2012 was certainly a crossroads for the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club, as well as for The Face, David Wright. Since moving to Citi Field, David’s production numbers trended downward, for whatever reason. Whether the walls got in his head, the Matt Cain fastball made him susceptible on the low-outside part of the plate or he just wasn’t eating his Wheaties, it was evident that something had changed as his power evaporated and his strikeouts went up. In 2009, his average was solid at .307 but he only hit 10 home runs and 72 RBI in 144 games (“Nice park,” Chipper Jones claimed David to have said to him.) As everyone in the lineup fell around him, his strikeout numbers skyrocketed from a career-high 118 in 2008 to a new career high of 140. 2010 saw his production numbers head upward once more with 29 home runs and 104 RBI, but at the expense of his average, .283, and his strikeout total, setting another career high at 161. 2011 saw Wright play in a career-low 102 games because of a back injury sustained making a diving tag on Carlos Lee in April. He finished the season with a .254 average, 14 home runs, 61 RBI and 97 strikeouts. Going into the final guaranteed year of a contract signed in 2006, and his left side mate having taken his talents to (sorry, that has to be the umpteen-hundredth time that phrase has been used in regards to Jose Reyes), David, the Mets and their faithful were all wondering how he would respond, and what that would mean for the future of their relationship. Much like the Mets, David wright had a hybrid season that left us remembering why we loved him in the first place but also left us with those same concerns established in 2009-2011.
How He Handled the Bat
With much speculation over how the original dimensions of Citi Field affected Wright, everyone was foaming at the mouth wondering what the wall changes would do for his numbers. Wright’s power has been mostly to right-center, so it never made any sense why the Citi Field power alley was designed at 415 feet. On opening day, the wall hardly got tested, but Wright did drive in the only run of the day with a single past Chipper Jones in the 6th inning. If all Wright needed was to think it was easier to hit it out of the Citi, then it appeared to be a success from the get-go as David hit it into the bullpen in the second game of the year, a home run at any point in Citi Field’s “storied” history. Wright looked rejuvenated, and was a huge part of the Mets 4-0 start. Unfortunately, in that 4th win, Wright injured his pinky sliding into 1st on a pickoff play, and many Met fans reverted back to cynicism as they feared the worst from their team and their 3rd baseman. The Mets dropped the 1st 2 games after that injury, but picked up the 3rd down in Philly behind RA Dickey on Friday, April 13. Word had it Wright would be put on the DL Saturday, depending on how Wright felt that morning. I remember expecting him to be put on the DL and being extremely surprised when I found out an hour and a half before the game that he was penciled in, even with the broken pinkie. What occurred that day was arguably the turning point in the relationship between David Wright, the Mets and the Mets fans, as our 3rd baseman hit a home run on the 1st pitch he saw, on his way to a 3 for 5 day and a Mets series victory. Wright continued his torrid tear, even with a broken pinky, and you couldn’t find a Mets fan who didn’t want to sign him to an immediate extension. It did take a while for his power numbers to really take off, but by the time the 1st half was finished, he had a .351 average with 11 home runs and 59 RBI. One of those home runs not only took the lead against the Marlins in April, but also propelled him ahead of Darryl Strawberry for the All-Time Mets RBI record. He also made history when he became only the 2nd Met ever to be hitting over .400 as far into the season as May 12.
As the 2nd half reared its ugly head, so did uglier numbers for David Wright. In total, he hit .258 with 10 home runs and 33 RBI after the All-Star break, numbers which were brought down by an lackluster August where he hit only 1 home run and drove in only 7. His strikeout numbers went up as well. While he only swung and missed for strike three 47 times before the All-Star break, with no month striking out more than 16 times, he struck out more than 20 times in every month post-All-Star break. Still, when it was all said and done, it was his lowest strikeout totals since 2008, with only 112 K’s, or a 16.1 percentage rate (compare to his 24% strikeout rate in 2010.) Though his 2nd half brought his full-season line to numbers a lot lower than any of us expected them to be when we reached the break (.306, 21 HR and 93 RBI) David Wright etched his name in Mets lore even further, breaking Ed Kranepool’s All-Time Mets’ Hits record on September 26th and hitting the deciding 3-run home run to help propel R.A. Dickey to his 20th win.
How He Handled the Glove
David Wright was the best we’ve ever seen him at 3rd base this year. It felt like he was making a fantastic snare every game. The biggest difference I felt for Wright was his arm. In the past, it seemed when he dove he was Brooks Robinson, but when he threw he could turn into Chuck Knoblauch (sorry, he was never THAT bad.) This year, not only was his range that much better, but his follow-through over to 1st was hardly ever errant. When looking at the fielding percentage, it was easily the best he’s had in his career at .974, which was good for 4th in the league with a minimum of 100 games. Though I do find flaws in the Gold Glove Award, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wright wins one for the 5th time in his career.
How He Handled the Facial Hair
I cannot recall a time where Wright had more than just a stubble, which is about what can be said for his career facial hair history. Maybe one day, however, this man’s dream will come true.
Projected Role for 2013
Expect David Wright to man the left side corner once again for the New York Metropolitans.
Contract Status/Chances of Being Traded
This will be the most talked about “Contract Status/Chances of Being Traded” of the offseason. The Mets hold a $16 Million option on David Wright for 2013. Sandy Alderson has stated that signing David Wright, along with R.A. Dickey, to a long-term contract is priority #1, so expect the option to get picked up. If something cannot be worked out between the two parties, there is no way the Mets decline to option. They will at least look for a taker before the season begins so they can get something back for the best position player the Mets have ever homegrown. Though I have not always been sold on his long-term future with the team, I believe he became the unequivocal leader of the Mets in 2012. Though his streakiness is still concerning, I have certainly been converted to the full-fledged “keep him” side of things. We had always said he was the “captain,” probably before he was ready to grace the helm. Six years since the last Mets’ playoff appearance, he entered the season as the only player from that 2006 squad other than Mike Pelfrey. He was now the elder statesmen, and I felt that we all saw him finally wearing that leadership role as the year began and progressed.
It is a different sports world than the one our parents grew up with. It is hard nowadays to find many players who stick with the same team throughout their career. It is even HARDER, however, to find a player who spent his entire career as a Met. In fact, the only one to ever do so was Ed Kranepool, who spent his entire 18 year career with the Mets. He set all the records mostly because of longevity, because he was generally a role player in his time in baseball. David Wright has broken his records in half the time they were made, and will own every Mets offensive record if he stays his whole career with the franchise (the only one where he is still lacking is Home Runs, where he is 48 dingers behind Darryl.) This means a lot to the fans of this team, and I believe the front office understands that connection and the need for that continuity. The perfect word to describe what David Wright has meant to this franchise was uttered by Sandy Alderson, who called him “a great ambassador of the Mets,” so his value goes way beyond the statistics written above.
To use a cliché, Let’s finish what we started.
I expect the front office to do all they can to make sure David Wright’s only on-field colors ever are the Orange and Blue of the New York Metropolitans. And I look forward to at least 1 ring with him at the hot corner.
Thanks for reading! You can read Sam Maxwell’s personal Mets Blog here.