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Will latest award create opportunity for Wally Backman?
After leading the Las Vegas 51s to the postseason, no other teams last winter sought permission from the Mets to speak with Triple-A manager Wally Backman. Though he had informal conversations about staff openings elsewhere, a source said that Backman was never involved in any formal interview process, a somewhat surprising assertion in light of his successful season.
Perhaps, Backman’s latest honor will further raise his profile around the game, and maybe lead him to a long sought-after managerial position in the big leagues.
Backman, 54, was named the Pacific Coast League manager of the year on Friday, his reward for leading the talented 51s (80-62) to the PCL’s Southern Division championship. Under Backman, Las Vegas recorded consecutive 80-win seasons for the first time in the history of the franchise.
“He deserves a lot of accolades,” Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters. “Wally does an outstanding job and certainly I rely a lot on his opinions and what goes on and I’m happy for him. With all the players moves we’ve made he’s kept that club steady moving forward and congratulations to him.”
General manager Sandy Alderson told reporters that the honor was “well deserved” for Backman, one that “reflects the work he’s done this year.”
Nevertheless, Backman’s path to a big league job appears to be blocked, at least when it comes to the Mets.
With Triple-A Las Vegas, players have raved about playing for the fiery Backman, the former Met and member of the 1986 World Series championship team. But in some corners of the organization, questions remain about whether Backman could work smoothly with the front office.
In four seasons under Collins, the Mets are 288-333 and have yet to finish with a winning record. But barring a horrendous slide to end the season, Collins would remain on track to keep his job entering the final year of his contract.
If that’s the case, Backman would find himself squeezed out again, unless he can seize an opportunity elsewhere.