said. “Wally and I are very good friends. We always have been — for a lot of years. When he joined the organization, I was the [minor-league] field coordinator. And I still enjoy my time when I talk to him or when we’re together. So I’m glad he’s coming. He brings a lot to the table.”

This may be as close as Wally gets to ever managing the Mets. I see it as a sign that Collins is definitely returning as Mets manager next season, and Sandy Alderson’s way of throwing a bone to the fans who have been calling for Backman to be named manager.

In the grand scheme of things, Collins still calls all the shots so nothing really changes.

(Joe D.)

September 12

The Mets announced today that Wally Backman will join the Mets coaching staff for the remainder of the season on September 19th.

Backman, the manager of the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate the Las Vegas 51′s, was named the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year for guiding the Las Vegas 51s to another division title.

Backman has been a manager in the Mets farm system for the past five seasons, and has served as the manager of the 51′s since 2013.

Last week, Bob Klapisch of The Record said that Mets GM Sandy Alderson needs to shed his prejudice against the very trait that makes Backman unique – that he’s an independent thinker with a strong personality.

Backman has done his penance since the fiasco in Arizona ten years ago. He has played by the rules, avoided controversy, poured himself into the job as a mentor, and has risen steadily through the organization, Klapisch argued.

“No one can say Backman doesn’t win over his players. To a man, they cite his enthusiasm and toughness, an infectious positive attitude that’s helped a number of young Mets on their way up.”

Something has to give, Klapisch concludes. Alderson’s team is mired in a losing culture and desperately need is a blast of accountability. They’ve become far too comfortable losing year after year. Backman could change that ethos. He deserves to at least try.

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Di-JEST: My Top 10 Fake Mets Headlines Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:00:14 +0000 I’ve been a reader of newspapers for as long as I can remember. Born in the Bronx and raised on Long Island I spent years reading the NYC tabloids and then Newsday.

Now living upstate I read the local paper to see what streets have sinkholes the size of in-ground swimming pools.

I still keep up with the NY papers using their online sites. But in my humble opinion, nothing beats a foldable paper in hand. Here are some headlines I’ve made up, most of which I’d love to see, but know we won’t. The newspaper mastheads are courtesy of Newseum and headlines are my own of course.

1. We’ll start with one fans of Wally Backman would love, even though I just can’t see Alderson tabbing him as the next Mets manager. 

headline1 copy

2. Here’s one every baseball fan would be thrilled to read. And how about a pill to make hamstring pulls abate?


3. Of all the headlines this would be the one that would please me most.

headline3 copy

4. Let’s face it, the Dude has had a fine year but still can’t do squat against a left handed pitcher.


5. I really wonder about this next guy’s future.


6. And as if we could ever afford this guy….


7. I wonder if Juan could make a catch like Willie Mays made on Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series.

headline7 copy8. This is how Murph rolls…

headline8 copy

9. Wishful thinking here.  Kevin will be missed.


10. I’ll admit that Wilmer has been better than I thought he’d be at short but…


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3 Up, 3 Down: Mets Phil Up on Momentum For Miami Mon, 01 Sep 2014 14:21:25 +0000 dilson herrera jenrry mejia

The Mets went almost entirely with home grown talent this weekend against the Phillies as clubhouse veterans such as Daniel Murphy, David Wright and Curtis Granderson saw their playing diminished for various reasons.  The results?  The Amazins’ added another series W to this year’s resume.  Below are the usual 3 Up/3 Down takeaways.

3 Up

1.  Sunday was an interesting sight as the Mets trotted out three former center field prospects in Matt den Dekker (LF), Juan Lagares (CF) and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (RF) to defend the outfield.  As a unit, they also accounted for half of the offensive production yesterday, scoring 3 runs, stealing 3 bases while putting up a slash line of .333/.500/.833.  Defensively, Matt den Dekker played some great defense all series, making a web gem catch in Saturday’s loss to rob Ryan Howard of an extra base hit.  He also put in a great bid to gun down Freddy Galvis at home plate off of a sharp single by Jimmy Rollins, but Anthony Recker was unable to hold on to the one hop toss from Matt, despite on a dime.

