New York Mets News

On the Mets and Wally Backman

By Rich Sparago

The Mets and Wally Backman-there’s a topic that never seems to get old. With the recent dismissal of hitting coach Dave Hudgens, many are speculating that Terry Collins may be the next to go. Naturally, with that speculation comes thoughts of the second baseman on the 1986 World Champions, and current Las Vegas manager, taking the reigns.

Jun 14, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson (left) talks with chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon before the start of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Many fans have been clamoring for Backman since Jerry Manuel was shown the door after the 2010 season. I’ve always dismissed the concept, sometimes with a derisive sneer. I was a Mets fan in 1986, and old enough to attend every post season home game. I fondly remember Wally Backman. In fact, he’s my prototypical player. Wally will do anything to win. He’ll take on a guy twice his size, he’ll bunt, he’ll steal, he’ll bite the head off a rattlesnake. However, I never saw him as a fit for Sandy Alderson’s Mets. The fact is, Mets fans love Wally, but Alderson has no such connection.

However, in the past 24 hours, I’ve changed my mind on possibly having Wally fill out the lineup card every night. Here are a few reasons why.

  • The Mets are desperate to reconnect with their fan base. The current disconnect is palpable. Backman could galvanize the faithful to rally around the blue and orange.
  • The Mets need better players to win, that is indisputable. However, given Alderson’s recent comments that the team will spend when the revenue generated supports it, we have to accept that there will be no sudden spending spree. The low-budget, “pray for Oakland success approach” will continue indefinitely. A change in the manager’s office may be a singular move that can be made that will have a significant impact.
  • The Mets are trying to win with youth (Bobby Abreu aside). Backman knows many of the young players, and has a track record of success in winning with young players in the minor leagues.
  • The Mets play in Citi Field. Rather than complaining about the park’s dimensions, the Mets need to have the park be their friend (in the words of the immortal Keith Hernandez). Wally Backman epitomized small ball as a player. I’m not suggesting that the Mets become the 1985 Cardinals. However, recognizing the value of occasional small ball, and being able to execute on the concept, could serve the team well.

Yes, the Wally Backman as manager talk has grown old. However, at least to me, the concept is becoming more and more sensible.

Would you like to see Wally Backman manage the Mets?