An Ode To David Wright

David Wright is the Endy Chavez catch in human form.

In the sixth inning of game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, when Chavez went to the apex of his leap, and caught the ball in the webbing of his glove, (classic Gary Cohen call) he was about forty feet away from where the Mets had the jersey numbers of their legendary players displayed in Shea Stadium.

That shrine has made it’s way over to Citi Field. In 2016, Mike Piazza joined Gil Hodges, Casey Stengel, Tom Seaver and Jackie Robinson in Mets and baseball immortality respectively. One day, David Wright will have his number 5 featured in the left field corner next to these Mets heroes. As I write this, Wright is the longest-tenured active player to have played his entire career with one team.

I look forward to telling my children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren why the 5 is there and why no other Met will ever wear it. That also means I’ll have to tell them why the number 5 won’t be joining 31 and 41 in Cooperstown.

The back of David Wright’s baseball card could never even come close to telling the full story.

Do I have the necessary vocabulary to describe the poetry of David Wright fielding a slow rolling ball up the third base line bare handed?

Can I accurately convey what a thing of beauty it was to see Wright jog into second base after smashing a double between the right and center fielders?

I think more than anything, what David Wright represented to Mets fans was hope.

When Mike Hampton departed New York for the school system in Colorado, fans of the Amazins were left shaking their heads. The Mets took that compensatory pick awarded to them when Hampton signed to the Rockies, and selected a third baseman from Virginia, David Wright.

By the time that third baseman made his Mets debut in 2004, fans had long forgotten about Mike Hampton. Wright had a partner on the left side of the infield named Jose Reyes who made his debut a year earlier. In 2005, Reyes and Wright played their first full season together, and they set Queens on fire.

From day one David was just our guy. When his veteran teammates hid from reporters, and pretended to not be able to speak English, Wright stood tall. He became our spokesman, and the face of the franchise.

I hope my grandchildren don’t ask me about 2006. I’ll instinctively start gushing about the acquisitions of Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran. They’ll pick up on that excitement and ask me why the Mets didn’t win that year. I won’t have the answer. I might even snap at them but I won’t mean it.

As disappointing as the 2006 season was, the future was still bright.

I remember a city bus passing by me in October of 2007. There was a huge advertisement on the side, urging people to watch the MLB postseason. Front and center of that display was our young superstar, David Wright. The Mets were supposed to be playing fall baseball that year, but a historic collapse would prove otherwise.

The following season, the last year the Mets would play in Shea Stadium, held the exact same fate.

Relievers driven by taxi drivers were involved in car crashes. Bare chested front office personnel were challenging players to fights. Managers were fired in the middle of the night. Players dropped like flies. Catastrophic collapses.

It’s difficult to even think about that time period and remember it correctly. It feels like an era marked by optimism and expectation, that ended so abruptly it was impossible to process.

Hey, we still got David.
Wright was always the constant. As prolific and exciting as Jose Reyes was, injuries took him out of play constantly.

David was our guy.
The problem is, things started to work against our captain.

In the interest of putting more seats in the Wilpon’s shrine to the Brooklyn Dodgers, (Citi Field) the outfield wall in David Wright’s right center power alley was moved back to a ludicrous distance. Some say he was never the same after being on the receiving end of a Matt Cain fastball in August of 2009. Others say his inclusion in the Home Run Derby ruined his swing.

What can’t be debated is the effect the Madoff scandal had on the team. The fallout from the massive Ponzi scheme, of which the Mets owners were directly involved, handcuffed the team financially. Wright was surrounded by replacement level players for season after season in his prime.

I hope I can properly tell my grandchildren that these dark seasons are what arguably made Wright most valuable. I hope I can relate to them that Wright still made the Mets an attraction, even though the team was mired in year after year of perpetual misery.

On the last game of the 2011 season, Jose Reyes laid down a bunt and beat out the throw for a base hit. Secure in the knowledge that he beat out Ryan Braun for the batting title, he removed himself from the game. It was the unofficial end of an era. Reyes signing with the Miami Marlins that off-season was the official conclusion of the era.

It hurt. It was impossible to not face the reality of the situation. Our two superstars (who at one point were surrounded by other superstars) never won. And now, one of these superstars was leaving.

Hey. We still got David.

If you remember the timeline laid out earlier in this article, you’d know that at this point it would be time for David Wright to get paid.

Yup. Time flies when you’re having fun. It flies when you’re not. The older you get, it goes even faster.
Wright’s rookie contract was up and the Mets had a decision to make.

Fred Wilpon had a strong opinion about the matter. He called David Wright “a good kid.” He said he was “a good player,” adding that he “wasn’t a superstar.”

