It took me three versions to publish this post because I just can't find the right words to describe how I feel about David Wright's retirement. In the moments after his press conference Thursday, charged by SNY with writing an "emotional reaction," I just shook my head, teary eyed, staring blank at the screen.
We all knew today was inevitable, having watched him struggle and miss the last two seasons with a major spinal condition. However, through it all, as long as he was still on the roster, working in St. Lucie, there existed a small, though unrealistic, hope that he might one day return.
It turns out that's exactly what it will be, just one day.
Wright's time with the Mets feels equally complete and incomplete, which is why I keep bouncing between differing versions of pride, sadness and disappointment.
I'm sad to see his career end, but even more sad knowing his kindness, leadership and personality will never again be part of our everyday lives.
He was our rock. In good times he made us smile and feel a sense of pride only experienced from a great, passionate, homegrown player. Frankly, he was more important to us in bad times when standing out front, answering difficult questions, catching our tears and frustration and convincing us to stay loyal. During a time when the team was losing and wandering aimlessly through a rebuild, he took less money for a contract extension than he could have received as a free agent, which provided organization a vote of confidence and told us to keep believing.
Yet again, he made being a Mets fan better by simply being who he is...
And now I feel like we're staring into the abyss, sort of like when Sam Malone threatened to leave "Cheers" in the show's series finale. I have no idea what we're supposed to do now.
The fact is, it's not easy being a Mets fan. Rooting for this organization takes a level of armor, patience and blind faith like no other experience I know in sports. The eye rolling, utter frustration and the slings and arrows from outside forces often come fast and furious. David was our firewall. He was the guy that took the hit, gave us cover by making us proud and he provided hope that things would be better. But, now who will pick us up and say, "It'll get better, follow me." And if that new guys steps in, will we believe in him like we believed in Wright?
I'm also disappointed that Wright's stats end here. His physical demise started in late-April 2011, when he injured his hamstring and lower back attempting to make a diving tag at third base. Prior, he was on pace to be our first home-grown Hall of Fame player since Tom Seaver. Sadly, like Don Mattingly experienced in the Bronx two decades earlier, intense and debilitating back pain likely cut down David's chance to make it to Cooperstown.
At the same time, every moment of his 13-year career is embeded in my brain. I can play a endless loop in my mind of one-handed throws, aggressive fist pumps across home plate, home run after home run, and two-out, opposite field hits in the gap to drive in a teammate. The production may be over, but no one can take those memories away from us...
I hope there is pride behind his tears. I know there is pride behind mine. He is the first player I ever watched from start to finish, from his days in St. Lucie up to the Mets and into retirement. His ending is a sober reminder that we'll all break down and things will end. It's easy to feel like we'll be young forever, always able to take one last shot at greatness. However, Wright is a reminder that it doesn't work that way and eventually we all say goodbye.
This is extra sobering at 42 years old, which I will be this December.
Wright made his debut for the Mets in 2004, at which time I was 28 years old and creating MetsBlog.com. I had no idea how this little blog that no one was reading would eventually change my life. Similarly, I'm sure Wright was unsure how his career would play out or when it would end. The sky was the limit for both of us, at roughly the same time, which is something he and I have talked about when he was a rookie and again in a conversation a few years ago.
Nevertheless, here we are again at the same place in life, both significantly older, both with two daughters, married, much slower, wanting to keep up, but instead fading into the distance.
If I know David the way I think I do, I have a feeling he spent yesterday evening in the same way I did today. He's proud of the accomplishments, proud of the relationships and people he's been fortunate enough to help because of his success, but still sad, feeling incomplete and wondering if other choices could have helped things turn out different.
Thankfully, though he will never be on field again after this season, he will remain in the experience of being a Mets fan forever because I have no doubt his number will eventually be retired.
He's earned it because he's a legend...
April 19, 2011; Wright (left) dives to tag out Astros left fielder Carlos Lee (in red) in the third inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: John Munson/The Star-Ledger via USA TODAY Sports
Prior to Wright debuting with the Mets, Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza were the only players I considered to be in the class of legends.
