The ship is taking on water and we need our captain more than ever. Injuries are sapping momentum. Young players are behaving badly. Veterans are fighting through slumps. The wisdom and contagious enthusiasm of David Wright could save the day.
As the 34-year-old battles back from a shoulder impingement, that derailed his comeback from a herniated disc, that derailed his comeback from spinal stenosis, he refuses to give up. “I still believe,” he told reporters on opening day this year, even as he was again placed on the 60-day disabled list.
According to Mets assistant GM John Ricco. The Mets captain has restarted a throwing program, but is still “a ways away.” Wright continues to rehab under the guidance of the esteemed Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.
Since the start of the 2015 season, Wright has played in just 75 games. In the fifth year of an eight-year contract, Wright is due $20 million this season and $47 million through 2020.That may seem outrageous, but look at the back of his baseball card for a quick reminder of the six MVP type seasons Wright put up in his prime years, from 2005, his first full Major League season, through 2012.
Wright hasn’t played a full season since 2014 and hasn’t had a truly productive one since 2013. Clearly, if he makes it back, we need to manage our expectations. A lot of comparisons have been drawn to Don Mattingly, current manager of the Florida Marlins, and former Yankees star first baseman. For readers too young to recall, Mattingly was arguably the best all-around player in the game for a stretch in the late 1980s. He was a gold glove first baseman and a legitimate triple crown threat at the plate. Unfortunately, Mattingly’s peak years coincided with the Yankee teams that were all offense with little pitching. It wasn’t until a few years later that the late owner George Steinbrenner finally accepted the importance of pitching. Mattingly’s spinal condition robbed him of the longevity he needed to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame, and to play for a World Series ring alongside the new generation of talent that was on its way up in the Bronx.
David Wright appears to be suffering a similar fate, though he did get to play in the 2015 World Series. In a heartfelt interview with the Daily News’ David Vaccaro, Wright made it clear that he wants no pity. “I don’t ever want anyone to think I’ve had anything less than an amazing experience playing baseball,” Wright said a few weeks ago. “If you are inclined to feel sorry for me, please don’t. Baseball has given me an incredible life.”
Teammate Jay Bruce was a little less diplomatic offering, “It stinks for him and it stinks for us and it stinks for New York and it stinks for baseball. Baseball is better when David Wright is playing every day”
On opening day, when he realized he couldn’t write his captain’s name in the lineup card, Manager Terry Collins remarked, “You’re talking about not just one of the greatest Mets in Mets history. You are talking about one of the best players in baseball. It’s hard to see this guy going through what he’s gone through. I look forward to a day when I get to write his name in the lineup again. That’ll be a very good day.”
It will be a very good day not just for Wright and his teammates, but for the fans as well. Just thinking about the standing ovation at Citi Field gives me goose bumps.