Backman Back Again?

After the disastrous 2004 season where the Arizona Diamondbacks lost a franchise worst 111 games there were many changes afoot. Manager Bob Brenly had been let go during the season and interim manager Al Pedrique was subsequently relieved of duties after the season ended.

The changes that season were significant. Original owner Jerry Colangelo was forced out of the ownership group with Ken Kendrick taking over as general partner along with new owner Jeff Moorad. With the depth that the Diamondbacks had sunk in the standings, all of these moves were to be expected.

Shortly after the season ended, the Arizona Diamondbacks announced they had found a new manager that would be challenged to lead the team back to the post season and challenge for the National League Western Division crown.

041101_backman_hmed2p.hmediumThe team held a press conference to announce they had named minor league coach Wally Backman to be their new manager. Backman had been coaching the Lancaster Jet Hawks, the Diamondbacks Class-A affiliate in the California League. He led them to a championship and was named the Sporting News “Minor League Manager of the Year.”

Within a few days of the press conference announcing Backman as the manager, allegations arose about Backman’s character. Reports surfaced claiming Backman had serious legal and financial problems.

After reviewing the details of the allegations, the Arizona Diamondbacks reversed their position firing Backman before he ever coached a game at the Major League level. The team named Bob Melvin as the manager.

Backman kept a fairly low profile for a while in baseball circles before finally surfacing in the independent South Coast League in 2006. Backman managed the South Georgia Peanuts but resigned after differences with the South Coast League.

He would later resolve the differences and return to the Peanuts leading them to the league championship. After the season Backman left the Peanuts and was named manager of the Joliet JackHammers in the Northern League. With his team struggling Backman was fired this past season.

Over the course of the past month, Backman’s name has once again come up in coaching circles. This time it is his old team the New York Mets who are contemplating bringing him on as a manager.

“I am thrilled and grateful to be coming back to the Mets’ organization. Brooklyn is a major minor league team, and I know the borough’s fans are — like me — intensely passionate about baseball and about winning.”

– Wally Backman

Initially it appeared that Backman was in line to be the manager of the Mets Double-A affiliate Binghampton Mets but he lost that job when the Mets promoted Tim Teufel. After a shuffling of managers, the Mets are planning to hire Backman to manage their rookie league team the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Backman has found success as a manager. His unconventional methods have worked at various levels. The problem is his personality. His “passion” for the game sometimes leads to out of control behavior both on and off the field.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Brooklyn next season and whether Backman can control his emotions. This may be a stepping-stone to once again get an opportunity to manage at the major league level.

Then again, this could be yet another YouTube highlight of Backman going insane on the field and being relieved of his manager’s duties. One thing is for sure; the New York-Pennsylvania League just became a whole lot more interesting. Maybe what Backman needs is a little more “organizational advocacy”.


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