2.  Jacob deGrom resumed his campaign for ROTY by having an excellent outing on Friday.  The former Stetson standout went 7 innings, allowing only 4 hits, 1 unearned run and 2 walks while punching out 5.  The 26 year old rookie has some outstanding numbers at home this season, posting a 1.68 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, a 3.06 strikeout to walk ratio, 0.50 home runs per 9 innings while opponents bat a meager .215 against him at Citi Field.

3.  Wilmer Flores had an outstanding series.  The 24 year old Venezuelan turned a great performance at the plate and with the glove.  Flores had a triple slash line of .500/.545/1.145, scored 2 runs, plated an RBI and even swiped a base.  On defense, Wilmer helped turn four separate double plays while also flashing some nice range, robbing Ben Revere of a base hit with a diving snag in yesterday’s win.

4. A bonus “UP” for Dilson Herrera who made his major league debut and earned his first hit, walk and RBI during the three game set. The beginning of what should be a fantastic career for the 20-year old second baseman.

3 Down

1. Curtis Granderson is spiraling downward rapidly since the All-Star break.  The struggling slugger only played two games in the series, getting a day to “clear his head” (a.k.a. benched) on Sunday.  Granderson went 0-8 with 2 strikeouts and despite one spectacular catch on Saturday night, his defense is extremely conservative and overall a liability.  It doesn’t help his cause that Lagares and den Dekker are spectacular within their respective regions, but there were several outfield hits that either of Granderson’s counterparts would have made and these hits ended up being the majority difference in the Amazins’ lone loss from the series.  Terry Collins disregarded the hits as more luck than anything else, but Curtis has lost a step in his speed to the ball and his bat isn’t hot enough to make up for the lack of defense.

2.  Lucas Duda is slumping hard recently and carried this trend into the Phillies series.  The Hulk went 1 for 12 in the series with no extra base hits, walks or RBI’s.  Duda even contributed a rare throwing error in Friday’s win, although his defense has remained solid overall.  The emergence of Duda was sure to come with some downward movement, but the upcoming series against Miami will be a true test for him and his future.  He is batting 0.87 with two singles in his last two series.  If Lucas is able to break out of his woes and get back to laying the barrel on the ball, it will go a long way towards quieting his critics who do not see his 2014 performance as proof that he is a lock at 1st base for the future.

3. Terry Collins continues to look like a lock in 2015, despite Wally Backman putting up tremendous numbers on the farm and garnering the support of nearly the entire fan base.  News broke during this series that there’s no chance the front office will consider the former World Series champ as a candidate to unseat the current manager and Collins’ remaining contract has little to do with it.  Had something to do with Wally thinking on his own, managing winning ball clubs with constantly fluctuating rosters, just winning in general…I don’t know, something along those lines.

*Side Note*- Condolences to Bartolo Colon for the loss of his mother, whom he buried Thursday prior to the start of this series.  Big ‘tolo didn’t have the best outing on Saturday, but it took incredible guts for him to get on the mound after such a devastating experience.  Thoughts and prayers are with Colon and his whole family.

MMO footer

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Backman Has No Shot At Managing Mets Despite Being Named League’s Best Manager Sun, 31 Aug 2014 14:03:04 +0000 wally backman las vegas review-journal

John Harper of the Daily News wrote an extensive article on what the future may hold for Wally Backman now that he has been named the PCL Manager of the Year. He says that if nothing else, the award is just more proof that Backman is a very good minor-league manager who deserves a chance at a big-league job.

Terry Collins is almost a lock to be back in 2015 and everything Harper hears from people in the organization indicates that Sandy Alderson would never tab Backman to manage the team under any circumstances even though he seems to be that “people’s choice.”

The reason for that is Backman is too much of an “I’ll-do-it-my-way personality.”

Harper says that Backman should at the very least join the staff as a bench coach for Terry Collins given Alderson’s apparent lack of regard him as a manager.

He adds that Backman’s feel for the game could be a benefit to Collins, in the way that Don Zimmer made Joe Torre a better manager when they were together.

However when he ran that scenario by the Mets, the reaction was a fear that Backman’s presence might lead fans to chant his name the first time the ballclub lost five games in a row next season. They see Backman as a threat.

Not surprisingly, he says, the Mets always seem to fear the worst in every situation. Maybe they need someone with Backman’s fearlessness to change that way of thinking.

Backman remains hopeful. ”I know what I’m capable of doing. My desires have not changed at all to manage in the big leagues. I think I’ll get an opportunity at some time.”

