The only person in control of whether David Wright retires is David Wright. The fact is, he has a guaranteed contract for the next four years and he is going no place unless he or his doctors say so.
That said, he has made it quite clear during the last two decades that he respects us -- the fans -- and has the utmost love and appreciation for the Mets organization, their ownership, front office and his teammates, and he will never put his ego in front of what's best for the overall group.
The thing is, whether he returns to being an All-Star, everyday third baseman or he transitions to being a bench player or bounces between third and first base, David knows that he's a leader and he believes he can help the Mets on the field.
Unfortunately, we haven't had a chance to see him consistently do any of the above during the last two seasons, which is why he and everyone around him is growing frustrated -- all while he gets older and older and continues to be paid.
Wright in between fielding ground balls during workouts in St. Lucie (Photo Credit: Matthew Cerrone, MetsBlog.com)
It pains me to say it, but I've always believed that the beginning of the end phase of David's playing career started during the second half of 2013, when he missed the end of the season with a torn hamstring. In that time, he's hitting just .277 compared to the .301 career average he had at the time of the injury. Similarly, his ability to consistently drive the ball with authority essentially dried up, while his strikeouts started to skyrocket.
Frankly, the downward spiral likely began in 2011 when he suffered his first back injury.
It seemed innocuous at the time, because sliding in to second base only resulted in a minor stress fracture in his lower back. It can never be proven, but any chiropractor I've talked with has said this type of subluxation can certainly begin a chain reaction in the spine that today has David dealing with lumbar spinal stenosis and a neck injury that required surgery and is now causing enough nerve pain in his shoulder that he's unable to make powerful throws from third to first base.
Think about it this way: since he fractured that bone in his lower back in 2011, Wright has missed 44 percent of his team's games. And, though he had two amazingly productive years in 2012 and 2013, he also turned 30 years old. And, as anyone born before 1986 will tell you today, the body doesn't respond after 30 like it did when you were 20...
Wright in the dugout between 2016 workouts in St. Lucie (Photo Credit: Matthew Cerrone, MetsBlog.com)
The point is, Wright is not going to discover the Fountain of Youth... and that's OK. It's understandable given his age, recent injuries and that everyone's body is unique. The thing is, while his new reality may be normal, Wright is also occupying a possible roster spot and 15 percent of the team's payroll at a time when the rest of the roster is vibrant, confident and totally capable of winning multiple World Series in the next few years. So, as much as I hate saying this, he's in the way if he isn't helping -- and, my hunch is that he knows this.
But, right now, it's Spring Training, it's not Opening Day -- let alone October. David has earned the right to play this out and there is no reason for him to give up his dream if it has zero impact on the season. As I said, he's currently under contract and doing the best that he can, which is all that can be asked of him.
If it works out, great. I'd love nothing more than to see David play a role in this team's success, especially considering Jose Reyes will be on the roster. The idea of them hoisting a World Series trophy together is enough to give me chills. However, given the need and expectation to win now, there is a distinct possibility Wright is forced to make a decision about his career sooner than later.
I mean, what happens if in July he isn't hitting or playing well, but he is not injured and can't be stashed on the disabled list where he can deliver an insurance check to cover his salary (like the Mets got in 2015). Then what? How is that conversation going go between David, the front office, his teammates, talk radio and the fans?
What's more, what happens when -- in the middle of that discussion with Wright -- the Mets see a chance to trade for, say, Evan Longoria, who can play third base through 2023, while earning roughly $90 million? Does Sandy Alderson do it? More importantly, can he do it? Do the Mets even have room in their budget to do it? And if the Mets don't, could they do it they didn't have to pay $50 million to Wright through 2020?
Wright fielding ground balls during 2017 workouts in St. Lucie (Photo Credit: Matthew Cerrone, MetsBlog.com)
In that scenario, does he retire and leave $50 million on the table? For his family's sake, I certainly hope not. If he can't be put on the disabled list, what do the Mets do? Do they pass on the trade, and risk winning in the future because of what Wright has done for them in the past? Do they ask him to retire? If they did, how do you think the MLB Player's Union will react?
Or, instead, do they ask him to spend the next four years getting paid to be a special assistant, consultant-type coach, not a player, like the Twins recently did Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins, all of whom are working with front office executives to direct the team's culture and vision, while also acting as a resource for players and coaches in the mental and fundamental aspects of the game?
Personally, I hope this is a non issue. I hope Wright simply needs extra time in St. Lucie during April, after which he'll get right, rejoin the Mets in May, start hitting, leading and earning a fair portion of his salary. In that case, everyone will be happy. However, if he's healthy, but he isn't hitting and he isn't producing, I fear it's going to be a long and awkward summer...
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. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...