Barring a flourish to close out 2014, the Mets will finish with a losing record for a sixth consecutive season, something the franchise has not experienced since 1991-1996. Although most signs still point to Terry Collins returning as New York's skipper in 2015, nothing is guaranteed, and the whispers for his ouster have continued to grow louder.
Former Met and fan-favorite Wally Backman, currently the manager of New York's Triple-A club in Las Vegas, is the name most often mentioned as the guy to step in but to many, his candidacy is blocked by the man who oversees the daily operations of the club: Sandy Alderson. So are Backman's chances of becoming the 21st manager in Mets history dead in the water as many think, or is that line of thinking a complete fallacy?
John Fitzgerald, who directed the documentary series Playing for Peanuts that chronicled Backman during the 2007 season when he managed the South Georgia Peanuts, thinks much of the Backman-Mets issues are overblown.
Since Alderson took over as Mets GM, facts have been ignored, overblown or minimized, to suit the media’s "Wally vs. Sandy" narrative. The end result is a manufactured controversy that is unfair to Backman and Collins—whose careers may be at stake—and Alderson, whose legacy rests, in part, on the success of the Mets rebuilding efforts.
Fitzgerald also takes aim at the media for what he considers sloppy reporting on the relationship between the fiery skipper and Alderson, laying much of the conjecture and blame at their feet for creating a controversy where there isn't one.
In order to buy into the "Sandy Alderson vs. Wally Backman" myth, you have to believe that Sandy Alderson, Wally Backman, and Terry Collins share a bizarre mutual three-way personal and professional mistrust of one another. Unfortunately, it seems that most Mets fans have bought into this nonsense.
While Fitzgerald's views are based on little more than his own thoughts, is he wrong? The Backman vs. Alderson meme certainly has been perpetuated by the mainstream media, with nothing to back it up other than the usual "he's not a Sandy type of guy" quote being casually thrown around.
Backman's minor league credentials certainly merit consideration. The 54-year-old was recently named the 2014 Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year after a second consecutive division title with the 51s and has posted a 637-567 (.529) mark as a minor league manager, not counting his time with independent league clubs. However, he continues to suffer from the label of being a loose cannon, largely based on Fitzgerald's reality series and Backman's own issues which surfaced after being hired as the Diamondbacks manager for all of four days in November 2004.
It will be an interesting offseason for the Mets. Whether it's Collins, Backman, or someone else leading the club in 2015 is anyone's guess, but in Fitzgerald's opinion Backman isn't being ostracized, nor is he being blackballed. He's simply paying his dues.