Unfortunately for Wally, that opportunity will never come in Flushing – not as long as Alderson remains in charge.

It’s a shame really. This team is starving for new leadership and needs a fresh voice and message. I’ll have more on that Monday.

(Joe D.)

August 29

Wally Backman has been named the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year.

This season the Las Vegas 51′s are 80-61 and are the only team to have clinched their division in the PCL. They led the league in wins, home runs and runs (by 88!).

Hired in 2009 by the Mets, Backman has risen through the ranks managing in Brooklyn. He took over as the Mets Triple-A manager (first the Buffalo Bisons, then the Las Vegas 51s) in 2012.

His last two seasons at AAA have been incredible, winning over 80 games both years.

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Demotion Helped D’Arnaud Regain Confidence and Swing Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:45:08 +0000 darnaud

Travis d’Arnaud has had his struggles since being promoted to the big leagues in 2013, mostly from trying to live up to the pressures of playing in the big city and producing.

Coming into the 2014 season, the hype grew even larger and it might have just been too much for the young rookie to bear. So on June 7, the Mets made the right choice to demote d’Arnaud to Las Vegas who was only hitting .180 at the time. Many wondered, including myself, what would come of it, but it was obvious that d’Arnaud needed a fresh start and a new outlook on his future.

What looked like a bad situation, has actually helped turn d’Arnaud’s season around.

When the rookie catcher first arrived in Vegas, Marc Carig of Newsday writes that a roundtable session was set up, and it included 51s manager Wally Backman, hitting coach George Greer and pitching coach Frank Viola. All three helped d’Arnaud talk through the anxieties that weighed him down and helped to clear his head.

The support that he initially received helped to get him back on the right track, ”I’ve had a lot of support,” d’Arnaud tells Newsday. “And I had a lot of help immediately, which was huge for me.”

In 15 games with the 51s, d’Arnaud hit .436 (24 for 55), six home runs and 16 RBI’s.

“He just needed to slow things down and understand that he was good enough to be who they wanted him to be,” Viola said. “But he had to be good enough for him first. He was putting so much undue pressure on himself that he just had to take a little time to step back.”

Viola continued, “He realized, ‘You know what? I am my own worst enemy right now.’ He got down here, he took care of his own little demons whatever they might have been, he saw the ball, hit the ball, and called the game. He did everything that was asked of him.”

That is all any coach or manager could ask for and what came of the initial decision to send him down, could become a saving grace on his career.

Since returning to the Mets on June 24th, d’Arnaud is hitting .295 (18 for 61) with five doubles, three home runs and 10 RBI’s.

“If I have a good at-bat, I’m happy now,” d’Arnaud said. “Before, if I had a productive out, if I lined out, I would get on myself so much because I was so worried about getting a hit. It helps me to stay even-keeled.”

Now as the Mets begin their second half on Friday and only five games under .500, d’Arnaud’s resurgence is key to a team still trying to find their identity and a young catcher still finding his way. 

You can read Carig’s the full article here

(Photo Credit:Jim McIsaac)

mmo always believe

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Featured Post: It’s Time For A Change… #FreeWally Mon, 26 May 2014 21:26:25 +0000 terry collins opening day

Sometimes, a fresh start is needed. And it´s about time this happens for the Mets in terms of managing the players on the active roster.

Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia, Travis d’Arnaud, Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores make up almost one third of the Mets roster by now and are looking to establish themselves as major leaguers for the long haul and maybe part of the Mets next core going forward. All eight are 25 years old or younger. And all eight remain under team control for the next 5+ years.

Hopefully the growing pains won´t be too extensive. And while Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard – the two highest ceiling arms that also belong into that group – remain in the pipeline poised to help either late in this season or early next, this is pretty much it in terms of potential impact young talent for the major league roster for the foreseeable future. There are no blue chip prospects other than Syndergaard left in the upper levels – with Cesar Puello and Kevin Plawecki coming closest but projecting more as solid complementary pieces. So, the time has arrived where things have to be taken seriously.

