Mets fans have always had a soft spot for Wally Backman, and why wouldn’t they? He hit .320 for the 1986 World Series Champions and was one of those fiery sparkplugs fans always get excited about. After he retired, he set himself up a nice little managing career, winning the Sporting News Minor League Manager of the Year award, and in November, he was hired as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004. For four days.
In an empty vetting that would make Steve Schmidt blush, the Diamondbacks failed to discover that Backman was seriously in debt, owed back taxes, had been charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, and had a DUI conviction. They took the job away four days later, and Backman spent the next few years in the baseball wilderness, including one epic explosion as manager of the South Georgia Peanuts of the South Coast League. (He cursed out a reporter in the press box and rolled a bucket of baseballs onto the field.)
Well, he has worked his way back, and this year, he’ll be managing the Brooklyn Cyclones. This would ordinarily not be that noteworthy, but, as you might remember, Mets manager Jerry Manuel is going to be watched awfully closely this year, and the Mets might need a replacement. Backman has worked under Manuel before, with the White Sox. And it didn’t go well.
Backman allegedly angled to replace Manuel while the Mets skipper held the same position with the White Sox six years ago. Backman vehemently denied the charge at the time. As the Twins and Manuel’s White Sox played a late-season series while jockeying for the AL Central title in ‘03, Backman, then the White Sox’s Double-A manager, reportedly called his former Mets teammate, Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire, and wished him good luck. USA Today Sports Weekly reported that Backman told Gardenhire: “Kick (the White Sox’s behind) so I can get Manuel’s job.” Backman, despite denials, was not retained by Chicago after that season.
“Total 100% B.S.” Backman said about the remark. “Gardy and I talked. We were friends. Whenever we talked, it had absolutely nothing to do with the White Sox.”
We will say this: If Wally Backman ends up managing the Mets at some point in the next couple of years, the Mets are going to be about 138 percent more interesting. Maybe he and Tony La Russa can carpool when the Cardinals are in town. (Sorry. That was cheap.) Maybe he and Bobby Cox can double-date. (Sorry. That one was even worse.)