Throughout the past couple years, David Wright has been breaking the Mets’ “Kranepool records,” team records held by the real Mr. Met, Ed Kranepool. Nothing against Kranepool, but he has held most of these records simply because he was on the team for the longest time (1962-1979). Wright, on the other hand, is a six-time All-Star and legitimately one of the best players in franchise history. He has already surpassed Kranepool in total bases, doubles, times on base, and is tied with him in sacrifice flies. Wright still has about 600 games to play in before he reaches the mark for games played, but he is within striking distance of one of the more prestigious Kranepool records: hits. At 1,415 base-knocks, Wright stands three hits behind Kranepool’s 1,418 and will almost certainly pound out number 1,419 before the end of 2012.
And yet even amongst this fanfare at a time when the Mets desperately need something to celebrate, their soon-to-be all-time hits leader’s future in Flushing remains in doubt. Whether it is suggesting the team trades him during the offseason, anticipating a deadline deal next July, or dreading the prospect that he leaves via free-agency, Jose Reyes style, New York analysts and supporters are bracing for a reality in which David Wright wears another team’s uniform.
This disturbs Mets fans on two levels. On the surface, the team would be losing a perennial All-Star, a team leader, someone they can look up to. But much deeper than that, and especially true of those who have been rooting on the orange and blue for decades, they are craving an Amazin’ superstar they can finally call their own.
There is a reason why Kranepool, a career .261 hitter, was referred to earlier as “the real Mr. Met:” there has never been a Hall-of-Famer or perennial All-Star who played out his entire career in Flushing Meadows. Every past Met star at one time in his career was associated with another team. Keith Hernandez won his lone MVP award playing for Whitey Herzog’s Cardinals. Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, and David Cone each won championships across town with the Yankees. Cleon Jones played 12 games with the White Sox at the end of his playing days. Southpaws Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack were in New York only during the first part of their careers. Nolan Ryan won his only World Series with the Mets but is most remembered for the seven no-hitters he threw for three other teams.
With Mike Piazza’s induction to Cooperstown imminent, there will be three ballplayers that predominantly identify with the Mets in the Hall of Fame, but even their baseball timelines are “tainted” with time spent outside of Queens. Piazza spent years in Los Angeles and a week in Florida before coming to New York in mid-1998, and then he played a couple seasons for San Diego and Oakland after he was let go in 2005. The late Gary Carter, who wanted to go into the Hall as a Met, spent 12 years with the Expos and went in with a Montreal cap on his plaque. Not even the one man who went in with an “NY” insignia on his cap, Tom Seaver, is exempt from this list. If you think trading Wright this offseason would be blasphemous, if you shuddered at the idea of trading Jose Reyes last summer, I submit to you June 15, 1977: the day the franchise willfully traded “The Franchise” to Cincinnati. Seaver may have gone into Cooperstown a Met, but thanks to the Midnight Massacre, three other teams can claim a piece of Tom Terrific. He tossed his no-hitter with the Reds. He won his 300th game with the White Sox. His last act as a ballplayer was watching the 1986 Mets win a world championship from the opposite dugout with the Red Sox.
This absence of a great torchbearer is especially tough to stomach when you visit the Bronx and see the number of all-time greats who spent their entire careers with the Pinstripe Juggernaut. Lou Gehrig. Joe DiMaggio. Mickey Mantle. Whitey Ford. Don Mattingly. Unless the baseball world turns upside down, Derek Jeter will be added to this list in a few years’ time. The Yankees could field a team of one-team legends in a heartbeat, while the Mets would have to rely on Ed Kranepool and a few cups of coffee to fill the roster.
Which brings us back to Wright, the man New York fans desperately want to become the face of their faceless franchise. Both David and team management have expressed their desires to come to an agreement, but analysts and supporters are far from optimistic that a deal will actually get done. With last year’s Jose Reyes debacle and the Midnight Massacre in the back of their minds, can you blame them?
David Wright has called his pursuit of the Mets’ all-time hits record bittersweet amidst the team’s second half collapse. It will be more bittersweet for the fans if it turns out to be his final act for the orange and blue.