I like David Wright. In fact, I like him a lot mostly because he personifies what my generation of Baby Boomers want to see in someone who has the privilege of playing a boys game for big money at a high level with genuine modesty and appreciation for “the game”.
And I know that just yesterday I wrote a piece about the need for fans of my generation to Make Room For The Millennials like Bryce Harper and Matt Harvey and to adjust to how the game is being played today. There is no reason to take any of it back. And actually, the more I think about it the more I realize that I’m pretty late in coming around to what is pretty much a done deal anyway.
Still, there’s also something to be said for what is playing out in the training camp of the New York Mets, and in particular the struggles of David Wright to take a live swing in a live game this Spring…………..a full month since he reported early with the hope that this year would be different. But so far, it’s not shaping up that way for him…..
For the first six years of his career, David Wright averaged more than 150 games played each season according to Baseball Reference . Twice during that span, he played in all but two of the Mets 162 games. But since then (2010), he’s only managed an average of about 100 games including a low last year of less then 35 games. Bigger than that though, his power numbers have shrunk proportionately causing the Mets to search elsewhere spending additional money for a power bat in Yeonis Cespedes.
None of this is David Wright’s fault. He is not “injury prone” as say someone like Mark Teixeria appears to be. Instead, he is the victim of a degenerative back disease for which there is no cure. It is the same condition that resulted in the early retirement of Don Mattingly who, like Wright, seemed well on his way to a hall of fame career before things slid backwards. Except unlike Mattingly, the Mets will be paying Wright the balance of a $138 million contract through the year 2020.
And although this money is guaranteed, David Wright is not the type to take the money and run type of person. Instead, he is the opposite type of guy. The Mets too are behaving like a standup organization as well while realizing that their franchise player continues to face serious physical issues. And so, they’ve put together what they’re calling “a program” designed specifically for Wright this spring.
Today, the headline from the Mets camp is that Wright will play his first game in a minor league contest. Needless to say, everyone in Metworld will be holding their breath tomorrow when you know the question will be asked, “How are you feeling today, David?”
In all likelihood, the Mets will figure out a way to nurse him through as many games as they can this year. But the fact remains that you can’t hit a baseball with any authority, much less make the cuts and dives for balls at third base in the condition Wright finds himself in.
Having said that though, David Wright is the Captain of the team and his mere presence may be enough to justify the money he is owed. He will quietly do his job. If he bangs a long home run, he will quickly circle the bases with his head down, take a few hand slaps from his teammates, and disappear into the dugout with no fanfare. He’ll also be the “go to guy” for the media (right) when his team has a bad day deflecting the spotlight away from a teammate who made a crucial error or walked the tying run in.
All professional athletes, whether Baby Boomers or Millennials, learn to play through pain. Often, you’ll hear them say things like, “I’m 85%, but good to go if they want me in there”. But with David Wright, pain is not necessarily the issue. Instead, the issue is being able to play at a level that helps the team win. Still, there is no question about him trying to be the best he can be – that’s his nature and character. We’ll see how it plays out but………..
As with the Bryce Harper and Matt Harvey’s of the baseball world, there is certainly room in the game for players like David Wright…………. And baseball is better off with both types.