The Mets chances for the remainder of the 2014 season but even more so in 2015 largely depend on how this group of young players ends up performing and how quickly they manage to adjust to the major leagues. With veterans like Wright, Granderson, Murphy, Niese, Gee and Colon potentially also playing a vital role, of course.

terry collins

For the past 3+ years, Terry Collins and his staff have navigated the Mets through the rebuilding phase, dominated by severe financial restrictions and tried to keep spirits up in spite of having limited talent at hand. It´s tough to say whether the impact of TC and his staff on the 77, 74 and 74 win seasons from 2011 through 2013 was positive, neutral or negative. Still, at the very least, TC was a good soldier and oversaw the transition on the field. But now a new era has begun.

The wave of young talent we’ve been waiting on for a couple of years has pretty much arrived. Yet, the results on the field haven´t changed and the Mets once again seem headed towards a mid-70 win season with no “meaningful” games scheduled for August and September. TC – apparently well liked & respected by his players – deserved the chance to return in 2014 with the financial restrictions lessened and the wave of young talent finally arriving. But a good start was mandatory to receive an extended chance – and the Mets currently find themselves at 20-25 approaching the end of May and are another losing streak away from pretty much eliminating themselves from the 2014 playoff race for good.

This experiment can´t go on. While TC deserves credit and appreciation for trying his best with what he had, he symbolizes the transitional period of 2011 and 2013 – with the common denominator that his teams have constantly failed to win. It may not be his fault and it may not be fair. But he can´t remain in charge of the Mets. Offer him a job within the organization as a thank-you . But relieve him of his duties. Right NOW – and not in a month when the Mets may well be 30-40 and totally out of things.


Wally Backman may not be the ideal longterm manager for the Mets. No other major league organization has seriously considered him for an MLB managerial job in recent history. And he sure has some personal baggage on his resumé. But he also symbolizes a very good time in Mets history and a fighting spirit that will give him the backing of the fan base.

Backman also is highly regarded by all of his players. And while Collins has continued losing with the Mets, Wally Backman has gone 113-77 with the Las Vegas 51s over the past year and a third with large chunks of the current Mets roster having played and won under his watch. Now is the time to win back the fans, create some excitement and give Wally Backman his well deserved chance. Maybe he can be the modern version of Davey Johnson who took over the 1984 Mets with success after successfully managing the Tidewater Tides in 1983. Do it now. And stop hoping things turnaround themselves. They won´t.

Will this be the cure and instantly turn the Mets into a 90-game winner ? Probably not. But it would show how serious ownership & the front office are about EXPECTING and not just hoping to win. And creating a fresh start with a fresh group of players. If that still doesn´t work, the front office will have to ask themselves whether to start making significant changes to the roster structure via trades. What´s needed in 2014 isn’t necessarily a playoff team, but obvious progress. And currently we´re not seeing that. ACT!


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Andrew Brown Optioned To Make Room For Bobby Abreu Mon, 21 Apr 2014 18:49:36 +0000 Bobby-Abreu

The Mets have added Bobby Abreu to the 25 man roster and he will be available for tonight’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Andrew Brown was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for him. Brown batted .185 with one home run and five RBI in 30 plate appearances this season.

The 40-year-old Abreu hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2012, when he played eight games for the Los Angeles Angels and then 92 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Abreu signed a minor-league contract with the Mets, and batted .395 in 15 games for Triple-A Las Vegas with four doubles and six RBI.

The Mets needed to make a decision on Abreu, who could have asked out of his contract if he wasn’t promoted by the end of this month.

It’s still unclear if this decision is just to add a bat to the bench, or a bigger role.

April 12

Mike Puma of the NY Post has learned that Bobby Abreu has an April 30 opt out clause on the deal he signed with the Mets.

“Don’t be surprised if he’s with the Mets by end of month,” Puma says.

April 11

When the Mets signed Bobby Abreu on March 31, I have to admit, I really didn’t understand that move, especially when the Mets have a crop of younger ball players ready to take their turn and become stars on the big club.  The move to bring in a 40 year old ball player past his prime didn’t really sit well with me.  My thinking was maybe they feel he still has something left in the tank, but in reality it could delay a top prospect for a what-if.

But I have to admit, at least for now that I will have to eat my words, because not only has Abreu been hitting, but he has actually solidified himself in the lineup and has started to be a guy to count on to produce.

On the season so far he is 10 for 19, batting .526/.591/684, with three doubles, has only struck out twice and has hit safely in seven of the eight games he has played with the 51′s.  He also has three multi hit games in that stretch.

