David Wright has technically been a New York Met since 2004, but he has not played in a Major League game since May of 2016. For many years, Wright was one of the better third basemen in Major League Baseball, but, ironically, I am currently the most excited I have ever been about David Wright.
On most days since April of 2015, I have assumed that David Wright’s MLB career was finished. Wright found himself on the DL eight days into the Mets’ 2015 season. During that DL stint, we learned that Wright had been diagnosed with spinal stenosis. As the Mets acquired Yoenis Cespedes on July 31 and went on a tear in August, David Wright had become an afterthought…albeit an afterthought of “His career might be over.” Then, lo and behold, Wright returned in late August and was the Mets’ regular third baseman en route to the World Series.
However, after David hit .185 (10 for 54) in the 2015 postseason, I hoped he would retire. I figured that he had a signature moment – a homerun in the first World Series game ever played at Citi Field – but that his body would not allow him to play Major League Baseball at a high level any longer. Spinal stenosis is a debilitating condition, and I considered his on-field time from late August through November 1 of 2015 should be his swan song. Had he retired after the 2015 season, the Mets would have ensured that there would be no awkward situation in which the Mets would have to decide between playing a broken-down David Wright or a better player at third base. I did not want to see Wright end up in a position where he guts out 40 games per season at a .200 batting average, as fans clamor to see a journeyman .260 hitter start over him. That would have been awkward for all of us, and I wanted no part of it.
Well, interestingly enough, Wright did not retire after 2015….but my fear did not play out either. In 2016, Wright was hitting .226 with 7 homers when he went on the DL over Memorial Day Weekend. Since then, he has never been on the active Mets roster. As he has battled major neck and shoulder problems (on top of the spinal-stenosis back problems), he has become the ultimate afterthought in terms of the present-day Mets. Until the past week or two, most of us have thought of David Wright’s Mets career in past tense. Sure, in 2017, Jose Reyes (who served as the Mets’ primary third baseman for much of the season) said all the right things (no pun intended) about keeping the seat warm for Wright. Those two have such a strong friendship, dating back to 2003-4, and any good friend believes the best in his or her friends. However, in the case of Wright being the Mets’ everyday third baseman, it was wishful thinking on Reyes’s part….and every Mets fan knew it.
Fast forward to 2018 when the Mets signed Todd Frazier to the Mets’ third baseman, and nobody was worrying that the Mets had given away Wright’s position. Wright was done. His career was in the past. We would occasionally hear about him having light workouts or having catches with people. Woop-dee-doo. I do not care about that stuff for guys on the 10-day DL; I did not care with Wright either. That said, all of a sudden, a few weeks ago, Wright actually began playing in rehab games in Port St. Lucie. I do not generally care about that stuff either, but, given Wright’s situation, I was interested. Honestly, I had never thought he would make it back this far.
Now, as I sit here on September 13, I see a player who has not played in more than 2.5 seasons but has worked through incredibly painful and debilitating injuries to try to get back on the field. How often do we see players, especially those in their mid-30s, return after that much time off? I know that Wright is coming back for only one or a few games before retiring, but it remains quite a feat. It would have been very easy at any time since early 2015 for Wright to retire. Sure, the money he is making is a good motivator to try to play again, but I do not care. Especially since Wright went down “for good” in May 2016, he has to have known that; if he were ever to return to the Majors, he would be a shell of what he once was. He has to have known that he has had very few MLB games left in him….but that does not matter to him. Many players would not have fought back for more than 2.5 years like Wright has. Wright just wants to play on an MLB field one more time, and he will have that opportunity on the Mets. That is a great story.
The funny thing is that, until now, David Wright never truly excited me as a Met. When Wright had his best seasons from 2005 through 2008, I was always more excited by Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado. Wright was a great player, but I felt that those three were the true stars. Unfortunately, as those players left, Wright stepped down from “Great” to “Very Good”. During those “very good” years of 2009 through 2014, the Mets were not very good. By 2015, when the Mets finally made it to a World Series with Wright, the stars had become the pitchers and Cespedes. Therefore, for one reason or another, David Wright had never excited me….until now.
Yes, David Wright is one of the best people in baseball. He is a good-looking guy, and he has been a great face for the Mets’ franchise. He is one of the few pro athletes who can legitimately be a role model for kids. However, his dedication to work his way back to the majors makes him more of a role model than ever. For the first time in David Wright’s career, I am excited to watch him play. He might end up playing only three games or two games or one game. That does not matter to me. It will be very emotional to see him return to the Mets’ lineup, and I am excited to see #5 play third base for the Mets at least one more time.