Everyone is calling for the Mets to transfer Cyclones skipper Wally Backman to Citi Field — but he says he won’t budge until he finishes the job in Brooklyn.
And that job is returning the New York–Penn League championship banner to Coney Island.
Backman told us this week that he hadn’t even read any of the articles written recently calling for Mets GM Omar Minaya to fire Jerry Manuel and replace him with Backman. He can’t read the articles — he’s too busy managing the first-place Cyclones.
“So far, the season has gone great,” Backman said from Aberdeen, Md., where the team was preparing for a three-game series against the second-place Ironbirds. “The ultimate goal is to win a championship in Brooklyn.”
He’s well on the way, of course. With the season at the halfway point, the Cyclones are poised to win their first title since the 2001 inaugural season, putting up a 25–13 record, leading the league in most offensive categories and vanquishing the despicable Staten Island Yankees repeatedly.
Naturally, the slumping Mets are eyeing their once (and future?) hero, Backman, who propelled the 1986 Mets to greatness as a second-baseman. But Backman isn’t hearing any of it.
“I’m trying to win a championship here,” Backman said. “My job is to get these guys to the next level.”
Of course, some wags are saying Backman needs to get to the top level right now.
“The organization has one of the best managers in the game right under its nose,” wrote the New York Post’s Kevin Kiernan.
“Wherever he goes, Backman wins. … If the plug is pulled on Manuel, Backman needs to be manager of the Mets.”
Not yet, he said, though he didn’t deny his ambition.
“Look, I manage so that one day I can manage in the big leagues,” Backman said. “But that is not something that’s been discussed this season.”
But many observers say that Backman’s pension for aggressiveness at the plate and on the bases is just what the not-so-Amazins need to get the team back on track.
Just in case anyone needed a reminder of Backman’s fiery personality, the skipper got himself thrown out of last Saturday’s game against the Yankees — but not before getting nose to nose with the umpire and kicking dirt on his feet and home plate.
“I just kicked a little dirt on the guy, it wasn’t that big a deal,” joked Backman. “All of a sudden the strike zone shrunk down in the seventh inning, and I told [the umpire] to be consistent. He told me not to say anything more … and I gave him a piece of my mind.”
For the rest of the season, it appears the Clones’ skipper will continue jawing at minor league umps. But if Backman does one day end up managing a major league team, it will be the culmination of a long road to redemption.
In 2004, Backman had been hired to be the skipper of the Arizona Diamondbacks, but had a startling fall from grace after it was revealed he had not told the team about an arrest for a domestic dispute, a charge of driving under the influence, and debt problems.
He was fired four days after getting the job, and has managed in the minor leagues since. It’s no secret that he wants to get back to The Show — after he finishes the job in Brooklyn.