Wally Backman has seen his share of great hitters and he tells the Las Vegas Journal-Review that Abreu still has it, “He turned on a 98 mph fastball with the bases loaded, so I’d say he can still hit.”

I can’t say that Abreu is the answer to the Mets offensive woes, but if he continues to hit and produce, the Mets may need to make some decisions and possibly see if he is actually someone who can bring something to the table for the team – assuming he continues to smash Triple A pitching. It could make for a good story line.

(Photo Credit: Josh Holmberg/Las Vegas Review Journal)


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Mets Want More “Attitude” From Syndergaard Fri, 18 Apr 2014 18:31:23 +0000 Noah_Syndergaard

Noah Syndergaard has a major league fastball and curveball, but the Mets would like to see a little more “attitude” from their top pitching prospect according to what team sources told the New York Post.

According to club sources, the stud right-hander disappointed organizational officials with his approach in his first two starts for Triple-A Las Vegas, but looked better on Monday after he was challenged by manager Wally Backman to bring more of a presence to the mound.

“Backman told him to be more aggressive and asked him who he wants to become,” said a person with knowledge of the conversation. “Does he want to become a middle-of-the-road starter or top-of-the-line starter? Syndergaard said he wanted to be a No. 1. He went out with a little more of an attitude on Monday.”

Syndergaard pitched five innings in his last start, allowing two runs on five hits. Overall he is 2-1 with a 3.94 ERA in three starts for Las Vegas.

The Mets are following the road map they used with Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler before him which means Syndergaard will stay at Triple-A until at least late June to help keep the clock from starting on his Super-2 arbitration status.

Rafael Montero has been light’s out in Vegas, and will most likely get the call to the majors first. Many in the organization feel he is currently major league ready, and some felt that way at the end of last season.

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With Improved Control, Leathersich Could Become A Late Inning Star Mon, 24 Feb 2014 16:42:21 +0000 jack leathersich

John Harper of the NY Daily News writes that lefty reliever Jack Leathersich‘s live stuff and deceptive delivery could make him a late-inning star, if he solves his control issues.

Harper compares Leathersich’s control to ‘Wild Thing” Mitch Williams, and calls him the Mets’ most intriguing pitching prospect.

In his three seasons moving through the Mets organization, Leathersich has 241 strikeouts in 143 innings of relief and Harper shares that the lefty’s deceptive delivery makes his 94-mph heater look more like 100 to hitters.

“Hitters tell me he throws an invisi-ball,” Zack Wheeler joked with Harper. “For some reason, they just don’t see it very well.”

Leathersich, who is 5-foot-11, isn’t a big presence on the mound like Noah Syndergaard, but his ability to strikeout a ton of batters, helps his case. In 2013, Leathersich began the season with Binghamton (AA) and recorded 16.9 strikeouts per nine innings with a 1.53 ERA in 24 games. However, after he was promoted to Las Vegas (AAA), his ERA ballooned to 7.76, but he still managed to record 14.6  strikeouts per nine innings. He also walked nearly double the batters with Vegas in about the same 29 innings of work.

“He’s got a big-league arm,” Triple-A manager Wally Backman shared on Sunday. “If he gets past the command issues, he could be special.”

Making the jump from Double-A to Triple-A he learned quickly how losing command of his pitches could change a game, “Even though I was still getting swings and misses,” Leathersich tells Harper, “I was also losing guys (to walks) or getting behind. And when you get behind on guys at that level, they make you pay.”

“That stuff had never really affected me before, but at that level I realized I needed to make a change, so all offseason I worked on getting the ball down. I’ve made a couple of tweaks in my delivery to keep my front shoulder from flying open, and it should help me throw more strikes.”

On Sunday at Mets camp, I watched as Leathersich threw to live batters and did struggle with his command, and not sure if you can chalk that up to just nerves or something he still hasn’t been able to shake.

If Leathersich is going to enjoy any success at the major league level, he is going to have to get a handle on his command issues. With highly regarded pitching coach Frank Viola there to help, he may be able to get those issues resolved and earn himself a spot in the Mets bullpen at some point this season.

