Wally Backman finds himself coaching in Mexico after Mets’ breakup


After a contentious breakup with the Mets organization, Wally Backman‘s long and winding post-playing career has landed him in Mexico

Wally will manage the Acereros de Monclova of the Mexican Summer League, which is officially recognized by MLB as a Triple-A circuit. This league is separate from the Mexican Pacific League which represents Mexico in the winter Caribbean Series.

His relationship with the Mets began June 1977 when the organization made him a first round selection (16th overall) in the June amateur draft. He made his major league debut with the Mets in 1980, and is most remembered by fans for being the gritty starting second baseman of the 1986 World Champions.

After his playing days with the Mets ended in 1988, Wally continued playing another five seasons for the Twins, Pirates, Phillies, and Mariners.

Backman embarked on his managerial career in 1998 with the Bend Bandits in his home state of Oregon. In 2002, he piloted the (Double-A White Sox) Birmingham Barons, then moved on to the (A-Diamondbacks) Lancaster Jethawks, for whom he won Manager of the Year honors in 2004.

In November 2004, the Diamondbacks hired Backman as their manager. However, a very untimely and damaging New York Times article revealing Wally’s several undisclosed financial and personal indiscretions, as well as patterns of misbehavior previously unknown by the club, spurred Arizona into short-circuiting his employment a few days later.

Wally rather infamously began his managerial comeback in 2007 with the independent South Georgia Peanuts.  During a June game in South Carolina, Backman unleashed an on-field tirade that would become difficult for him to live down for years to come.

He nevertheless moved on to briefly manage the Joliet JackHammers of the independent Northern League, but was fired midway through the 2009 season.

Later that year, Backman landed safely back on terra firma with his original organization, the New York Mets.  General manager Omar Minaya handed Backman the short-season Brooklyn Cyclones assignment, where he managed the 2010 season with great success.

After the season, however, Mets ownership relieved both Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel of their duties. Incoming general manager Sandy Alderson extended Backman an opportunity to interview for the managerial position, and fans were even led to believe he was a finalist. But Alderson ultimately opted for Terry Collins. Backman in turn would accept the job at Double-A Binghamton.

Backman was promoted in 2012 to manage the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, then Las Vegas where he again won Manager of the Year honors in 2014. He piloted the Mets’ Triple-A team for five seasons, until an acrimonious departure after the 2016 season.

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Wally states his reasons for resigning were due to a lack of respect and repeatedly getting passed over for the major league staff.  Moreover, he believes he is being blackballed by general manager Sandy Alderson, and claims a friend in the commissioner’s office tipped him off.

According to Bob Klapisch of Newsday, Backman remains at a loss to understand why no one is willing to take a chance on him, and why Anderson fired him in the first place.

Did Backman contradict himself?

Wally says Sandy Alderson told him over the phone that if he didn’t resign, he would be let go.

Charges of insubordination were reportedly front and center, particularly where it concerned Alderson’s directives pertaining to Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo.

Another report says that in 2015, Backman received a written reprimand from Alderson over public comments he made about the Mets’ young pitchers.  The same report cites a source claiming Backman would have been fired three years earlier had COO Jeff Wilpon not interceded on Wally’s behalf. That being said, Backman is said to be feeling betrayed by Jeff, and not Fred Wilpon, after failing to stand up for him.

As a local, I watched Backman manage the Brooklyn Cyclones up close at MCU Park in Coney Island.  I continued listening to his games throughout his years in Binghamton, Buffalo, and Las Vegas (via MiLB.com), and I say with great confidence that Backman and Frank Viola did great work together.

I would have loved to see Backman emerge from the dugout one day as manager of the Mets.  And yet, he doesn’t even break my top ten list of all-time favorite Mets, but I do think he possesses a great baseball mind.

At the same time, I’m knowingly being nostalgic.  I still regard Billy Martin as one of the greatest managers of all-time, and the greatest manager of my lifetime.  Backman reminds me so much of him.  Despite being Napoleonic hotheads all they ever did was win, and the fans loved them.

Is it conceivable Wally might have clashed with a Yoenis Cespedes from time to time?

Did Billy Martin clash with Reggie Jackson?

Apparently, Alderson wanted nothing more to do with Backman’s strong personality. Hell, even Steinbrenner fired Martin five times.  But Martin was defiant, self-destructive, and proved just a bit too volatile during real volatile times.

I seriously doubt Wally is being blackballed. Perhaps trying to shoehorn Backman into these more politically correct times was simply asking too much.

Next: Mets name Noah Syndergaard as Opening Day starter

I believe the atmosphere at Citi Field would have been electric, though.

Buena suerte in Mexico, Wally.