With Wally Backman out of the way, Pedro Lopez resumes his climb up the Mets organizational ladder.
Both Backman and Lopez were brought into the organizational fold by former GM Omar Minaya.
Lopez came to the Mets after serving both as coach and manager (2001-2007) in the Texas Rangers organization. In 2008, Minaya placed him on the (R) Kingsport coaching staff, then tasked Lopez in 2009 with managing the (Short-A) Brooklyn Cyclones.
After a long controversial meandering road, and seemingly having nowhere else to go, the Mets organization came to Backman’s rescue in 2010 by providing their beleaguered former second baseman a safe haven. Despite initial indecision as to whether he would manage (Double-A) Binghamton or (A+) Port St. Lucie, the front office ultimately decided Backman should renew his Mets career succeeding Lopez in Brooklyn. Lopez in turn would be promoted to Savannah.
The end of the 2010 season inaugurated a great many changes in Flushing which would inevitably reverberate throughout the organization — most paramount being the dismissal of Minaya and the appointment of Sandy Alderson as GM of the newly Bernie Madoff stricken Mets.
Entering the 2011 season, Alderson extended Backman an opportunity to interview for the Mets vacant managerial position, and even considered him a finalist (or so we were told). But to no one’s surprise, Backman the underdog fell short against Alderson’s known favorite, Terry Collins.
Backman did, however, accept Alderson’s offer to manage at Binghamton, which consequently leap-frogged him over Lopez whom was promoted to manage Port St. Lucie.
When Backman was promoted in 2012 to manage (Triple-A) Buffalo, Lopez was likewise moved up to manage Binghamton. Backman even moved west in 2013 upon Buffalo balking at renewing their player development contract, which thus cornered the Mets into affiliating with (Triple-A) Las Vegas.
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Backman and Lopez would go on to serve in these respective roles for five years through the 2016 season.
Now entering his tenth season with the organization, Lopez has done exceptional work for the Mets. Entering 2017, Lopez posted a 569-491 (.536) managerial record over nine previous seasons. In 2009, he led Brooklyn to a 45-30 record and a post-season appearance, then piloted Savannah into the 2010 post-season with a 75-64 regular season record. After capturing a division flag in 2011 with the Port St. Lucie Mets, Lopez moved on to Binghamton.
Lopez posted a 377-329 (.534) record over his five seasons managing Double-A. In 2013, he guided the BMets to a club record 86-55 mark, and won manager of the year honors. In 2014, Binghamton won the Eastern League championship.
For his part, Backman led the Las Vegas 51s to a division title in 2013, and in 2014 won the Pacific Coast League manager of the year award. Playoff contention in Flushing took a toll on Backman’s squad during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. With a 77-67 record, Las Vegas barely missed qualifying for the 2015 playoffs by one game, but then slipped below .500 last season with a 70-74 record.
Throughout these last five years, several reports would chronicle about a deteriorating relationship existing between Backman and Alderson.
Starting with Terry Collins‘ contract extension in 2013, and especially by the time Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz were promoted in 2015 during the Mets late season charge towards the division flag, is when I personally began detecting a noticeably bias tone during Alderson’s pressers. As questions steered towards the Mets productive minor league operation, Alderson seemed only too eager in lauding Lopez, while making increasingly scarce mention of Backman, unless cornered into doing so. Even then, media and fans were forced to interpret his Harvard legalese.
The situation finally came to a head at the conclusion of last season. According to Bob Klapisch, Wally says Alderson told him over the phone that if he didn’t resign, he would be let go. Even after parting ways, Wally continued believing he was being blackballed by Alderson, also according to Bob Klapisch.
Is there any truth to that?
Wally is managing in Mexico now. Infer what you will.
I’ve always been a proponent of Backman, and I guess I still am. I believe he would have made a great manager for the Mets, and often imagined him emerging from the dugout at Citi Field to a thunderous welcoming cheer. But that won’t be happening – certainly anytime soon, if ever.
But, this also means Lopez’ long five year wait is over. He finally received his rightfully earned appointment as this year’s manager of the Las Vegas 51s.
That being said, Collins is presently in the final year of his two-year extension signed after winning the 2015 National League pennant.
Off campus applicants withstanding, the next manager of the New York Mets could very well become Lopez. Alderson already thinks very highly of him. And in truth, by season’s end there will exist no person within the organization more qualified.