ATLANTA - It was Star Wars Night at Turner Field, and Wally Backman -- a Met from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away -- sat in the visiting dugout, living in the future.
With 2014 past the point of rescue for the Mets, officially eliminated from the postseason by Pittsburgh's victory over Milwaukee, Backman's discussion of the "depth coming through the organization" was as timely as anything.
Neither the Mets nor the Atlanta Braves -- 5-0 losers to the Mets on Friday night -- are October-bound. But Daniel Murphy went 4-for-5, Lucas Duda hit his 28th home run, Eric Young Jr. had a two-run single and Zack Wheeler (11-10) pitched six shutout innings, and manager Terry Collins promised his players will persevere through their last eight meaningless games.
"When you sign up," Collins said, "you sign up for 162 [games]. You finish it off."
Moving right along, though: At 54, Backman, who last wore a Mets uniform in 1988, theoretically is the molder of big-leaguers in his current role as manager of the Mets' Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas.
Pitcher Jacob deGrom's breakout rookie season, Backman said of his prize protege, hasn't surprised him.
"I really believed deGrom was a guy that was going to be a dominant type of pitcher, the way he competes, his stuff," Backman said. "He's got swing-and-miss stuff."
Wilmer Flores, at shortstop again Friday night but with no lock on the job, "is a guy who's got to produce with his bat," Backman said. "And if he can do that on a consistent basis, then he can help Terry."
Among the Mets' undergraduate class, infielder Matt Reynolds and catcher Kevin Plawecki "are not quite ready" for the majors, in Backman's view. Neither is righthander Noah Syndergaard.
"I'll say what you've probably heard a hundred times," Backman said. "Noah is still very, very young . Stuff-wise, he's probably second to nobody. But he has a lot to learn mentally.
"There was one point this year where he threw 27 or 28 fastballs in a row. What we call those Four-A guys, that have been up to the big leagues and back, they don't miss that fastball when they know it's coming. That happened to Noah quite a bit."
Another pitching prospect, Matt Bowman, is "pretty good," Backman said, "a guy that has a full-pitch mix, throws everything for strikes . . . You could call him a sleeper. I won't, because I think he's going to pitch in the big leagues."
And so on. Backman also referred to the fact that the Mets "also had a hell of a team in Double-A" at Binghamton and repeated the club's fairly giddy observation of pitching success deep into the minors.
Backman himself would welcome an ascent to the parent club next year as a member of Collins' staff.
"I think," he said, "that's why the players play and I think that's why coaches coach."
Meanwhile, "it's good to come up" for the team's final eight games, he said, and "it makes you feel good being able to send up here, to know you've been part of helping them get here."
So the theme all year also is the coda to this mediocre 74-80 season: Get out the zoom lens and focus on the by-and-by.
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