We had a poll on the site earlier this week which asked: “Knowing what we know now, who do you want managing the 2011 Mets?” There were four choices – Wally Backman, Terry Collins, Davey Johnson and Other. I expected that the crowd would have a majority for Collins but I thought Backman would have a strong showing and Johnson would get more than a few votes, too.
Here’s how the results broke down:
Backman – 5%
Collins – 80%
Johnson – 10%
Other – 5%
Now, it should be pointed out that this is not a scientific/random poll and that it is possible to vote more than once. However, it seems unlikely that Collins inspires so much passion in Mets fans that his supporters would feel the need to vote multiple times in a meaningless online poll.
Instead, I just think this is a fairly accurate snapshot of how the fan base feels on this matter. Collins has been better than what we expected, has dealt with numerous injuries and other issues and fans feel like he has played his hand pretty well.
Meanwhile, Backman is managing at Double-A Binghamton and has not exactly torched the league. The B-Mets have a 46-67 record and are in last place in the Eastern Division. The team is not totally devoid of talent, as it has the third-leading hitter in the loop (Josh Satin) and also the 11th (Jordany Valdespin). On the pitching side, Binghamton has Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia, two of the system’s top prospects.
The minors are more than simple wins and losses. Perhaps Backman is doing a fine job teaching players various fundamentals that they will need to succeed at higher levels. It’s very possible that his players have made improvements that will help them get to the majors. I don’t know. But the one thing we do have that we can judge him on, his record, is not impressive at all.
It’s possible that if the B-Mets were performing better that Backman would have more support to be the team’s manager in the majors. But, for whatever reason, the support that Backman had among fans has pretty much evaporated. I don’t think anyone would doubt that if we polled Mets fans after Jerry Manuel was let go, that Backman would have been the favorite.
There were reports back in June that the Marlins were interested in Backman, possibly to be their manager in the 2012 season. Jack McKeon has the job now, but few expect the 80-year old to be the team’s manager next year. The news raised eyebrows, but few Mets fans were bemoaning the possible loss of Backman to a division rival.
Again, I think this speaks volumes about the job that Collins has done. But I also think it speaks loudly about how the Mets handled Backman during the interview process. Sandy Alderson praised Backman the entire way, had him in the process until the very end and once the decision to name Collins was made, Alderson gave Backman the plum assignment of managing the team’s Double-A affiliate.
Considering that Backman was managing in short-season ball in 2010, it was a very nice promotion. He could have promoted him to St. Lucie, which normally would be a nice assignment for a guy from rookie ball, but that would have left him piloting the affiliate the furthest away from New York and the one that draws the fewest people to the ball park. Instead, Alderson gave him a much more high-profile gig.
If Backman did well in Double-A, Alderson could promote him to Triple-A for 2012 and have him ready to take over for Collins in 2013. And if Backman did anything to embarrass himself or the organization – well let’s just say there’s a few miles, literally and figuratively, between NYC and Binghamton.
Instead, Backman is in the middle. He hasn’t set the world on fire at Double-A, but he hasn’t burned any bridges, either. He could still be in line for a promotion and still be the front-runner to one day replace Collins.
It’s just that now, Alderson holds all of the power and he will promote Backman to manager on his timetable, not that of the former star of the 1986 World Series team or that of the fans who initially longed for him to get the job.