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April 30, 2011

Minor Issues

Adversity Management, with Wally Backman

by David Laurila

Wally Backman knows all about dealing with adversity, and as the first-year manager of the Double-A Binghamton Mets, part of his job is helping others do the same. The colorful, and sometimes controversial, former infielder talked about his role in keeping everything on an even keel prior to a recent game.

On winning and losing on the farm: “I think it definitely matters. Winning is part of development. Our main objective in the minor leagues is to develop our players and make them better for the next season, and winning is a big part of that. Players need to learn how to win.

“I think about the wins and losses in the sense that it shows me what needs to be worked on from the developmental side. It helps show what our extra work needs to be. But they mean something else. It’s important for the players to understand wins and losses, or you can get real complacent. As a player, if you’re thinking that winning isn’t everything and you’re just developing your own skills…you need to play as a team. You can’t play as just one person.

“As a manager in the minor leagues, you’re playing the cards you’re dealt with and you have to make the most of them. The losing part…I don’t like to lose. I never have. But when they come, I take them, and then the next day is a new day. I start over.”

On communicating with players who had a bad game: “I let it go until the next day. You don’t really address it at the heat of the moment, because the player might be pissed off, the coaches might be upset from seeing the way he played. You want to wait until everybody cools off and talk to him the next day about his performance. What was going through his mind and things like that.

“[Brad Holt] last night. He’d had four great starts in a row, but you’re not going to have great starts all the time. That’s just part of the minor leagues, learning how to be consistent. But yeah, I’ll talk to him.”

On players worrying about job security: “It doesn’t come into play during the conversations, but players think about those kinds of things. With as long as I played…yeah, players think about it. But those are things you try to stay away from. You might have short meetings and talk about the things that we need to do, but any added pressure that a player puts on himself is going to worsen the matter.”

On concerns a player might go out on the town to blow off steam after a bad performance: “It’s not so much just after losses. As a manager, you have to monitor it all the time. Anything that the players do. They’re grown men, and I’m not a babysitter, but I’m responsible for them. If things start to affect their performance on the field, it’s addressed immediately. If it doesn‘t…they‘re grown men.”

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