David Wright’s New York Mets career has been a disappointment. That is not a criticism, it is a reality. Injuries have robbed the Mets captain of a good portion of the prime of his career. Despite this, and maybe in part because of this, Wright is my favorite player. He should be yours too, because he is the reason the Mets are going to win the World Series.
When my son was still very young, I bought him a David Wright t-shirt. Wright was coming off of a 2006 season in which he hit .311 with 26 home runs and 116 RBI. He would follow that up in 2007 with a .325 average with 30 home runs and 107 RBI. It’s not a stretch to say he was on a Hall of Fame trajectory. He was 24 years old, the Mets had reached the NLCS and were on their way to another in a long run of playoff appearances. Good times.
Eight tough years later, Wright ranks second in team history in games played to Ed Kranepool. No offense to Mr. Kranepool, but as a player Wright has been on a different level. He ranks first in runs scored, hits, doubles, RBI and is second in home runs. He will eventually hold the record for games played and possibly for home runs. The Hall of Fame is a forgotten dream, but Wright is crafting a special place in Mets’ history and in the hearts of loyal fans despite the adversity.
The stark reality of his 2015 was a .289 average with five home runs and 17 RBI in only 38 games after coming back from spinal stenosis treatment. It’s hard to know what the future holds for Wright, but Marcel predictions already take a grim view of 2016 projecting a .275 average, 9 home runs and 37 RBI in only 309 at-bats. But the one thing the Marcel system does not take into account is heart.
Maybe I’m just sentimental, but Wright buying into Sandy Alderson’s plan and signing on for what he had to know was going to be a long, ugly road should mean something. He stuck with the Mets through thick and thin, and somehow endured undue criticism from a portion of the fan base after playing through a broken back for them.
Now that the Mets are loaded with starting pitching, Wright is viewed by some as a broken-down player who is being carried by his more talented teammates. This point of view baffles me, as if Wright does not deserve the success the team is enjoying. It’s ironic that he has a back issue after carrying the Mets for so long. All he wants now is to be a good teammate and contribute to a World Series win.
Through a less sentimental lens, Wright’s postseason performance in 2015 has been good and bad. He was not very good in the NLDS, but did manage to plate the winning runs in Game 1 of that series. He was better in the NLCS, scoring five runs out of the two-hole in the lineup.
Against the Royals, Wright’s performance in that two-spot in the lineup will be even more critical. As big as it was for the Mets to jump out to leads against the Cubs in every game, it will be critical to do the same against the Royals. The Royals have a shutdown bullpen. As a team, Kansas City also ranked No. 2 in both pitching and hitting when it came down to performance in high leverage situations, per FanGraphs.
The Royals excel in the big moments. One of the keys to beating them will be avoiding these high leverage situations as often as possible. Behind great starting pitching, the Mets need to get the lead early. Wright and Curtis Granderson were integral to this formula in the NLCS and they will be in the World Series.
Yoenis Cespedes and Granderson are a bit dinged up depending upon who you listen to. Daniel Murphy cannot continue to hit a home run every game (I think). The Mets need to have the top of their lineup get on base often in order to put up enough runs to beat Kansas City. They can’t “out-hero” the Royals in the late innings.
Taking this analytical view of the World Series, it’s encouraging to note that Wright has come on as the playoffs have progressed. He has run the bases well and scored runs in the NLCS. There has not been even a hint of back problems. However, the reason he is the key to the Mets winning the World Series will not show up in the box score.
Wright is the reason the Mets will win it all because after all he’s been through, he will not be satisfied with a World Series appearance, and he won’t let his teammates be satisfied either. Wright does not believe in gravy, and he knows better than anyone on either team that you can’t take anything for granted.
Expect the Mets to take their cue from the captain and for him to make an early statement with his glove, bat or even legs. No one knows how much time Wright has left in the game. We certainly can’t assume he’ll ever reach the World Series again. Win or lose (they’ll win), Wright will leave it all on the field, just like he always has.
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