Wally Backman’s resignation as Triple-A Las Vegas manager leaves misconceptions about the ex-Met infielder’s tenure in the organization and his managerial future.
It’s been asked, if Backman is a legitimate managerial prospect, why hasn’t another big league team hired him? Actually, Triple-A managers are rarely promoted to the majors anymore. None of the 30 current major league managers were another organization’s Triple-A skipper immediately before.
In fact, only Atlanta’s Brian Snitker came from managing his own organization’s Triple-A club, at age 60, after toiling in their system over three decades.
Teams are far more likely to hire a major league coach as manager, the route of seven of today’s MLB skippers. Apparently due to his personality clash with general manager Sandy Alderson, the Mets didn’t promote Backman to their staff, perhaps stunting his image elsewhere.
Some say many fans loved Backman’s managerial candidacy simply because he’s a beloved 1986 world champion Met, but his record speaks for itself. Vegas was third in its Pacific Coast League division this year, four games under .500. Backman’s previous teams, however, finished first three times and second once in his six years managing Mets affiliates.
In four prior seasons managing other major league affiliates, Backman’s teams finished first twice and second once.
His fiery, outspoken personality contrasts Backman with the calm, controlled company men filling many major league managerial jobs nowadays. Still, many of his players have publicly sworn by Backman in recent years. Isn’t the relationship with his players among a manager’s most crucial qualities, if not number-one?
Backman hit .275 during 14 major league seasons, thanks mainly to guile and aggressiveness. He could bunt, hit and run, break up a double play, steal a run and outsmart the opposition. All are old school fundamentals the Mets and many teams need more of.
Standing five-foot-nine hasn’t stopped Backman from getting in a player’s face on the field or in the dugout. Might his approach turn off today’s ego-centric big leaguers? Again unemployed after paying his dues for 14 years in the minors, Backman may now be further away than ever from finding out.