A chill wind is blowing through our burgs here in the Northeast. The Polar Vortex – a fancy new term for “cold snap” – is swooping down from Canada and threatening to congeal everything in its path. With Christmas a bare two weeks away, thoughts of warm weather and baseball seem quite remote at the moment. Even so, the Met fan will have a lot on his or her mind. Will all that great starting pitching come back healthy? How are they going to fix the bullpen? How will the outfield be configured? Can the Mets continue to contend?
The one question no one seems to be asking, though, is what about David Wright? Last year, the Captain exited the fray early on – it was Memorial Day weekend, when he homered in the Mets’ walk-off victory over the Dodgers. At that point, he had played in 37 games, one less than his total for 2015, when he brought his damaged spine back to the field and helped fuel the pennant express. There would be no such return this time. It was soon determined that Wright needed neck fusion surgery, a procedure that any fan of Peyton Manning can tell you will put you on your back for a considerable length of time. Wright made an appearance at Citi Field in July, fresh off the surgery and unable to turn his head in any direction. He watched the game from the distant right field bullpen, to avoid any chance he may have to duck out of the way of a foul ball in the dugout. In interviews, he seemed shaky and tentative and while most of that can be attributed to the recent proximity of his surgery, it still made the long-time Wright-watcher sad. This vibrant young man, the exemplar the team had been lacking since the downfall of Dwight Gooden, seemed to be aging before our eyes. Let’s face it: spinal stenosis isn’t something that gets better as one gets older. At the start of 2017, Wright will be 34 years old. That’s usually around the time the typical baseball player hears the clock start to tick: he has to at least be thinking about the close of his career. Yet, Sandy Alderson and the rest of the Mets’ hierarchy talk as if they’re counting on him for the long haul in 2017.
This is baffling. How many games do you think Wright can be counted on to play? Over here, it looks like 80 at best – half a year, with judicious rest and a lot of luck. With Wright, we’re starting to get into Moises Alou territory. If you recall 2007, a lot of stock was put into the veteran slugger Alou to take up the slack for the departed Cliff Floyd. When he was on the field, he did that and better. He absolutely raked in his Met tenure. When he was on the field. Omar Minaya signed him up, knowing full well that Alou had developed a reputation for being brittle at that point in his career. Yet, Minaya and manager Willie Randolph continued to treat Alou’s presence in the lineup as a given. As it was, he ended up having a great 328 at-bats for those doomed Mets. They tried it out again the next year, but he was done after 54 plate appearances. The fear here, of course, is that management seems to be going down a similar road with Wright. No one has any idea how much is left in his tank and there doesn’t seem to be a contingency in place to deal with the seemingly inevitable. Yes, it’s great to have Jose Reyes around again, and boy, didn’t they catch lightning in a bottle with him last year? But there doesn’t seem to be any awareness that it may have been just that: a great last spurt to Reyes’s career as well. At the Winter Meetings just concluded, the Chicago White Sox sold off a great number of assets. Their slugging third baseman Todd Frazier could have been one of them and he could have found himself patrolling the Citi Field dirt. Instead, we cross our fingers and hope the best from Wright/Reyes.
It’s all we can do.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.