Wright of course took his owner’s slight in stride. He handled the situation like every other situation he encountered. Like a professional. The Mets eventually signed David Wright to a long-term deal, signing him through the 2020 season.

There was a sense of relief among many fans. Plenty of loyalists were happy to see Wright remain a Met. On the other hand, many fans saw his decreasing power as a cause for alarm. They were worried about the stress fracture he suffered in his lower back. He hit 10 and 14 homeruns in 2009 and 2011 respectively.

Hey. David will adjust. He made the most errors in the league his first year. He came back and won multiple Gold Glove awards. Right?

I think we knew the 2007 Wright was gone. He was still an elite player. There’s just a lot of things to think about before you commit to player through his late 30s. Wright brought so much more than his play on the field though. So when the Mets named him as team captain, an honor only bestowed four times in the team’s history, it was a no-brainer.

Honestly, after signing the extension, the next few seasons out of Wright were uneven. You could never classify any of these campaigns as bad, it’s just that he set such a high standard for himself.

Towards the end of the 2013 season, a pitcher named Matt Harvey made his debut in Arizona, and dazzled against the Diamondbacks. The following season a converted shortstop turned pitcher named Jacob deGrom won Rookie Of The Year honors. A top pitching prospect we acquired by trading Carlos Beltran, Zack Wheeler was progressing at the major league level

The future looked bright again. We desperately needed something to believe in. We thought we had our first baseman of the future in Ike Davis. We thought Fernando Martinez was going to replace Carlos Beltran. These young pitchers were something to throw our faith behind.

In April of 2015, David Wright stole second base safely. Mets fans in attendance then held their breath as he limped into the dugout. He was diagnosed with a hamstring strain, but the injury wasn’t expected to keep him out very long.

The Mets then reeled off ten consecutive victories, capping off a perfect homestand. The exalted pitching staff which had helped convince David Wright to sign with the Mets long-term was in midseason form.

Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz were on the horizon, and all signs pointed to the captain rejoining the team in short order.

Then Yadier Molina stepped up to the plate. I mean, our captain was diagnosed with spinal stenosis.

Stomach punch.

In a certain light you can still see Diane’s movie-star good looks. Every once in a while you see a glimpse of the grace and finesse in Jack’s movements that made him such a celebrated athlete.

After months of comparison to Don Mattingly, debates on his future and tireless rehab, Wright joined the Mets towards the end of August in Philadelphia. He drove the third pitch he saw into the second deck of Citizens Bank Park. He always inspired hope.

By this time, Syndergaard and Matz had been promoted to the major leagues. The Mets had acquired Yoenis Cespedes. The Nationals had collapsed. The Mets were going to the playoffs.

David drove in the winning run in Game 1, capping off a victory where Jacob deGrom went pitch for pitch with Clayton Kershaw. They outlasted Los Angeles and then ran right through the Cubs. David Wright was going to the World Series and fans couldn’t have been more optimistic.

In Game 1, it was a Wright error that led to the winning run. After a fatigued deGrom got rocked in Game 2, the Mets found themselves down 2-0 to the Royals.

Fitting? Ironic?
I don’t know the word that would best describe how the rest of the series went for the Mets, and more specifically, David Wright.
For better or worse, this World Series cemented David Wright as the quintessential Met.

When the Mets lose, they rip your heart out. They inspire hope when all seems lost, cruise towards victory, and then lose in the most heart breaking fashion when anything besides a victory is inconceivable.

Down 2-0 to Kansas City, the outlook was bleak. When Wright drove a ball over the wall in Game 3, it was as if he put the whole team on his compromised back. His 4 rbis led the way to a Mets victory, and there was reason to believe again.

A great outing by rookie Steven Matz, and two homeruns by rookie Michael Conforto had Citi Field rocking in Game 4. After Daniel Murphy‘s error you could hear a pin drop.

After 8 nearly flawless innings by Matt Harvey in Game 5 fans were confident, even down 3-1 in the series. Well, you know the rest.

Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda are gone now. Matt Harvey is likely on his way out. David Wright is technically still here. But if the diagnosis of spinal stenosis was the Molina home run, the latest news regarding Wright’s condition is Carlos Beltran striking out.

When Wainwright threw the fateful curveball that night, Carlos Delgado was standing in the on deck circle. David Wright was watching from the top step of the dugout. Unfortunately he’s been watching a lot of game action from that same position lately.

Try and remember how much he has given to this team. Try and put yourself in the shoes of a man who sacrificed his entire life for the game of baseball. Can you say with absolute conviction you wouldn’t want to get back on the field?

We’d be lying if we said that we didn’t want a much different outcome. But try and remember how exciting it was in the moment when Endy Chavez made that catch.

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