Former Mets GM Steve Phillips knew upon trading popular youngsters Octavio Dotel and Roger Cedeno to Houston, in return for 20-game winner Mike Hampton and outfielder Derek Bell, that retaining Hampton posed a gamble, but one worth taking. Short term, the move paid off, as Mike Hampton posted a 15-10 record with a 3.14 ERA, and more specifically, pitched masterfully in winning the clinching game of New York’s 2000 National League pennant over the St. Louis Cardinals. After the World Series however, Hampton was lauding Colorado’s superior school system, and opted against re-signing with the Mets, and instead, agreed to a free agent contract with the Rockies.
Because the Mets extended Mike Hampton a qualifying offer, his departure from Flushing entitled the club to a compensatory pick in the 2001 amateur draft. With it, the Mets drafted third baseman David Wright in the first round with the 38th overall selection.
Seemingly destined to become a Met, the planets aligned for David. From Norfolk, Virginia, he grew up a fan of the club when the Mets and Norfolk were still in the midst of a long term AAA minor league affiliation.
Three years later on July 21, 2004, David Wright made his MLB debut at the age of twenty-one. He logged 69 games in a hugely successful rookie season, batting .293 in 263 at-bats, with 17 doubles, 14 home runs, 40 RBI, a .525 slugging average, and a .332 OBP. He then went on to defy the sophomore jinx. In his first full season, he played a career high 160 games. In 575 official trips to the plate, he batted .306, slugged .523, and posted a .388 OBP, with 42 doubles, 27 home runs, and 102 RBI.
His 2007 and 2008 seasons stand as his finest. In 2008, he batted .302, hit a career high 33 home runs, and posted a career best 124 RBI, which also tied the club record. In 2007, he set career highs with a .325 batting average, a .546 slugging mark, and .416 OBP.
When the club began falling on hard times, David Wright‘s fortunes followed suit. With his production already suffering mightily in 2009, David was struck in the head/helmet by a fastball, and was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career with concussion symptoms. Then in 2011, David suffered a lower back stress fracture which limited him to 102 games.
This past season, Wright enjoyed a strong first half, but was derailed by a pulled hamstring which capped his 2013 effort at 112 games. He did however, manage a slugging average above .500 again for only the 2nd time in the last four years. Otherwise, David posted productive, if not rebound seasons in 2010, when he drove in 100+ runs for the 5th time in his career, and in 2012, when he hit over 20 home runs for the 6th time in his career. After two off campaigns, he’s batted above .300 for two straight seasons now, and likewise lifted his OBP back to .390′s levels again.
At the conclusion of the 2012 season, David Wright’s 9th year in the league, the club picked up his 2013 option, then followed through on a 7-year, $122 million dollar contract extension, which brought the total compensation to $138 million. David will have to wait till 2025 however, before he realizes all the money due, as he agreed to defer a portion of his contract which runs through the 2020 season. That said, make no mistake - David Wright agreed to do so as a favor to a friend.
Since Fred Wilpon assumed full ownership of the Mets back in 2003, there as been one true constant in Flushing – David Wright. In turn, the Mets have been the only organization David has ever known. Suffice to say, the two built, and maintain a close ongoing relationship. Despite the owner’s financial calamity, there was little doubt Mr. Wilpon would put forth his best effort towards retaining his franchise player and team captain. Likewise, David Wright’s empathy for his owner’s plight was well known.
David Wright has donned a Mets uniform for a decade now, and in all likelihood will retire with the club. Locally at least, ending his career as a homegrown and life long Met will only add to Wright’s unique, and still unfolding legacy. Over his ten year Mets career, he has become the club’s all-time leader in RBI, runs scored, hits, doubles, extra base hits, total bases, walks, and for good measure, strikeouts too. In his continuing quest to re-write the team’s record books, David Wright only needs 265 more official at-bats, and only 53 more plate appearances in order to break Ed Kranepool‘s club record, and 85 more singles to break another of Kranepool’s team records. He also needs 31 more home runs to move ahead of Darryl Strawberry for number one on the Mets home run list.
David Wright will play the 2014 season as a 31-year old - technically still within his prime. Putting David’s sentiments for his owner and friend aside, the third baseman did not blindly resign with the Mets. He still needed reassurances from the general manager that real major league level efforts would be made to improve the team. To that effect, Sandy Alderson acquired free agent outfielders Chris Young and Curtis Granderson in order to infuse power, and ideally provide more protection for Wright in the line-up.
