Please do not be alarmed. That’s not a picture of David Wright getting injured. But the way things have been going for the Mets lately, would you be surprised if it was? The rash of injuries to hit the Mets continued this week with the news that Carlos Beltran would have to be placed on the disabled list with a bone bruise in his right knee. He joins a number of Mets players on the DL, including Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes. The sole member of the “core of four” who is still playing is David Wright. Now he will be called upon to lead the team until the other players return, while at the same time trying not to get hurt as well.
It seems like such a long time ago when all four players played in at least 159 games in a season, but it was only last year. The Mets were able to contend for the entire season despite their much-publicized flawed bullpen due to the health and achievements of Reyes, Wright, Beltran and Delgado. This year, the Mets have remained near the top of the division despite the injuries to their core because of the contributions from players who weren’t expected to be major pieces in the puzzle. The offense of Gary Sheffield and Omir Santos coupled with the pitching of Livan Hernandez and most recently, Fernando Nieve, have given the Mets the boost needed to stay afloat while the injured players are recovering. It might be too much to expect these players to continue performing at this high level for the entire season, so the onus falls on David Wright to carry the team.
Although he’s never been the most vocal leader in the clubhouse, preferring to assert his leadership between the foul lines, Wright has slowly begun to slide into this role. From the pep talk with Mike Pelfrey in the dugout at Camden Yards to replacing Delgado as the infielder who visits the mound whenever a pitcher is in trouble, Wright has begun to embrace his role as unofficial team captain. The Mets now have many young players forced into starting roles because of the injuries. Guys like Daniel Murphy, Mike Pelfrey, Jeremy Reed and Fernando Martinez will need the tutelage of a veteran player such as Wright in order to maintain the high confidence level needed to perform on an everyday basis in the major leagues.
David Wright already is doing his part on the field by leading the National League in batting average. He has also rediscovered his base stealing skills after dropping from a career-high 34 stolen bases in 2007 to only 15 steals in 2008. The absence of Carlos Delgado in the lineup has prompted Wright to become more aggressive on the bases since they can no longer depend on Delgado’s powerful bat to drive in bushels of runs. As Wright said recently,
“We can’t rely on guys to sit back and hit the three-run home run. We haven’t done it so far this year, and I don’t see us doing it. While we have this many guys out, we really have to manufacture our runs, get good starting pitching and give that ball to the bullpen.”
Wright is doing his part to manufacture as many runs as possible on the field. Now he must also do his part in the dugout to help the younger players do the same. It is imperative for him to stay healthy as well. Otherwise there might not be much to play for once his teammates return from the disabled list. The team is on your shoulders now, David. Let’s see if we can slay Goliath once and for all!