The 2012 Championship Mets

Last week, David Wright played catch at Citi Field ― yes, catch. This morning, Tim Healey of Newsday reported that he moved to fielding ground balls at third base.

I could dedicate an entire blog to how great The Captain is, or how his 2006 season cemented my love for the Mets, or why he deserves every opportunity to make it back on the field someday… but that’s not what this post is about.

I’m sure you know the story of Bernie Madoff ― more importantly to Mets fans, the story of how owner Fred Wilpon invested half a billion dollars in his ponzi scheme and crippled the ability of this franchise to function. The Mets had no chance at competing the years before or after the Madoff news broke, but the 2012 season? They had a real shot at making a deep playoff run on the back of one of Wright’s best seasons in the blue and orange.

Before I get into what 2012 could have been, it’s worth noting what it actually was: the last full season from The Captain. Over 156 games, Wright put up a .306/.391/.492 line, the 3rd best mark of his career. His OPS+ was 144, the 5th highest of any NL qualifier. His bWAR (7.1) and dWAR (2.1) ranked 3rd and 6th in the league, respectively. Simply put, he had one of the most dominant seasons a Mets’ hitter has ever had.

While a 29 y/o David Wright was busy making his case for a contract extension, then-rookie Matt Harvey was lighting up radar guns across the National League. After all the Dark Knight drama from the last couple years, it’s easy to forget he had a 2.79 ERA and 10.6 K/9 over his first 10 starts. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of R.A. Dickey’s Cy Young season ― sure, without trading him the Mets never get Syndergaard, but can you imagine his knuckle-ball embarrassing Posey and Melky in the NLCS? I salivate at the thought.

Those 2012 Mets also had a cast of supporting characters that were criminally overlooked ― a young infield of Murph (.291 BA), Davis (32 HRs), and Tejada (2.1 bWAR) putting up solid numbers, Niese (3.40 ERA/30 games) and Parnell (2.49 ERA/74 games) both had the best seasons of their careers, veterans Hairston, Torres, and Young combining for 4 bWAR. This was by no means a throwaway roster.

The Mets were 46-40 at the All-Star Break, half a game behind the Braves and tied with the Cardinals and Giants, all of whom would make the playoffs that year. Even after losing guys like Beltran, Reyes, Pagan, and Feliciano the previous couple years, or suffering through Bay and K-Rod’s disastrously bad, injury plagued 2012 seasons, the Mets were still in the race. It’s even more shocking when you consider the team went from spending $134M on their roster in 2011 ― 4th highest in baseball ― down to about $82M that year, good for only 15th in the majors.

What if the Mets pick up Scutaro from the Rockies instead of the Giants, letting his monster 2nd half and NLCS MVP performance carry them to the World Series? What if they got Anibal Sanchez instead of the Tigers to help fill the hole left by Santana’s injury? What if Mujica doesn’t go to the Cards, but instead puts his 1.03 ERA behind Parnell as a proper set up man? Hell, what if the Mets spent more than $20M in the off season and picked up a C.J. Wilson, or a Papelbon ― even Cuddyer was great back then.

As I watch the interviews with Wright this past week, asking him if he’s still a leader in the clubhouse, or if he believes he’ll ever make it back on the field again, my heart breaks ― for what is probably the greatest player to ever put on a Mets uniform short of Tom Seaver. A man who agreed to begin and end his career in Flushing, only to watch one of the greatest stretches a third baseman has ever been on be wasted by corruption, greed, and incompetence.

Well… at least I’ll always have this.