PHOENIX, AZ – Of all the things for which I have mercilessly blasted Sandy Alderson during his tenure as Mets GM, perhaps the one that leaves me most bitter is this fact: As long as this Nonagenarian is running the show in Flushing, Wally Backman will never be Manager of the New York Mets.
As a beloved blood and guts member of the now fabled ’86 Mets, Backman will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Mets fans everywhere. When you throw in his underdog stature, his scrappiness, his blue-collar roots and his successful big league career, you start to see how mismatched he would be working for Real Old Sandy, possessor of none of these. Alderson of course, was born to the Manor in a blue-blood family with every advantage imaginable. He may not even know who Wally is. But there was a time in the late 1990s when there were a lot of General Managers who DID know who Wally was. The most successful and highly-regarded Manager in the Minor Leagues with motivational skills that stat freaks couldn’t possibly quantify. Wally quickly ascended the ranks and minor league levels as a manager, earning him raves and devotion from nearly every player whose career he touched. Wally’s players were of the proverbial “run through a wall for him” type. In 2004, Arizona had lost 111 games and a change in culture and leadership was needed from top to bottom.
That “culture” in Arizona was much like my off-campus apartment in the Love Canal – toxic. The D-Backs won their only World Series Championship in 2001 when they mortgaged their future – and especially their souls – by bringing in Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling to front their rotation, and looked the other way while Luis Gonzales miraculously hit 57 HRs that year.
For the first 7 years of his career before turning 30 years old, Gonzales averaged 10 HRs a year. More Arizona Diamondbacks players appeared in the Mitchell Report than the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees combined (14). Matt Williams, an obvious cheater (see 1994) and Mitchell Report star, now has a job managing the Nationals!
Mark Grace, a perennial All-Star who finished his career in Arizona and became a broadcaster and face of the franchise, was arrested and convicted of DUI 3 times. Yet, Ken Kendrick, the Diamondbacks’ Managing Partner for more than a decade now, has led the crusade against human rights in the state of Arizona; often using the publicly-financed Diamondbacks stadium (Chase Field) to raise money for his Tea Party cronies.
I bring up this laundry list of misdeeds and hypocrisy only because it is now 10 years since these same Arizona Diamonbacks extended-and then pulled-their offer to Wally Backman to be their Manager. Why did they so unceremoniously dump, discredit and humiliate Backman by rescinding their offer after 5 days? Because Wally had a DUI on his record that they didn’t uncover in their “vetting” process. Additionally, Wally declared Chapter 7 Bankruptcy a year earlier. So, in a fit of self-righteous hypocrisy, Kendrick showed the world what a big man he was by setting the moral agenda for the whole godforsaken state of Arizona and fire Wally on the grounds that he was a “sinner” and irresponsible with his money. Under Kendrick’s leadership, they’ve had 4 more players arrested for DUI; 3 arrested for domestic battery and further steroid accusations in the ensuing years.
This article further details the “class” of Kendrick, evoking memories of Elaine Benes and her Orioles cap.
In the 10 years since Wally Backman was last given a shot to manage a Major League team, he’s been a model citizen, while burnishing his sterling reputation on the field. He has served the Mets admirably and loyally. He’s paid his dues in spades. He engenders a level of loyalty from his players that most managers could only dream about.
Terry Collins, himself a DUI convict, continues to do his mediocre best to keep the Mets mathematically alive through Memorial Day, but this team still looks like yet another another 73-Win squad. With unaccountable Sandy as GM, Wally will never get the chance to manage his beloved Mets. This is a shame. Because while the world is now painfully aware of Alderson’s abject lack of competence in building a ball club, the one man who could both buy Sandy time and change the poisonous and dysfunctional organizational culture, is Wally Backman. He would not just mollify a disenfranchised and angry fan base; he is uniquely qualified for this job.
Make Flushing Wally World, Sandy. Prove. Me. Wrong.
Come back for Wardy World tomorrow with… Angry Ward.