Monday, February 18, 2013

N.Y. Mets: Terry Collins Or Wally Backman - Will 2013 Decide?

From the desk of:   HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


THE MANAGER - Terry Collins Still Has No Contract Beyond This Season.  Sandy Alderson Offers No Quarter.  Meanwhile, Wally Backman Patiently Waits For An Opportunity To Lead A Mets Renaissance.

It has become abundantly clear Terry Collins is entering the 2013 regular season as a lame duck manager.  Sandy Alderson picked up the club option for the 2012 season just prior to the 2011 season ending.  Entering his second campaign as field boss, that allowed Terry Collins to operate the club with a certain measure of authority.  So far however, with Coach Terry's contract set to expire after the 2013 regular season, there has been no definitive word from the Mets general manager regarding an extension.  And for the moment, I would even venture to say Sandy Alderson is not making Terry Collins' contract a high priority.

Almost everything Sandy Alderson has done to date has "2014" stamped all over it.  No uniformed member of the Mets, player or coach, aside from David Wright and Jon Niese, is signed beyond the 2013 regular season.  In the Mets case, that makes for a rather intriguing dynamic.  Collins is not your typical lame duck candidate.  He is not necessarily surrounded by high priced divas, stubborn minded veterans, malcontents, or aging malingerers.  Instead, Collins is charged with a group of unsigned, untested, and unproven talent, who are as fearful for their jobs, as much as they might perceive their manager to be.  In other words, it appears the general manager is letting them all sink or swim in Flushing Bay together.

Outside of the Yankees Billy Martin, it is my experience as a New Yorker, fans do not necessarily go to the ball park to see their club's manager in action.  Billy Martin was a very unique man in that respect, and a marvelous field general to boot.  His star power was as big as any player's on the teams he skippered, including Reggie's.  If you're of age, you also know Billy was quite the volatile character.  And on many occasion, his nature got him in trouble.  Wally Backman for the first time since Billy Martin, can potentially bring that kind of sizzle, smarts, and drama, back to New York baseball, only this time for the boys in Queens.  Not incidentally, both were second basemen.

After a string of bad luck and questionable incidences, then getting jettisoned from baseball by the Diamond Backs, the Mets; Fred Wilpon; gave Wally an opportunity to get back into baseball.  Since then, Wally has quietly put in his time with the organization.  In 2013, Wally Backman returns for a second season managing the Mets AAA affiliate, which is now in Las Vegas.  Prior to that, Wally managed the Mets affiliates in Binghamton and Brooklyn.  It was in Brooklyn where Wally Backman semi-triumphantly made his return to New York City.  If that served as a litmus test, then Backman wound up being wildly popular with Cyclones and Mets fans...again.

As owners of the Brooklyn Cyclones, that fact was not lost on Fred and Jeff Wilpon.  But as for managing the big club, the outstanding issue was always if the Wilpons would ever invite such potential controversy into their dugout.  For they have developed a reputation for shying away from such conditions.  A few years ago, they infamously banned newspapers from the club house so as to not let players read the bad pub being written about them.  But I would venture to say, yes, the Wilpons would give Wally Backman a chance to manage the Mets.  I would never have given such a notion much credit.  But like I said, I remember Billy Martin.  I feel Mets fans would indeed venture out to Citi Field to see Wally skipper their club.  And according to Fred's finances, we now know success is commensurate to attendance.  By 2014, the roster will be quite different, if not better, and possibly resembling something like the 1984 team Wally played for.  The matter of Mets manager however, now seems to fall into Sandy Alderson's realm of  "autonomous"  authority these days.  But in almost any scenario short of making the playoffs in 2013, Terry Collins is sure to feel as if Wally were in the dugout standing right next to him.


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