Okay, it may not be quite the biggest news in the Diamondbacks universe today, but really - could you resist using that headline, once you'd come up with it? For former (as in "blink and you'd miss it") manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Wally Backman, is back in baseball, having been appointed manager of the South Georgia Peanuts, a new franchise operating out of Albany in the independent South Coast League. "I'm very excited to be back in baseball," he said. "I can't even begin to tell you how much I missed the game."
It's the latest chapter, following his amazing fall from grace. In 2004, Backman was at the highest possible level, having just been appointed manager of a major-league team, and then had the carpet yanked out from under him after just four days, after the Republic brought up a bunch of questionable incidents in Backman's past. The Diamondbacks, fired Backman, fearing more bad publicity, but two years later, he's finally returned to the lowest rung, managing an unaffiliated team in an independent league. I note, with amusement, that the official press release entirely omits any mention of his brief stay in Arizona. [One of these days, I'm going to do a 'Top 10 Embarrassing Moments in D'backs history', and this will be high up the list]
But I can see why the organization canned him. They were coming off a historically-bad season, and wanted no part of anyone who could bring the team into disrepute. And lo, less than a month later, Backman was sentenced to 10 days jail for violating probation - he was put on that as the result of a 2000 DUI. No word on what he did to break the terms, but it seems likely that alcohol was involved: the judge in 2004, while extending the probation until 2008, ordered Backman to stay off the sauce until then. Word is, he's a solid manager, tough with young players yet capable of earning their respect, but is someone who undeniably has an issue with the bottle. In that, I certainly wish him all the best.
Probably of somewhat more significance to the 2007 Diamondbacks, is a report by Jack Magruder in the Tribune, saying "The D-Backs no longer are among the finalists to sign free agent Mulder, sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations said Wednesday." Interestingly, the story reports that it was a base $1m for 2007, with up to another $1.5m in incentives, which goes against the word that we no longer offer such contracts. However, I generally laud such flexibility, as while I can see the point of such a rule, there are cases where it is eminently sensible. But again, there's no point in overpaying just to have him. Magruder thinks we're still looking to add another starter and a reliever through trades.
Speaking of Texas, Eric Gagne passed his physical and has been anointed the Rangers' closer this year. The significance to Arizona is, this makes it more likely the current incumbent, Otsuka, will be available, and could be the reliever mentioned in the paragraph above. However, for the moment, the Rangers are saying he'll move into a set-up role, which would make a formidable 8-9th inning punch in Texas, if Gagne is back to his old form. That is a big "if", and the Rangers might not seek to move Otsuka until they see how Gagne progresses. That'd probably be wise because, after all, he has thrown just two major-league innings since June 2005. But the danger for Texas is, if they wait too long, interested parties might fill their bullpen needs elsewhere, decreasing the interest and return they get.
I dreamt about the Diamondbacks last night. Mrs. SnakePit and I were staying in a hotel where the team were doing another fashion show for the new uniforms. I was supposed to be the MC, and was all prepared with questions, when I went to have a drink with an old school friend. I came back to find, Mrs. SnakePit was on stage, just finishing up. I remember being most peeved because she hadn't asked any of my questions. Then I tried to go back to the hotel room, but the lock came entirely out of the door when I put my key into it. But I decided that was okay, and just took the lock with me. I really should lay off the late-night snacks.
Diamondbacks.com has a nice summary of performances by the various D'backs who're playing winter ball down South. Of particular interest, Jorge Julio has nine saves and a 2.93 ERA for the Leones del Caracas in Venezuela, but Alberto Callaspo is only batting .148 in the same league, playing on the Aguilas roster. Miguel Montero is hitting .234 there, for Pastora de los Llanos. It's mostly the Hispanic players who take part, but Brian Barden is playing in Mexico, and has a .291 average with Naranjeros de Hermosillo.
Christmas weekend is here, and I don't expect much to happen until the New Year now, as far as any trades. Mind you, the Estrada deal went down right after Thanksgiving, so maybe Josh Byrnes hopes to sneak one past, while the other GMs sleep off the after-effects of too much turkey. I'll be ready if we do, since I will, for the first time ever, be working on Christmas Day. I don't even get to lie-in, since they've moved my shift to an 8am start for the day. Which kinda sucks, but such are the perils of being low man on the totem-pole seniority-wise. It should be pretty quiet though: people should really have better things to do than fiddle with their websites. We should change our on-hold music to children sobbing and plaintively asking, "Where's Daddy?" to remind callers of this. :-)
But otherwise, don't expect much from me to the other side of Yule - so I'll take this chance to wish you a merry Christmas, or whatever religious (or pseudo-religious) festivity you care to celebrate. May you get to spend it with the one you love most: which in Barry Bonds' case, will mean by himself...