The year I debuted MetsBlog.com was also David Wright's first year with the Mets. Earlier today, Wright announced that this will be his final season. Interestingly, I have a feeling this could be my last year writing MetsBlog.
As a result, I won't deny it, I cried when he started crying during his press conference today.
When I see Wright's No. 5, or see a highlight of him hitting, I'm not going to think of him as a player. He's been more than that the past 15 years, not just to me, but to his team, hundreds of teammates and thousands upon thousands of fans. He was an outstanding player, but he was a face for the franchise, he was a diplomat between fan and owner, he was charitable, he was a firewall between the media and his teammates. And, most importantly, he's been a friend and source of support to countless people in St. Lucie, Shea Stadium and Citi Field,
I'm thankful to have gotten to know David the past 15 years, due in large part to seeing each other over and over again at ballparks, having lunch in St. Lucie, doing dozens of interviews and bonding over family, fatherhood and loss.
In time, I have no doubt Wright will have his number retired by the Mets. He's earned it. He's a legend.
Prior to Wright debuting with the Mets, Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza were the only players from the Mets that I considered to be legends. Don't get me wrong, lots of people have 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 created legenady moments. They were all very good, sometimes exceptional. However, their time here was either fleeting, such as Pedro Martinez and John Olerud; or their overall performance was not always dominant, such as a Edgardo Alfonso and Jerry Koosman; or their stint was controversial or disconnected from the fans, such as Carlos Beltran.
Instead, to me, a legend is the opposite.
The legend is someone that changed the face of the franchise, was beloved by most fans, he led his team to multiple postseasons, maybe even won a ring, played the bulk of his career for the Mets and without question and dominated his position and era within team history.
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, 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.
The crazy thing is, all of the above is reality despite having played just 75 games the past four years.
Wright's demise actually started in late-April, 2011, when he injured his hamstring and lower back attempting to make a diving tag at third base.
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
He remained in the game, but was later asked by the team to get an MRI. The injury quickly felt better with rest, after which he chose to avoid the disabled list and play through pain...
Unfortunately, the pain returned and spread to his hips and lower back. After struggling to perform up to his standards, Wright agreed to an MRI that revealed a stress fracture in his lower back. For the first time in his career, he was put on the disabled list.
"I was shocked when they told me it was a stress fracture in my lower back, near my spine," Wright later said, adding that he would've continued to play had he not been warned of further injury. "I thought it was going to be kind of a routine thing."
He returned from the DL in late-July, 2011, played that year's final 63 games and hit .272 with 24 extra base hits. In the proceeding two seasons, Wright's back appeared to be a non-issue, though he did end up on the disabled list multiple times with shoulder and hamstring issues.
In early-2015, Wright reinjured his hamstring again sliding in to second base. During a stint on the disabled list, he was diagnosed with lumbar spinal stenosis, which (I can confirm from my own experience) causes intense, constant muscle and nerve pain in the lower back and legs due to a collapsing of the spinal column. He stopped all baseball activity and missed four months, but was able to return in time to play 52 games, including in his second postseason and first World Series.
I think we all sort of knew that October would be the last time he'd have an impact on field, which is probably why he received endless applause every time he stepped to the plate - even if he has been struggling in the proceeding at bats. The fact that he not only worked to get back on field that season, but also knowing he was able to finally get back to the postseason, not to mention his first World Series, after having and dealt with so much team bullshit the previous decade, made the entire 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, to breath in the moment, see the team's fans smiling in unison, everyone pumped up and excited for Mets baseball, that moment - more than any other hit, catch or win - may end up being the moment of his career that he remembers most.
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, all of which were followed more failed attempts... until this summer., when he fired up a minor-league rehab assignment and convinced himself and the Mets to get one more shot on field.
This is not the ending you, me or Wright wanted for the end of his career.
Of course, he repeatedly said he didn't want to push his attempt at a comeback to a point where it threatened his long term health. He has a beautiful wife, two wonderful daughters, terrific parents, supportive brothers, plenty of money in the bank, and a still-in-tact legacy and relationship with fans in the greatest city in the world.
"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."
I'm sad to see him go, but also grateful that I got to watch his entire career. And, I look forward to what his future will holds with the Mets and in baseball. 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!