The Cyclones newest manager may have had one of the shortest stints as a major league skipper, but team brass said that former Mets infielder Wally Backman has the right stuff to take the team all the way next season.
Backman will officially be named the eighth skipper for the Cyclones on Tuesday, joining a long line of former Amazins who have led the team. Backman, 50, will succeed Pedro Lopez, who led the team to a 45-30 regular-season record, but lost in the first round of the playoffs.
In his first public pronouncement, Backman suggested he’d do better.
“Brooklyn is a major minor-league team, and I know the borough’s fans are — like me — intensely passionate about baseball and about winning,” he said in a statement.
Met fans certainly remember that about the second baseman during the team’s brief glory day in the mid-1980s. He joined the franchise in 1980, and was an instrumental part of those division-winning teams in 1986 and 1988.
Oh, and he also batted .333 for the Mets as they beat the then-cursed Red Sox in the ’86 Series.
He ended his Gold Glove-less career in 1997 with the Seattle Mariners. To this day, he’s still ninth on the Mets all-time stolen base list with 106 swipes — and it’s those experiences that he cherishes the most.
“The greatest days of my professional career were spent here in New York, and I have always felt a special connection to the city,” Backman said.
Success and Backman have been on-and-off friends.
In 2002, he led the AA Birmingham Barons to a 79-61 record and a Southern League title. Two years later, Backman was the manager of the year after Class A Lancaster posted an 86-54 regular season record.
That success led to Backman being named manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks in November, 2004. Four days after he was signed, Backman was fired when the team learned that he had two DWI arrests, an assault and a bankruptcy filing in his recent past.
But Backman went right back to coaching. He last managed the Joilet Jackhammers in Illinois in 2008, leading them to a 43-53 season. He was fired midway through the 2009 season — with a bizarre farewell:
“Wally has done everything we’ve asked him to do — except for in the win-loss column,” said team’s General Manager Kelly Sufka.
Cyclones General Manager Steve Cohen says he doesn’t expect that to happen here.
“Brooklyn and Backman were made for each other,” he said in a statement.
The Cyclones have not won a championship since 2001, when fan favorite Edgar Alfonzo was the manager.