In a perfect world, David Wright would come back this September, be completely healthy and be a contributing member of the organization on the field for the remaining two years of his contract. Unfortunately, the baseball gods do not exist and best-case scenarios for an individual suffering from spinal stenosis doesn’t lend itself to that rosy outlook. That’s why the outrage from the fans along with the narrative-driven hot-takes from the media has clouded the truth: it’s in the best interest of both parties to move on.
I want to preface all this by saying that David Wright embodies everything good about the game of baseball. He’s been a team player both on and off the field. He’s been through a lot of the good, bad and ugly since his debut in 2004. He never complained, pointed fingers or used the media for his own agenda. He could have bailed after Jose Reyes left in 2011, but he signed on for more – albeit at a huge reward to the tune of $138 million dollars – when he could have been a component part on winning team like San Francisco or St. Louis. He will go down statistically as the best position player in franchise history. Third base, a revolving door since the team’s inception, will have his picture permanently as the gold standard. With that said, his contributions are as relevant as Seaver, Strawberry or Piazza. It’s in the past and a conversation for nostalgia, not a piece of the more important present roster.
Baseball is a business, and if David Wright getting on the field is going to cost the Mets a reported $4-million dollars, that is not a worthwhile investment. I rather see the team put that towards Jerry Blevins in the 2019 bullpen than a farewell tour for Wright.
The Athletic has done some of the best reporting on Wright starting with Marc Carig’s article in late August. Carig painted the picture of a man desperately trying to get the complex parts of his body going each morning. It seems like Wright wakes up and can count on one of his neck, back or shoulder telling him it “can’t make it to the ballpark.”
Tim Britton was present during Wright’s simulated game on Saturday. Despite an opposite-field home run off Tim Peterson (Let’s hope for Peterson’s sake he wasn’t trying to get Wright out) he described Wright’s bat as “slow” against Anthony Swarzak. I think Swarzak has gotten a bad rap this injury-riddled year, but if he’s not ready for his repertoire in an empty stadium at 3 pm, what hope does he have against the elite in the game? That doesn’t even include the continued use of sidearm mechanics at third base. The same process that led to the Royals tying Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. Lucas Duda gets blamed on that play, but it started with Wright. Can you imagine how a bad defensive team can get worse with Wright at third?
We heard about “culture” during Mickey Callaway‘s introduction press conference. Earlier this week he referenced to Wayne Randazzo on the WOR pregame show how he’s started to see buy-in of his vision during recent weeks. Although Callaway didn’t go on to articulate specifics, I have to believe that “earning your position” is part of it. Do you think big leaguers really want to see their team become a paid Sunday softball outlet?
Ceremonial starts or pinch-hit appearances by David Wright are no more than just that. Fans say, “it doesn’t matter” since the team is out of the race. The media wants its day of sanctimony to get some final page views out of the 2018 season. They have their postseason spot sewn up in the Bronx, the Mets are about narratives and hot takes in their business. Neither cares about the impact it has on the team long-term until said narrative plays out next year. Then the second-guessing will begin (count on it).
In the end, the Mets have every right to demand their captain show he can be more than a ceremonial player on the roster. If he can’t be available every day in some capacity and man his position, what’s the point? They already have a third baseman in Todd Frazier that can probably produce at a best-case scenario level for the current version of David Wright. They need to know they have a player that can make a difference. Anything else is just a carnival.
I have been on record saying that no one has the right to tell a player when they should retire. This scenario is not different. If David Wright wants to play the role of Sisyphus he can continue it. The Mets have the ability and right to set the bar as high as they want. They don’t need a $20-million dollar, 3-day a week player. If Wright doesn’t like this he can demand a release or trade. I doubt any of the 29 other teams will be interested. Why? For the same reason the Mets aren’t: he can’t play anymore.
I saw some complaints about Noah Syndergaard‘s outing against the Phillies this weekend. Yes, the final line was pedestrian (6.2, 12 hits, 4 runs) but Callaway pushed him to try and get some additional outs when there was a margin of error. I see this as the organization trying to turn “Thor” into the bulldog that deGrom has become. The easy decision was to remove him after 6 innings with a tidy quality start. If Syndergaard wants to be great, then great pitchers go north of 100 pitches and leave very little outs to the bullpen. Good job Callaway and good job Syndergaard for attempting to grind out that final inning.
How good has David Wright been for the Mets? If not for his injury I think he would be a Hall-of-Fame player in the same category as Brooks Robinson and Ron Santo. He probably would be a shade below Chipper Jones and Wade Boggs, but it would have made for an interesting debate.
As for his standing with the Mets? It’s no comparison. Using Baseball-Reference Play Index I searched players in team history that played third base 75% of their career appearances. Wright’s Wins Above Replacement is at 50.4 and the next highest is Wayne Garrett at 13.9. Where is Howard Johnson you ask? I must reduce the percentage of time at third base to 60% and HoJo comes up second with 22-win shares. It’s easy to forget that HoJo played a ton of shortstop and, of course, had his run at the outfield in 1992.
Want to know what Baseball Reference WAR calls the best individual Mets season in history? It’s Wright’s 2007 season.
Wright’s career certainly will go down in many ways as a sort-of baseball Greek tragedy due to the ultimate “what if.”