Feelings of nostalgia boil over when New York Mets fans picture David Wright cornering old Shea Stadium’s infield aside his battery partner Jose Reyes at shortstop. The people of Queens, N.Y. well understand the magnitude these profound ballplayers represent as pillars of the franchise. The two (who contrast heavily in terms of their respective personalities), seemingly grew up before the eyes of the city, a place that welcomed a pair of young kids and turned them into men, nonetheless legends of the long-standing organization.
For 10 seasons, Reyes and Wright grounded the left side of the Mets infield forming one of Major League Baseball’s most dynamic-duos. That reputation however was not originally part of former team owner Fred Wilpon’s agenda in the years leading up to their arrival.
Scouting the talent:
Reyes as a teenager was recruited in a more skeptical frame of mind than his future partner in crime was. Though concerns arose around Reyes’ slim and fragile frame, former Mets scouts Eddy Toledo and Juan Mercado recognized a potential star amongst the talent-dense player pool of the Dominican Republic. Born in Villa Gonzalez, Dominican Republic, Reyes carried himself with an unfamiliar charisma and infectious energy that made him all that more attractive to Toledo especially. “How do they say in English what they paint above saints?” Toledo told the New York Times in Spanish. “A halo? I saw something like that, something special. He did not have an arm. He could not run. He did not have a bat. But he looked like a player.”
Toledo was wrong in questioning the abilities of Reyes as a youngster (a career fielding percentage of 97.3 at shortstop, 517 stolen bases, and a lifetime slashline of .283/.334/.427/.761 over 16 MLB seasons does all the talking for itself), but he was not mistaken about Reyes’ exciting persona. A contagious smile complimented by wicked on-field play made him an instant fan favorite in the big apple: a perfect fit to a puzzle that featured his good friend and Mets legend, David Wright.
Not quite as bubbly or outgoing as Reyes, Wright was born in the small town of Norfolk, Virginia, where he grew up attending Norfolk Tides (Mets Class AAA organization) games as a child. As a senior at Hickory High School in Chesapeake, Virginia, he was drafted by his childhood club, and his youthful dreams became his adult reality. The Mets, who had been searching for a third baseman to fill the shoes of Edgardo Alfonzo and Robin Ventura, picked Wright with the 38th overall pick in the 2001 MLB June Amateur Draft.
He and Reyes navigated the minor leagues together, forming a brother-like bond along the way.
Mets youngsters make their first impressions:
When Wright was called up to the majors in 2004, he and Reyes did not gel immediately, and found adjusting to the rigors of the league to be a tall task. Wright, who began the year at the bottom of the Mets order, did register a .293 batting average through 263 at-bats while pelting 14 home runs, however his defense seemed to raise questions. The rookie made 11 errors in 190 chances, a .942 success rate (the league average that year was .954 among third basemen), and he seemed to be overly invested in his footwork. “The more I made mistakes, the stiffer I became at third. Once I began worrying about my footwork, the whole thing wormed its way into my head,” said Wright in “The Captain: A Memoir.” “Every motion felt mechanical.” He knew he could hit, but it was his defense that would need to seal his fate as a fixture of New York’s everyday lineup.
As for Reyes, who made his MLB debut a season prior in lieu of the Rey Ordonez trade that shipped him to the Tampa Bay Rays, he did not find success right away either. He batted just .255 in 2004, a mark he had easily avoided until his two final seasons as a major leaguer. Reyes recorded a career worst 14 runs batted in through 229 plate appearances as he grappled with a hamstring injury he suffered in the season’s opening month.
Getting acclimated to the big leagues:
It was not until Wright’s second season, Reyes’ third, that the two began to find their way as legitimate major league players. From 2005 to 2011 Wright slashed a hall-of-fame caliber .300/.383/.506/.889 with 169 home runs while averaging 107 RBI per 162 games during that stretch. Reyes stole 338 bases and clipped a .293/.345/.445/.590 line over those same seven seasons. The fanbase was rejuvenated and excited with their team, who atop their mid-2000’s rosters that included the power bats of Carlos Beltran and Cliff Floyd, as well as future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine, now featured two of the most feared-young talents in the game. The core was there, all that was left to do was win.
Winning came early and often in 2006 and 2007, which turned into some very memorable years for better and for worse. Though Beltran and catcher Paul Lo Duca were the Mets freight carriers on offense, the two youngsters played huge roles on the teams two deep postseason runs. Reyes grew into a more mature presence at the plate, and was poised at the leadoff spot. Responsible for 81 RBI, he managed a National-League best 64 stolen bases and clubbed 17 triples (also an NL-best) on his way to the first All-Star Game appearance of his career. Wright was a showstopper at the hot corner, batting .311 with 26 longballs, also earning his first All-Star accolade.