Photo Credit: Howard Simmons/NY Daily News. You can read the entire article at the NY Daily News and follow John on twitter @NYDNHarper

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Val Pascucci Named Hitting Coach For Class-A Savannah Tue, 14 Jan 2014 19:39:43 +0000 Sand Gnats ok

Luis Rojas will return to manage the Single-A Savannah Sand Gnats. in 2014. Joining the staff will be pitching coach Marc Valdes and athletic trainer Eric Velazquez, both of whom spent 2013 with the Mets Class-A Short-Season Brooklyn Cyclones. The club will also welcome first-year hitting coach and former Mets slugger Val Pascucci.

Luis Rojas enters his ninth season with the Mets organization and his third as manager of the Savannah Sand Gnats. Rojas led the 2013 Savannah Sand Gnats to its first title in 17 years defeating the Hagerstown Suns, three games to one, in a best-of-five series. “I feel blessed to come back as the Sand Gnats manager. 2013 was truly a memorable season,” said Rojas. “We’ll compete in the 2014 season inning by inning to defend our title.”

Pitching coach Marc Valdes enters his eighth year in the Mets organization and his third overall in Savannah. Valdes spent 2009 and 2010 with the Savannah Sand Gnats. Valdes returns to the club after coaching with the Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League in 2013 and the Double-A Binghamton Mets of the Eastern League in 2012.

Hitting Coach Val Pascucci enters his first year coaching after a 13 year playing career that included a stint in the Japan Pacific League. Pascucci was drafted in 1999 out of the University of Oklahoma by the Montreal Expos. The 6’6″ outfielder and first baseman hit his way to the majors in 2004 with the Expos and again in 2011 with the Mets. Pascucci, a Bellflower, Calif., native, won the 2012 Triple-A All Star Game Home Run Derby as a member of the Buffalo Bisons.

binghamton b-mets

Fresh off one of the best seasons in Binghamton Mets history, the New York Mets announced today that manager Pedro Lopez, hitting coach Luis Natera and pitching coach Glenn Abbott will return to guide the Double-A club in 2014.

Lopez, 44, led the 2013 Binghamton Mets to a franchise-record 86 wins and a trip to the postseason, their first since 2004. The club compiled the best record in the Eastern League and took home the regular season Eastern Division crown under their second-year manager.

Entering his fourth season in the New York Mets’ organization, Abbott returns to the Southern Tier for his third year as pitching coach. Prior to his time with the Mets, Abbott was a pitching coach for five years in the San Diego Padres’ system, spent four seasons with the Texas Rangers’ organization and logged 13 years at various levels with the Oakland Athletics. The Arkansas native began his coaching career with the Little Falls Mets in 1985.

Luis Natera will serve as the B-Mets hitting coach for the seventh straight season and eighth overall. This year marks Natera’s 23rd in the Mets’ organization. He has served as a hitting coach at five different levels during that timeframe, including stints with Buffalo (AAA, 2009), St. Lucie (High-A, 2007), Hagerstown (Low-A, 2005-06), Kingsport (Rookie, 2003-04), and Capital City (Low-A, 1999).

st. lucie mets logo

Over the weekend, the St. Lucie Mets (Advanced-A) announced their coaching staff as well. Ryan Ellis will return as the Manager and is joined for the third consecutive season by pitching coach Phil Regan and hitting coach Joel Fuentes.

Ellis begins his third season as the team’s manager. In 2013, Ellis guided the Mets to a record of 71-60, just falling short of the second half South Division Playoffs. The Mets finished the season with the second best overall record in the Florida State League Southern Division. He was named Florida State League Manager of the Year in 2012 as the Mets finished with the most wins in team history at 83-52.

Veteran pitching coach Phil Regan enters his sixth season with the St. Lucie Mets. Regan was the pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians in 1999 and served in the same role for the Chicago Cubs in 1997 and 1998. He also was the pitching coach for Team USA during the 2000 Olympics. Regan managed the Baltimore Orioles to a 71-73 record during the strike-shortened 1995 season.

Joel Fuentes will begin his first season as hitting coach for the Mets. Fuentes returns from Savannah, after serving two years as the Sand Gnats hitting coach and in the same role with Brooklyn Cyclones in 2009-2010. In 2008 and 2011, Fuentes coached in St. Lucie. He will enter his eighth season with New York Mets organization.

Las Vegas 51's

Finally,  Wally Backman will return for his second season as 51s manager, and Frank “Sweet Music” Viola will be the pitching coach for the New York Mets’ Triple-A affiliate, the team announced last week. During the 2013 season, Backman led the 51s to their first Pacific Coast League playoff berth since 2002.

