With the Washington Nationals being only a game over .500 with 42 games left in the season, fans have been looking for who to point the blame at for the underachieving that has gone on in the Nation’s Capital. A lot of the fingers have been pointed at manager Matt Williams, who is in his second year after winning NL Manager Of The Year a season ago.
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Now, if the Nationals were to miss the playoffs, then you might see the Lerners look to make a change at manager. If that were to happen, one New York columnist did suggest a name that should be considered who has been waiting for his chance to manage a big league team.
On Monday, John Harper of the New York Daily News wrote a column saying that the Nationals should look to hire Wally Backman. Backman, who played for the Mets from 1980-1989, is the manager of New York’s triple-A team, the Las Vegas 51’s. Harper suggested that the Nationals should make that move now mess with the Mets in a rivalry that is starting to heat up with New York’s success this season:
"“Might such a dramatic move even mess with the Mets’ mojo? Backman managed many of their young players, and certainly his presence, going from the Mets’ Triple-A manager to the Washington dugout, would raise the intensity of this brewing rivalry. The countless Mets fans who love Backman, going back to his days as the hustling spark plug for the ’86 championship team, might just freak out a bit at the notion of him getting the Nats back on track for a September sprint to the finish.” (h/t NY Daily News)"
Now, an in-season managerial change appears to be out of the question, but let’s take a look at this idea should the Nats part ways with Williams after the season. While Backman has no managerial experience at the big league level, he does have experience at various minor league levels since 1997.
If Mike Rizzo were to remain the General Manager and President of Baseball Operations, he does have a connection with Backman. When Rizzo was with the Diamondbacks, Backman managed Arizona’s high-A Affiliate, the Lancaster Jayhawks, to a championship in 2004. Arizona did hire Backman as their manager in November of that year, but they fired him after four days because of a New York Times’ report that highlighted Backman’s financial and legal troubles.
Backman absolutely deserves a second chance to be a Major League manager, but are the Nationals the right fit for him? He does have the personality that it would be a complete 180 from Wiiliams, but his lack of Major League experience should be a hindrance. If you are the Lerners and you are trying to bring a championship to the Nation’s Capital, you have to look to bring in a manager that has more experience and a man that the veterans on this team would respect his accomplishments.
While Backman has had success at the minor league level and was reportedly a possibility for the Marlins’ job back in April, the Nationals, to me, don’t seem to be a fit for him because they need a manager who is ready to win now and not one that the organization would have to go through more growing pains with, like they are already doing with Williams.