David Wright’s final appearance as a New York Met on Saturday night was easily one of my most poignant memories as a fan of this team. Everything about the occasion – from Wright’s young daughter throwing out the first pitch to his final words to the fans after what would be a marathon game – was well choreographed to honor what he means to all of us.
To me, Wright was not merely a great player on my favorite baseball team. Born in 1997, I was seven years old when the Mets called up Wright, then the team’s top prospect, in the summer of 2004. The very concept of the New York Mets as a professional baseball team and the sight of David Wright manning third base have been almost indistinguishable as far back as my memory goes. He was a central character to every big Mets moment since that July evening and a cardinal figure in my childhood. It is fitting that as I finish my senior year of college and prepare to enter the “real world,” David begins a new chapter of his own.
Beyond the incredible statistics and heroic moments, the most astounding element of Wright’s career was his ability to command respect from his teammates and the league at such a young age. By his mid-20s, he had become the face of a winning team in the biggest media market in the country. At the top of the game in New York City with a team seemed destined to win for years, he stayed humble and always said the right thing.
When the franchise spiraled out of control in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal, Wright held his tongue, sticking it out with the hope that the organization would eventually turn the corner. When that moment finally came, Wright was glad to cede the spotlight to a new generation of sensational talents like Noah Syndergaard and Michael Conforto. If there were one word that could capture Wright’s approach to the game, his teammates, and fans, it’s class.
Unfortunately, after a night of such grace and humility by one of the classiest players in baseball, Mets ownership put on a disgraceful display that was the very antithesis of the legacy Wright left with this franchise.
In an increasingly-rare media appearance before Sunday’s season finale, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon put on a cowardly performance in stark contrast to the previous night’s festivities. Attempting to dodge any blame for squandering competitive 2015 and 2016 teams, Wilpon pinned many of the organization’s failures on outgoing GM Sandy Alderson, who left the organization in June to undergo another round of cancer treatment. Wilpon claimed that it was Alderson who decided not to invest in high-priced free agents over the past few years. He also added that it was Alderson’s staff who refused to expand the team’s analytics department.
As if ownership has not shown enough contempt for Mets fans already, Wilpon took one cheap shot after another at a figure who, like Wright, is much too classy to ever fire back. Nobody believes Jeff. We all know what has gone on the last few years and exactly who was at the center of it all. Does he really think Mets fans are dumb enough to believe him?
The last two months have proven that this team has the pieces to contend next year, with a few sizable investments. The rotation was otherworldly in the second half, while Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto looked like stars. Another re-tooling, rather than a rebuild, is the clear path forward. However, that will require the Wilpons to fork over some major cash. Unless they can make significant upgrades while retaining Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, I don’t see how anyone can justify giving these owners another dime.
After this weekend, we’re now left with nothing more than memories of what real leadership looks like. So thank you, David. You’re truly the last of your kind.