It should come as no surprise to even my most casual reader that I am not a Willie Randolph supporter. Hindsight may be 20-20, but I was vocal in my opposition to hiring Randolph days after the 2004 season ended.
Toward the end of that post, I endorsed two candidates to replace the unlamented Art Howe - Bobby Valentine and Wally Backman. Valentine was a pipe dream, of course; he had been fired just two seasons before after losing control of the clubhouse. The 2003 and 2004 seasons, in my mind, were further proof that the problem was with the players and not with Valentine. Even his most ardent detractors would struggle to argue that he's not an intelligent baseball mind - Valentine's problem was and always will be based on personality issues.
My second choice at the time was Wally Backman, which back then was hardly far-fetched. Backman was perhaps the hottest managerial candidate of the 2004 off-season. He had just been named the Sporting News Manager of the Year with Lancaster in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization and had won league championships at two previous stops. If anyone was going to give the Mets the kick in the ass they so sorely needed after three dreary campaigns, it was going to be Wally's boot administering the attitude adjustment.
Things went differently. The Diamondbacks promoted Backman from Lancaster to run the big club and the Mets hired Randolph days later. By the time they did, Wally had bigger issues than filling out the lineup card.
Three seasons later, Randolph has proven to show little to no acumen for managing a major league ballclub and there are serious questions about his leadership ability - the one thing he supposedly brought to the table above all else. Backman is managing as well, this time for the Joliet Jackhammers in the Northern League.
Backman won the South Coast League championship with the South Georgia Peanuts in 2007, in a wild season that saw his players forfeit a game after an on-field brawl and saw Backman quit his job after constant feuding with league officials about the professionalsim and quality of league umpires, only to return three days later to finish out the season.
The Peanuts' championship season has been immortalized by the TV show "Playing for Peanuts," a 10-episode behind the scenes look at South Georgia's title run currently airing on sports stations across the country. One of those stations just happens to be SNY, home of the New York Mets.
You may not know this, because SNY isn't exactly going out of its way to promote it. There doesn't appear to be any mention of the show on SNY's website and I haven't seen a commercial for the program yet. Mike Silva from Dugout Central noted SNY's apparent disinterest in promoting the show, speculating that it might have something to do with Randolph's job status.
"The real question to me is why haven’t we heard more about the attributes of Wally Backman? Here in New York the Mets television affiliate (SNY) ran the debut of the show hours after a game with the Cincinnati Reds. There was no mention of this show before, during or after the game ... This kind of treatment of a player that meant so much to the Mets franchise during his tenure can only mean one of the following: SNY is completely clueless on how to promote a great product, or they are under gag order to not embrace a controversial figure ... Those that are conspiracy theorists may note that current Mets manager Willie Randolph has been taken a beating by the media and fans since the start of the season. Displaying Backman’s prowess as a manager might put Willie in an even more negative light. The last thing Mets management needs now is to give their fan base more fodder."