David Wright is a career .301 hitter, with a .382 OBP, and a .505 slugging average. He averages 26 home runs and 103 RBI per season. Considering his best campaigns came six and seven years ago, what can we reasonably expect from him next season, and in future years?
The way he bounced back in 2012 is a good place to start. David posted his highest OPS in four years, and with 581 at-bats, eclipsed 40 doubles and 20 home runs again, while driving in 93 runs, and scoring 91 more. His first half effort last season speaks for itself. In 430 at-bats, he got his OPS over .900 for the first time since 2008, and slugged over .500 for the first time in three years. His .307 batting average tied for his third best career mark, and he finished with 18 home runs and 58 RBI, despite missing 50 games.
With health, and a little luck, David Wright could conceivably return to his 2005-2008 form, if for just a season. Getting sidetracked by a grumpy hamstring last season was just one of those things, and the previous stress fracture in his lower back was an uncommon event. They almost seem trivial compared to what really concerns me, which is the threat of pitchers, and their propensity to throw at Wright’s head. It happened again last season, but unlike 2009, Wright appeared to suffer no lingering consequences. The fault may not fully lie with opposing pitchers though, as David Wright also shares a worrisome all-time club record with Ron Hunt for most times hit by a pitch – 41 times. Otherwise, a season registering at or above David Wright’s career averages would be most welcome.
With 124 more RBI, David Wright will reach 1,000, and another 78 home runs will get him to 300 for his career. If over the next four seasons, David Wright can stay injury free, and conservatively average 180 hits, 25 home runs, and 100 RBI per season, that would bring his career totals to roughly 2,300 hits, 325 home runs, and 1,275 RBI. We would then approach the periphery of the obligatory Hall of Fame debate. The deciding factor could be how well Wright performs in the latter years of his contract, when he reaches 35, 36, and 37 years of age. If David Wright indeed stays reasonably productive in his last three seasons, attaining 2,700+ hits, 400+ home runs, and 1,500+ RBI may not be out of the question. Then the debate really begins.
What more could Wright do in order to solidify any potential future HOF consideration? I do not think he will be able to maintain a lifetime .300 batting average over the length of his career, unless he posts at least two stellar seasons to offset any decline. I hope he proves me wrong. Obviously, maintaining a .300 lifetime average speaks volumes. But staying above .290 rates very well against lifetime third basemen. I do think he can post a lifetime .500+ slugging average though. Only two HOF third basemen have ever done that.
Another 117 stolen bases will give him 300, 147 more runs scored will give him 1,000, and he could very well crack 400 doubles this season. David has five 100+ RBI seasons. Another four or five of those would enhance his baseball card rather nicely. He also appeared in seven all-star games over his ten seasons. Achieving all-star appearances in the teens should also reflect well when comparing him against his contemporaries.
Surprisingly, there are only eleven third basemen in the Hall of Fame. They are Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, George Brett, Wade Boggs, Ron Santo, Brooks Robinson, Pie Traynor, Jimmy Collins, Frank Baker, George Kell, and Freddie Lindstrom. These third basemen represent the smallest fraternity of the Hall. I thought Paul Molitor was an exceptional third baseman before converting into a full time DH, and tend to include him in the list as well.
George Brett and Mike Schmidt lead the pack with 1,595 RBI each. Of course, Schmidt and Eddie Matthews are the only career third basemen to surpass 500 home runs. Reaching that milestone is perhaps safely out of reach, but, as stated, Wright could possibly place himself near the RBI leaders.
Recently retired, Chipper Jones seems the next likely candidate for induction into Cooperstown. Future conversations regarding David Wright’s qualifications will most likely start there. The debate should also include oft injured Scott Rolen, who’s career totals, I feel Wright should easily exceed by the time he’s through. Adrian Beltre is another who is winding down his career, and David Wright should have to exceed his career totals, and a few others in order for this debate to even begin. Alex Rodriguez doesn’t even deserve a mention. This was too much as it is. I’d more readily entertain a debate including Darrell Evans, Matt Williams or Bill Madlock over A-Rod’s worth. I digress.
The current chase to claim an era as their own, is between David Wright and Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman, and again, I feel Wright is in the lead. Evan Longoria is the American League torch bearer of the new millennium, and I would argue once more, David Wright owns an advantage.
When speaking of positional players, David Wright is well on his way towards becoming the greatest all-time Met ever. The organization is rich with pitching history, but not so much in the offensive categories. In due time, Wright will become the career player to the Mets record books, that other prominent lifetime players were to their clubs. Everything else is pure speculation.
The rest of David Wright’s career begins now.