Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'm not on board with Backman

Those who support the idea of hiring Wally Backman have some very sound points to support their argument. Here's Backman's full managerial biography for those interested.

They can start by pointing to the fact that in just his third year as a manager, in 1999 he won the Western League championship (Independent league). Then managing the White Sox's AA team he won the 2002 Championship and the next year lost in the first round of the playoffs, making him a candidate for the major league job.

After leaving the White Sox he went to the D-Backs class A team, where in his first year he lost in the finals resulting in him being named Sporting News Mgr. of the Year 2004. That performance and his interview skills got him hired as the manager of the D-Backs, his firing after four days many of his supporters will say was the organization buckling under the pressure of the media.

After three years of what many called a black listing Backman returned in 2007 to the independent leagues and won the inaugural South Coast League Title. Even in his first year back with the Mets he's off to a great start in Brooklyn, in first place by four games with a record of 25-13.

That says nothing for all those accounts from former players who say he's a great teacher, works well with young players and does nothing but win. So if such a sound argument can be made then why is the title of this post not supporting Backman, because I just think there are too many red flags to become the manager of the Mets.

Look I think some Mets fans are blinded by the idea of Backman and haven't taken a close enough look at his history. I understand wanting a manager that's the opposite of the last three skippers, someone who's fiery and brash, along with Backman being that type of leader on the 86 team.

But I would be leery of giving the reigns to anyone who has never managed over AA and only three seasons at that level. If your going to quote his winning seasons ( five ) then you have to acknowledge that he's had the exact same amount of seasons below 500 (five). To go along with his three league championships and two other playoff appearances he has two 8th, two 5th and a 6th place finish.

In his first managerial job, he took over mid-season which is what many fans want him to do now and the org. was disappointed when the team went 3-23. And those who say those failures are in his distant past, in just 2008 he was fired by the independent league Joilet Jackhammers.
"We want to thank Wally for all that he has done and all the hard work he has put in," said JackHammers Executive Vice President/General Manager Kelly Sufka. "He has done everything we've asked him to do except for in the Win-Loss Column. Nobody is more disappointed with the teams' record than Wally. A change needed to be made for our fans sake and this is the change that we believe needed to happen."source Our Sport Central

Now that's on the field and while I wouldn't describe it as some have; winning everywhere he went, I do admit that there is more good then bad. My concern is more his behavior which I find to be a consistent track record of detrimental outbursts versus fiery leadership.

It's funny for two off-seasons I thought the idea of bringing in Jose Guillen as a fiery player was a good idea and got killed by other fans, who said he was a bad guy who would fight with other players, the media and coaches becoming a complete distraction. Then I thought Brett Myers could be a solid pick-up as a pitcher and there were those who wanted nothing to do with him due to his issues with his wife. But there are still fans who will accept that type of behavior out of their manager, I hold the manager to a higher standard, then players and what I might accept from a player I can't understand accepting from the manager. I transcribe to the idea of leadership by example but beyond that both players history pales in comparison to Backman.

In reading how Backman was hired it sounds like the DBacks were in a similar situation to what the Mets are currently in, desperate for that hardnosed, fiery type leader, they fell in love with his style through interviews but never completed a background check. Here is an article from MLB.com when hired and then one four days later from SI.com.

What happened was after hiring him they found he had a DUI in 2000, was involved with an incident with his wife in which he was required to take anger mgt. courses in 2001 and had to claim bankruptcy in 2003. Now I'm all for second chances but there is still a pattern of questionable incidents since those three incidents.

It was reported that Backman was rooting against his own org. ( Jerry Manuel) so he could get promoted, now in all fairness he adamantly denies this but he was let go after a winning season and the Sox next manager was Ozzie Guillen ( source Daily News). He also had an incident in which after a game in was attempting to find the official score keeper to argue what was ruled an error ( source USA Today) in which he thought it was a hit.

Now on to playing for Peanuts, now some will use Lou Piniella or Earl Weaver to excuse his tirade (source You Tube) which I think is over the top especially in front of young impressionable players but what about his stance on drug testing and his run in with the press. Mid way through the season while in first place instead of focusing on the field Backman resigned, when two of his players were suspended for testing positive and then went on to question the doctors, again these are young players what is the message being sent...
Backman angrily accused the league's medical director of "not doing his job properly." Jamie Toole, the SCL's chief executive officer, responded, "Unfortunately, we have a manager who cannot control his players." source NBCsports