With managerial *candidates*, we know even less. In most cases, we haven't actually seen them manage. Most of what we know will come from published media, a few games a couple of years ago when they were a generic opposing manager, and perhaps some quotes from former players. And for candidates like Wally Backman who have never managed in the major leagues? We - and when I say we, I mean fans - know basically nothing.
None of this is to say that a first-time manager can't be effective. They can. Every man who we'd consider a stand-out or successful manager once had their *first* major league managerial gig. But the point is that, well, we don't know very much, so it doesn't make much sense to spend too much time debating the merits of various candidates.
And this is assuming, even, that who the manager is even makes a difference. I view managing in the same way that I view clutch hitting: there is no such thing as incredible-clutch-talent, but you most certainly CAN be a choke artist. In the same vein, I think that all managers are at the very tippy-top of their game and it makes no real difference who the manager is -- unless of course, you have the stinker. But I digress.
Which brings me to Wally Backman, the former Met second baseman and current manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones who was recently passed over for the Mets managing vacancy. On Friday, the Daily News had an article entitled "Wally Backman says he can't believe Mets didn't choose him as new manager after interviews." In it, Backman makes a few statements which I thought were, in a word, noteworthy:
"I didn't think experience should have been a factor," Backman said. "Managing a game is managing a game, and I don't think it's different dealing with players whether it's the majors or the minors.Wally may be right that managing in the major leagues wouldn't be a huge adjustment. He may also be right that as a 'people person' he would be able to manage the personalities of his players without incident. But for a man with a past as checkered as his own, statements like this made to the media help cement my opinion that Wally Backman wouldn't have been able to handle the heat in the New York media kitchen.
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"It's all about motivating in different ways. You have 25 different personalities and you have to be a psychologist. If you're a people person, it's not that hard. I really enjoy that part of the job, and my players respond to it.
"And the whole New York thing, the media, I would think that would have been the least of their worries. I played there, I know what it's about. I know it can be good and bad, but that's part of the excitement of New York."
The best information on Wally Backman can be found at the Baseball Reference wiki. I'd suggest that anyone who has not yet read it get over there and skim the article before your next Wally Backman debate. From refusing to report to the minor leagues for a week as a player, to his conflicts with other players, to his DUI and domestic violence charge -- I find it indicative that he felt compelled to go to the media and comment on the outcome of his interview.
If you are interested in reading more about Backman, there were two interesting articles here and here at Amazin Avenue that provide good reasoning why Backman would have been a poor fit.
Of course, if learning about Backman and his troubled past hadn't already convinced you that he would be a bad fit for the Mets, this probably won't change your mind. But for me, quotes like the above are just proof positive that Backman would have been a mistake.
 Some interesting material on the topic can be found here at ESPN:
All of which begs the question: Just what kind of impact does a manager have on a team's performance anyway? In the essential 2006 book Baseball Between the Numbers, analyst James Click tried to tease some signs of managerial impact out of the statistical record but came up empty. After examining the measurable impact of in-game strategies (bunting, stolen bases, intentional walks), wins and losses relative to run differential, playing time distribution, in-game substitutions (pinch-hitters, relief pitchers, and defensive replacements), and direct impact on player performance (coaching), Click was unable to find evidence of a repeatable skill in any one of those five areas for any of the 456 managers he studied. That is to say that, much like clutch hitting, individual performances varied so much from season to season that the results appeared to be as much the result of chance as anything else.