Along the ride, the Mets won 97 games in 2006 and worked their way to the National League Championship Series, where an entire city’s hearts shattered. We can all remember exactly where we were when Yadier Molina froze time with a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning of game seven, shortly followed by Beltran’s watch of a looping Adam-Wainwright curveball to end the Mets hopes at a World Series. After losing in as frustrating a fashion as possible, the Mets provided a bright spot in the darkness, locking their two stars up in the offseason. Reyes agreed to a four-year $23.2 million contract extension, and Wright inked a $55-million extension over six seasons, making it clear that what the Mets had been brewing was not temporary.
Off The Field:
Though the focus was always on the field, especially following the painful conclusion a season prior, the duo was able to enjoy the limelight, and their personalities began to surface within the media. Wright, despite his lack of desire for any additional attention, joined Reyes that offseason to model for GQ Magazine’s feature titled “Newcomers of the Year.” Reyes thoroughly enjoyed the process and its results. The perks of NY-life and fame perfectly suited the exuberance of Reyes, who took advantage of the social aspect attached to the territory. Wright however, does not look back on the experience with that same sense of pleasure. “What the hell was I thinking? The shoot did force me out of my comfort zone and strengthened my friendship with José, but the clothes were so far from my usual style that it was comical,” he told Anthony DiComo, the Mets beat writer at MLB.com who aided in the publication of Wright’s memoir in 2020.
Beginning a Mets journey as their careers take off:
Each of them possessed their own combination of flare and attitude, and it was perfect for their team and their city. From bare-handed, over-the-shoulder grabs to 14.06-second inside-the-park home runs, this duo was fun. The Mets, who had struggled immensely in its past, had a certain swagger back. Reyes and Wright made it “cool” to wear blue and orange again.
The next two seasons for the Mets were utterly disappointing, however. Despite each having their two best years statistically as Mets, the efforts of Reyes and Wright were not enough to pull New York into the playoffs. Reyes stole a career high 78 bases in 2007 (tied for 70th best in league history) and the following year recorded 204 hits (second most in franchise history behind only Lance Johnson who had 227 in 1996) en-route to a .297/.358/.475/.833 clip. Wright batted .325 in 2007 and became the fourth youngest player in MLB history to become a member of the 30/30 club, registering 30 home runs and 36 stolen bases.
One of the most disappointing collapses in sports history, the ‘07 Amazin’s were not so amazing, letting a seven-game lead in the NL East slip away with 17 games remaining. 2008 was as if someone had taped the season prior and turned it on again. A movie Mets fans were becoming familiar with, the Mets had the division lead going into the final series of the year but lost their final game at Shea Stadium to their rivals, the Miami Marlins, and were eliminated from postseason contention.
Despite an inability to get the World Series ring they set out for, Reyes and Wright continued their greatness for three more seasons. In 2011 the organization would need to make a crucial decision on the shortstop that had housed the shortstop position since his debut. In Reyes’ contract year, the speedster had recorded a career high batting average of .337, drawing more walks (43) than he had strikeouts (41). In the end however, he was cut loose in free agency, where he ultimately signed a six-year, $106 million deal with the Marlins. “It is hard to believe, but we have to understand this is a business,” Reyes told ESPN after the signing.
With financial concerns in place, the Wilpon family and management decided to let Reyes go, and Reyes was dismissed. The Reyes-Wright era was over in New York, at least for that point in time.
Clearly an infielder with value, Reyes bounced around three different organizations before ultimately reuniting with his old third baseman and the club he had always loved most. Though he was not the same player anymore, and nor was Wright, Reyes rejoined the Mets in 2016, where he would finish out his professional baseball career. He retired after the 2018 season, as did Wright in an emotional display of gratitude and love on behalf of Mets fans around the globe.
On September 29, 2018, the fanbase said goodbye to a duo that sacrificed their bodies and battled through the vast adversities that come with being a professional baseball player in New York. Reyes, a four-time All Star, retired with a lifetime .282/.334/.433/.768 slash line as a Met and stole 408 bases (a team best). Wright was a lifetime .296 hitter who amassed 242 home runs and 970 RBI. The seven-time All-Star stole 196 bases, won two Gold Glove Awards, and represented the Mets in the 2006 Home Run Derby. His 2015 World Series home run burns bright in my mind, as it does in his. Time had run out on two of the most-loved players in the franchise’s existence, but they will be loved forever by the blue and orange faithful. They had given the city their hearts.