New Ducks manager Wally Backman manages just like he played – fiery, aggressive and in-your-face. The evidence of this is all over the Internet. A simple YouTube search of Backman reveals a slew of ejections, impassioned clubhouse speeches and the kind of take-no-prisoners candor that has defined virtually his entire career.
The Ducks know this.
And they like it.
“I think players appreciate someone who’s emotionally invested in the job, and I think that describes Wally pretty accurately,” Ducks president and general manager Michael Pfaff said. “He’s somebody who makes it very clear that he cares deeply about winning. That starts from the top in this organization . . . This organization is committed to putting the best possible product on the field that we can. Winning is a big part of that, and we think Wally’s style will be a really good fit.”
The Ducks announced Backman’s hiring Wednesday after now-former Ducks manager Kevin Baez signed with the Rockland Boulders of the independent Can-Am League earlier in the week. Backman played for the Mets from 1980-88 and was on the 1986 world championship team.
Baez, who managed the Ducks for eight seasons, left as the winningest manager in franchise history, but Backman is no slouch, either. In 20 seasons as a minor-league manager, he has 1,127 regular-season victories (a .511 winning percentage) and has won three championships.
Backman, who managed the New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League last season, has bounced around. The Ducks will be his 15th team since he began managing in 1997 with the Catskill Cougars of the independent Northeast League. Backman managed at all three levels in the Mets' minor-league system from 2010-16, including Triple-A for five seasons. Then his time with the organization ended, resulting in a public dispute about the nature of his departure.
It wasn’t the first time controversy engulfed Backman. After the 2004 season, he was introduced as the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he was fired four days later after revelations of past arrests and financial troubles came to light. Backman was found guilty of driving under the influence, spent one day in jail, was fined $560 and was ordered to complete an alcohol counseling course in 2001. Later that year, he was charged with five misdemeanors after an incident involving his wife and a friend at Backman’s home in Oregon. In 2003, Backman filed for bankruptcy, according to The New York Times.
Backman said he still hopes to manage in the big leagues but is "100 percent'’ focused on the Ducks in 2019. It’s been a ride with a lot of stops, twists and turns, but, as he put it Wednesday on a conference call with the media, he’s '‘still Wally Backman.'’
“You know, I’m not a whole lot different,” Backman said of how he’s changed in 20 years of managing. “I respect the game, and I expect the players to respect the game. The thing that I probably have changed in those 20 years is the analytics. I’ve tried to use the analytics as far back as I can remember, whatever it might have been. Everything’s available to you today, and I think if you go through certain parts of the analytics, it can really help you win games.”
That’s right. Despite his fly-off-the-handle tendencies, Backman is hardly a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants manager, looking at every number he can in order to get an advantage.
“I’ve been using analytics since they’ve been available,” Backman said. “I use the things that I believe help me, things like ground-ball percentages, fly-ball percentages and the way guys pitch in certain situations. All the information that I’m able to get, I try to go through all of that and use it to the best of my ability to help the team win.”
But it’s not all numbers. Stressing the fundamentals is key to Backman’s managerial style.
“I like to be aggressive on the bases,” he said. “I like to see our guys go first to third. Those are things that I really demand of the players, just not to go through the motions.”
Anyone who’s studied Backman for even a moment on YouTube knows that going through the motions is just not in the cards.
Wally Backman's managerial stops
1997- Catskill (IND) - Northeast League
1998 - Bend (IND) - Western Baseball League
1999 - 2000 Tri-City (IND) - Western Baseball League
2001 -Winston-Salem (Chisox, A) - Carolina League
2002-03 - Birmingham (Chisox, AA) - Southern League
2004 - Lancaster (D-Backs, A) - California League
2007 - South Georgia (IND) - South Coast League
2008-09 - Joliet (IND) - Northern League
2010 -Cyclones (Mets, A) -New York-Penn League
2011 - Binghamton (Mets, AA) - Eastern League
2012 - Buffalo (Mets, AAA) - International League
2013-16- Las Vegas (Mets, AAA) - Pacific Coast League
2017 - Monclova (AAA) - Mexican League
2018 - New Britain (IND) - Atlantic League