“Frankie’s a great guy. He’s very knowledgeable about the game. He’s a baseball guy,” Backman said. “He played the game a long time and takes a lot of pride working with the pitching staff. He’s going to be an asset to our club.”

The 1987 World Series Most Valuable Player and 1988 American League Cy Young Award winner for the Minnesota Twins, Viola has been a pitching coach in the Mets’ farm system the past three seasons — the past two for the Single-A Savannah Sand Gnats after spending 2011 with the Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones. Viola replaces Randy St. Claire on the Las Vegas coaching staff.

George Greer will return as hitting coach for Las Vegas.

Updated 1/15/2014

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Frank Viola: Sweet Music To A Pitching Prospect’s Ears Thu, 09 Jan 2014 05:21:19 +0000 Frank-Viola1

Anthony DiComo of confirmed on Wednesday that the Mets have named Frank Viola their new Triple-A pitching coach. Viola will join Wally Backman‘s staff, and look to continue the same success that he has experienced while coaching one year with Brooklyn (A-) and the past two with Savannah (A).

Viola, who played with the Twins for nine seasons, joined the Mets and won 20 games during the 1990 season. He is a former AL Cy Young winner, a three-time All-Star and finished his career at 176-150 with a 3.73 ERA.

There have been a few Mets prospects that I have spoken with that have had nothing but great things to say about Viola. Here are some of the ones I recently interviewed who shared what Frank Viola meant to them:

Paul Sewald- I would have to say Frank Viola has made the biggest impact on my game so far in my professional career. He just has so much experience and insight that you just listen when he has advice. He talks a lot about the approach and mental aspects of the game and I certainly think it elevated my performance this summer.

Stefan Sabol - Definitely Frank Viola helped a lot with me mentally on the game,  I’m truly blessed to have had him as my coach for this past season.

Luis Cessa - Frank Viola is a great coach, he help me a lot of times with a lot of different things, all season long.

Steven Matz - Having Frank Viola as my pitching coach this year was a true blessing. Having a 15 or 16 year big league career, he has seen it all. He really knows how to optimize a pitching staff. He knew what each of us were capable of and he didn’t let us do any less. And it showed.

Beck Wheeler -  I gained so much knowledge talking with our pitching coach Frank Viola.  He helped me understand how to pitch more effectively and scenarios that I should be throwing certain pitches. He certainly taught me a lot about myself as a pitcher and a person.  He’s such a genuine coach and really tells you what it is, be it good or bad.  Being in the majors for 16 years, he brought a wealth of knowledge to our pitching staff and he could critique us individually.  He has some great stories from his playing days and always lightens the mood in the clubhouse.

Charley Thurber - Frank Viola helped me transition to the pro game in Brooklyn. He was one of the coaches that believed in me and I was able to succeed. He was someone special in my career because he knew me from the start and didn’t care where I came from. Learning from him and my other coaches was definitely a reason I had the confidence and performance to become an NY Penn League All Star.

Hunter Carnevale - There is so much I can say about Frank Viola. The experience that he brings to a pitching staff is immeasurable. Since he’s basically seen/done it all, you can ask him about anything and he will say something that, if you take it to heart, will definitely help you. I’ve been with Frank for 2 years ( 2011 in Brooklyn and this past year) and the biggest thing he helps you with, is understanding your strengths and how to utilize those strengths against the batter. Once you realize what kind of pitcher you are he preaches to ” trust your stuff,” get ahead of the batter,  and compete.

The 51′s look to continue the success that the organization experienced in 2013 when they went 81-63 and won their division. Viola brings a winning attitude to Las Vegas as his Savannah Sand Gnats won the South Atlantic League Championship last season. It’s a great move by the Mets and a great opportunity for Sweet Music to show what he can do with our prospects at the highest level of the system.

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Around the Diamond – What’s on Second? Sat, 28 Dec 2013 18:53:18 +0000 edgardo alfonzo

Going around the Diamond – there have been 24 different players in the Mets 52 year history that would could be classified as the “everyday” second baseman.