Don't get me wrong, lots of people created legendary moments or turned in legendary seasons for the Mets, such as Jose Reyes, RA Dickey, Keith Hernandez, Johan Santana, Doc Gooden, Ed Kranepool, Jerry Grote and countless others.
These men all did amazing things in the team's uniform. They were all very talented, sometimes exceptional. However, their time here was either fleeting, such as Pedro Martinez and John Olerud; or, like Edgardo Alfonzo and Jerry Koosman, their overall performance was not always dominant; or their stint was controversial or disconnected from the fans, such as Carlos Beltran.
Instead, a legend is someone who changed the face of the franchise, was beloved by most fans, led his team to multiple postseasons, played the bulk of his career for the Mets and dominated his position and era in blue and orange.
This is Seaver. This is Piazza. And this is Wright, who is without question the longest, most dominant and decorated third baseman in team history.
In the span of 15 years, despite missing the past two seasons, he's played the second-most games in team history, during which he has accumulated the most at bats, hits, RBI, walks, runs scored and total bases. He's hit the second-most career home runs, he has the second-best power-and-speed rating, he's third in batting average, fourth in OBP, he's tied with Strawberry for second most starts in an All-Star Game with five and his career average 3.8 WAR per season is the most among any position player with at least five years in Queens.
He's also the only player in franchise history to start multiple All-Star Games, playoff games and World Series games and play his entire career with the Mets.
At the time, though no one wanted to admit it, I think we all knew October 2015, would be the last time David he'd have a meaningful an impact on field, which is probably why he received endless applause each time he stepped to the plate.
The fact that he worked to get back on field that season, and knowing he was able to finally get back to the postseason -- not to mention his first World Series after having dealt with so much team failure and drama the previous decade -- made the entire October experience incredible.
He told me the following month that being able to stand at third base before the first pitch of his first World Series at home, to stand back, look around and breath in that moment, see the team's fans smiling in unison, everyone pumped up and excited for Mets baseball -- more than any other hit, catch or win -- may end up being the moment he remembers most from of his career.
"To finally get a chance for them to come to Citi Field and see a World Series game in 2015, it was one of the most satisfying feelings I've ever had as a professional baseball player," Wright wrote for the forward to my book, "The Mets Fans' Bucket List." "There we were, finally playing in the World Series. But, the reality is we had 50,000 fans at Citi Field -- and countless more at home watching on TV -- playing in the World Series with us."
Oct 30, 2015; Wright (5) hits a two-run single against the Kansas City Royals during game three of the World Series at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
The next two and half seasons would be a grind for David, as well as the rest of us pulling for him to return. He rehabbed, rested, had neck surgery, failed to throw, tried again, did more rest and more rehab, and failed more than he succeeded... until this summer. This time he fired up a minor-league rehab assignment and convinced himself and the Mets to give him one more shot on field.
The last Saturday of this season is not the ending you, me or Wright wanted for his career.
He warned us it might happen, hinting more and more during the past 12 months that, though he was doing his best, he knew it was possible things might end sooner than later, especially if pushing on might threaten his long-term health. It turns out, that is exactly where he is in life.
David has a beautiful wife, two wonderful daughters, terrific parents, supportive brothers, plenty of money in the bank, a memorable and impressive resume in baseball, and a still-in-tact legacy and relationship with passionate fans in the greatest city in the world.
"There's a visible passion I feel when stopped on the street," Wright told me for my book. "They've seen me make a ton of errors. They've seen me strike out. But that loyalty is still there. ... Thank you for allowing me to live out my dream on one of the biggest stages in the world, and have fun as you get to experience all of the things that make being a Mets fan amazin'."
It hurts, is sad and even a bit scary to see him go, but I'm proud and grateful that I got to watch his entire career front to back, while also getting to know him personally throughout the year. I look forward to what his future will holds with the Mets and in baseball.
"I do love being around the game, but I do love being around my family," Wright explained, when asked about his future. "I love sitting down and talking baseball. I would like to stay involved in some capacity, but I'm not yet sure what that means."
Whatever path he chooses, I have no doubt he'll have fun and be successful.
So, welcome back, Captain, even if it's just for one day.
More importantly, thank you for everything you've done for the Mets and for me personally and professionally. I'll always be a fan and I'm proud to call you a friend!
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!