Let’s make this easy and get the bat-licking out of the way.
Did you see it? SNY, in its telecast Saturday of the Mets’ 7-3 loss to the Marlins at Citi Field, showed David Wright licking his bat and making a face of displeasure.
“I think I do that quite a bit,” Wright said with a sheepish grin. “It’s something that comes natural.”
But let’s end that discussion right about there, shall we? Yes, it sounds pretty weird. We all do weird stuff. It’s just that most of us don’t have our work shifts televised.
This is about the idea that Wright can’t even take a day off without scrutiny from above and around. That it comes with being the face of a franchise that still carries the burden of the last two seasons’ conclusions.
Jerry Manuel usually prefers to rest his star players on the road, but after Wright’s 0-for-5, two-strikeout showing Friday night, Manuel called Wright into his office and told him he’d be resting yesterday.
We now take a look into Wrights home/road splits…
Wright has a .797 OPS at home (.362 on-base percentage, .435 slugging percentage) and 1.058 on the road (.510 OBP, .548 SLG).
“I think anxiety has something to do with it, wanting to do so well in front of the home crowd, those type of things,” Manuel said. “I believe he’ll eventually turn that around, get comfortable here in these surroundings.
“Some hitters come to the ballpark and say, ‘I see a lot of hits out there.’ . . . Some come up and say, ‘Don’t look like I can get hits here.’ I don’t know if that’s the case, but more he plays here, more comfortable he’ll become here.”
Wright respectfully disagreed with his manager, saying:
“I just think it’s two months of a game that is already tough to be consistent at. But I don’t feel any different playing here than I do on the road. I go out there and try to get the job done at home, try to get the job done on the road. I don’t try harder one place or another.”
You couldn’t help but wonder when you read the Mets’ lineup card Saturday morning. No Wright, no Gary Sheffield, no Luis Castillo. No Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes or Ryan Church, obviously. Not even Omir Santos.
Nope, it was pretty much Carlos Beltran and the ‘B’ Team, and it turned out that Beltran was in Day 2 of a 48-to-72-hour virus. He took off once the game got out of hand.
With the Mets-killing Josh Johnson on the hill for Florida and the less-than-thrilling Tim Redding going for the Mets, backed up by the lineup from hell, this game screamed, “Mismatch!” It would’ve been a shocker had the Mets’ four-game winning streak not ended. It brought to mind that 1989 game when Randy Myers wrote, “Are we trying?” on a lineup card that he found unimpressive.
This happens everywhere in the game. “It’s just good to get a blow every now and then,” Wright said, “because over the course of a long season, these tend to help you out come August and September.”
The difference with the Mets is that one game kept them from at least a play-in contest each of the previous two seasons. So their fan base isn’t quite as forgiving of the big-picture concept.
Those are the same fans, whom Manuel thinks might be affecting Wright.
Wright, of course, is having a stellar season overall. Even if his power numbers are down, he’s getting on base far more often.
It’s not the new ballpark, he said, nor is it the fans. It is, Wright noted, “a small sample size.”