So who has played there the most? (seasons classified as the main second baseman in parenthesis)

10. Tim Teufel (1987). Tim played in 325 games (251 starts) at second for the Mets as the other half of the platoon with Wally Backman. He played in 93 games (72 starts) at second in 1987 to classify him as the “main” second baseman that season (although Wally Backman actually started 76 games, but appeared in 87 games at second that year – fewer than Teufel). In his 6 seasons as a Met, Tim hit .256 with 35 HR and 164 RBI.

9. Gregg Jefferies (1989-1991). Gregg played 328 games at second (308 starts). With the Mets, he was a .276 hitter with 42 HR, 205 RBI, 96 doubles, and 63 SB. He led the National League with 40 doubles in 1990.

8. Luis Castillo (2007-2010). Luis played in 342 games at second (325 starts). As a Met, he hit .274 with 5 HR, 105 RBI, and 55 SB.

7. Jeff Kent (1993-95). Jeff appeared in 390 games at second (383 starts). With the Mets, he hit .279 with 67 HR, 267 RBI and 98 doubles.

6. Ron Hunt (1963-64, 1966). Ron played 420 games at second (411 starts). As a Mets, he hit .282 with 20 HR and 127 RBI. He was an All-Star in 1964 & 1966.

5. Ken Boswell (1969-72). Ken played 506 games at second (472 starts). With the Mets, he hit .250 with 31 HR and 193 RBI.

4. Edgardo Alfonzo (1999-2001). Fonzie was the primary second baseman for the two back-to-back playoff teams and was also the Mets primary third baseman in 4 other seasons. As a Met, he hit .292 with 120 HR and 538 RBI. In 1999, he hit .304 with 27 HR, 108 RBI, scored 123 runs and hit 41 doubles with a .384 OBP. In 2000, he hit .324 with 25 HR, 94 RBI, scored 109 runs and hit 40 doubles with a .425 OBP. He was an All-Star in 2000 and the won the Silver Slugger award in 1999. Fonzie was, in my opinion, the best second baseman in franchise history.

3. Doug Flynn (1978-1981). Doug came to the Mets in the June 15, 1977 trade that banished Tom Seaver to the Reds. Doug appeared in 530 games at second (496 starts). In the Orange and Blue, he hit .234 with 5 HR and 155 RBI. In 1980, he won a Gold Glove.

2. Felix Millan (1973-77). Felix appeared in 674 games at second (657 starts) and in 1975, he started 162 games. With the Mets, he hit .278 with 8 HR and 182 RBI.

1. Wally Backman (1982, 1984-86, 1988). Wally played in more games at second than any other Met, appearing in 680 games at second (577 starts). He hit .283 with 7 HR and 165 RBI and 106 RBI.

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It’s 50/50 That Lagares or Flores Make Team Out Of Spring Training Sat, 14 Dec 2013 15:25:23 +0000 wilmer flores

I find it so strange that two of the team’s top MLB-ready position prospects – Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares – are also the two players who stand to lose significant playing time in 2014, according to statements made by the front office and just the buzz we heard in Orlando.

Both players have done a solid job at Winter Ball with Lagares posting a .342/.379/.412 batting line in 114 DWL at-bats, and Flores with an even more impressive .391/.463/.478 batting line in 46 at-bats in the VWL.

What else these two have to prove at this point in Triple-A (where each excelled already) is beyond my understanding. And yet there’s as good a chance that either will start the season in Las Vegas than the New York Mets. One person I spoke to said it’s 50/50 for both of them at this point. Sounds like easy money to be made at some live casinos.


For Lagares, it comes down to the possibility of losing his everyday job to newly acquired Chris Young as the Mets are intent on playing Eric Young Jr. everyday in 2014, according to what two different Mets people told us at the Winter Meetings.

The team sees EY as not only an everyday contributor, but their best leadoff candidate despite an on-base that barely clears .300. Rather than have the young Lagares squander on the bench, they’d rather have him play everyday for Wally Backman. I guess that’s understandable, but I don’t have to like it.

In Flores’ case, we didn’t hear much on him in Orlando, but the Mets clearly don’t want to trade Daniel Murphy and there’s already a glut at first base which means a one-way ticket to the Nevada desert for the most exciting of the two offensively.

In September, I would have guessed that both Lagares and Flores would be locks for an everyday job in 2014, now they may not even hang on for a bench spot. But that’s the way the ball bounces in Flushing… Always unpredictable…

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