This past Saturday, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com posted an article with something of an update on David Wright. For the first time that I can remember, Wright expressed some doubt in his ability to complete his comeback. While the rest of us may have questioned the feasibility of a David Wright return to baseball, reading that he recognizes that it may not happen was surprisingly sad to me.
First, a quick history lesson, In five out of Wright’s first six full seasons in the majors, he started at least 156 games. In the one season he didn’t make that number, 2009, he still played in 144 games and the games he did miss were due to post-concussion symptoms following a Matt Cain 93 MPH fastball to the head. A couple of years later, Wright missed significant time (over two months) due to a stress fracture in his back. In 2012, Wright enjoyed a resurgence, with his most productive full season since the Mets played at Shea. Since then, however, David Wright has only played in in 381 total games over the course of five MLB seasons, including none at all in 2017. Ouch.
For a few years now, reporters and fans alike have been wondering what a David Wright return would look like. At first, the question was whether he would return to the Mets as the star that he once was. Then, as time on the DL went on, the hope was for him to be able to return and contribute. More recently, people would have been satisfied knowing that Wright could field a ground ball without losing a limb.
Before we really author the eulogy for David Wright’s career, however, let’s pause for a moment and put on a pair of rose-colored lenses. Perhaps there have been enough advancements in medicine and technology that Wright’s career can be salvaged despite being barely alive. Perhaps they can rebuild him. Maybe they have the technology. What if they can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster…Then what? This is where the glasses come off. With the evolving approach to pitching staffs in the modern-day game, it seems entirely plausible that the 2018 Mets break camp with thirteen pitchers on their 25-man roster. That leaves twelve non-pitchers remaining. Eight of those twelve would be the starting position players. This leaves four open roster spots. Even if the Mets go with only one backup catcher, that’s three remaining players on the roster. Three spots to back up the infielders and the outfielders. This doesn’t sound like it allows for a player who hasn’t played in a major league game since May of 2016. It certainly doesn’t sound like a spot fit for a player who seems so fragile that a bad hop might shatter him to pieces.
So David Wright is wise to recognize the mind-boggling task in front of him. This is not simply a matter of overcoming a hospital wing’s worth of injuries, this is about the fact that the team has moved on from him. Or at least they should have. At the moment, the Mets 2018 third baseman has the same name, height, weight, uniform number, and everything else, as the guy slated to start the season at second base. The point of this slight exaggeration is that it seems the Mets have tried to keep a spot open for Wright. Wright’s public realization that, in his words, he “can’t be relied on,” should be enough to push the Mets to move on.
A quick heads up before I get to the final paragraphs of this story. I’m about to reference some of the storylines from the most recent Star Wars movie (The Last Jedi). Some of what I write may be considered spoilers. If you haven’t seen it yet, you may want to stop reading here. If you’ve seen it, or if you’re not concerned, please read on…
At one point when I sat down to write all this, I was going try to find other players who have tried to make a comeback while facing so many intense challenges. Really though, there isn’t a comparison to be made. Sure, some players have returned to the game after more than a year away (usually coming out of retirement), but Wright’s case is different. David Wright’s saga over the last few seasons reminds me of Luke Skywalker. Wright has been the captain of the team that plays on the other side of town from the ones known as the “Evil Empire”. He is a seven-time All-Star, and the Mets franchise leader in at-bats, hits, runs, doubles, and RBI’s, having played all 1,583 career games as a member of the Mets.
Wright has not only been the face of the Mets, he was voted the “face of baseball” just prior to the 2014 season (narrowly beating out Eric Sogard, but we’ll ignore that for now). The year before that, his performance in the 2013 World Baseball Classic earned him the nickname “Captain America”. So for him to disappear at a time when the team has needed him has been rough. Now, with everyone admitting that he won’t ever return to who he once was, it seems that it’s time to hope he has enough left in him to make a surprise appearance, temporarily save the day, and allow the Mets to escape with an NL East crown (or better?). And then, much as we don’t want to, it will be time for us to move on and focus on the next hero. Is it too early to start calling Ahmed Rosario “Rey”?