From the almost completely unorthodox, we take a step back into the normal and somewhat likely realm.
Yesterday's match was one of the most hilariously awkward mismatches we'll be likely to see in the entire fray. In a match that was long over almost immediately after it began, Darin Erstad VERY handily defeated Paul Konerko 169-18 in voting (90% to 10%) and advances to the quarterfinals, where he awaits today's winner.
Today's match will likely be harder to decide.
One was a member of arguably the rowdiest world championship team of all time. The other was famous for being a utility man in almost every sense of the phrase, and has a plaque hanging in the utility closet of the Hall of Fame to prove it. Let's get this one underway.
WALLY BACKMAN (NYM) vs. JOSE OQUENDO (STL)
Wally Backman spent fourteen years in the majors, nine of which were with the New York Mets, including the 1986 championship run, in which he served as a platoon second baseman. Known as a speedy catalyst at the top of the Mets' order, he was unceremoniously traded after their strong 1988 season ended in flat-faced heartache. After five up-and-down seasons with Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Seattle, Backman hung it up. In 2002 he began his managerial career with the AA Birmingham Barons, and moved on to the A-Advanced Lancaster JetHawks in 2004, where he was named Minor League Manager of the Year by The Sporting News. After a putrid 2004 season that saw the Diamondbacks go 51-111 and burn through two terrible managers, Backman was initially announced as the replacement for interim
jobber manager Al Pedrique. However, it became apparent that Backman falsified a few things during his interview for the big league job--two arrests and a Chapter 11 bankruptcy that served as an escape route from immense debt to the IRS and 19 other creditors, just seemed to magically disappear from Backman's memory--and the Diamondbacks fired him four days after hiring him, before he ever managed a game. He began his managerial renaissance in 2007, in the independent South Coast League for the South Georgia Peanuts. He moved on to another independent league, the Northern League, to manage the Joliet Jackhammers, before eventually returning to the affiliated circus circuit before the 2010 season, when the Mets welcomed him back to the organization to manage the St. Lucie Mets in A-Advanced (ironically, his platoon mate from the 1986 season, Tim Teufel, was promoted from St. Lucie to AA Binghamton, which is where Backman interviewed for); however, Backman was again shifted around before managing a single game, although not fired, but rather transferred to manage the short-season Brooklyn Cyclones for 2010. After being passed for the Mets' big-league job in the 2011 offseason, Backman moved to his intended spot from two years prior--Binghamton. This current season he is managing the AAA Las Vegas 51s. His slow ascension makes him very familiar with younger players, such as Ike Davis, Justin Turner and current Angel Collin Cowgill. He appears to have atoned for his mistakes with the Diamondbacks, but does he have the actual credibility to manage a big league team?
Jose Oquendo may have far less controversial or confusing of a path to managerial candidacy, but he is nonetheless still a credible candidate. Posting a .256/.346/.317 triple-slash over his 13-season career and having played every single position at least once, Oquendo could be very partial to the small-ball game that made the Angels a contender earlier last decade. After his playing career wrapped up in 1995, Oquendo returned to the Cardinals organization in 1997 as a minor league coach, and then manager of the New Jersey Cardinals in 1998. In 1999 the team moved him to St. Lou as the bench coach, one year later moved him to third base coach and he has been there ever since. Oquendo, in addition to his one managerial season in the minors, managed the Puerto Rico WBC team in 2006 and 2009. He's interviewed for four different managerial openings, including St. Louis after the retirement of Tony La Russa. On the outside looking in, Oquendo would seem a desirable candidate, but is there a reason that four different organizations have passed on him, including the one that he spent twelve seasons with before even once interviewing? Would his friendship with former Cardinal Albert Pujols help him with an Anaheim job?
Y'all know this routine. Vote, discuss, have some fun with it!