Not only should New York Mets third baseman David Wright play it safe, it makes no sense otherwise. What’s he rushing for?
By Robby Sabo
Remember the Captain?
Don Mattingly, the first-baseman of the Yanks and symbol for a generation of losing in the Bronx, was arguably the biggest star in Major League Baseball from 1984 through 1989.
I mean, just take a look at the numbers:
- 1984: 23 HR, 110 RBI, .343 BA
- 1985: 35 HR, 145 RBI, .324 BA
- 1986: 31 HR, 113 RBI, .352 BA
- 1987: 30 HR, 115 RBI, .327 BA
- 1988: 18 HR, 88 RBI, .311 BA
- 1989: 23 HR, 113 RBI, .303 BA
Then, suddenly, at the ripe-old age of 29, his back gave out. Donnie Baseball was never the same. Sure, he was there for his one-and-only dramatic Yankee Stadium home run in 1995 against the Seattle Mariners, but for all intents and purposes, Mattingly was a team mascot.
Fast-forward time 20-plus years – the New York Mets are trying to avoid a Mattingly situation with their captain.
David Wright had already experienced a dip in numbers like we saw from Mattingly, but much of the reason for this came down to a bevy of injuries. Something such as a terribly cranky back wasn’t the cause of Wright’s ills. Most figured Wright had just run into a bit of bad luck.
With the announcement of his spinal stenosis condition a year ago, all of that changed.
Appearing in only 38 games in 2015, and then looking quite shaky at times in the 2015 postseason, some thought Wright would never recapture his 25/100 mold he showed the world during his early years.
Through 24 games in 2016, the Mets captain has put up 4 HR, 8 RBI, and a .258 BA. Solid numbers considering the condition.
The point of the matter though, is that solid numbers aren’t necessary.
The way this team is rolling at the moment, Wright’s production needs to be looked at as a bonus. The shocker of the season for Wright isn’t that he’s showed decent pop with four home runs, it’s that he’s played in all but six Mets games.
Starting 24 of the Mets 30 games is entirely too much. There’s no point in seeing Wright struggle through the early part of May, when his presence brings much more of an intangible feel in September and October.
According to Marc Carig of Newsday, Wright was hurting so badly after a day game following a night game against the Marlins last month, that he couldn’t even stand up the next morning.
“It just wasn’t good,” Wright said, as he explained why he didn’t fight being given the day off in Sunday’s series finale against the Padres. “I learned right then that if I tried to do this during the whole course of the year, I’m not making it. It’s just not happening.”
Wright refers to these days as “borderline” days. These are the days that Wright feels he’s on the borderline of being able to push his pain threshold through a game.
That morning, as he tried to stand up straight, the compression of his spine created pain “too much to even bear,” as Carig describes.
Luckily, for Wright and manager Terry Collins, the Mets were off that day.
Or maybe, lucky shouldn’t even be a word worth mentioning.
Wilmer Flores is more than capable of filling in at third-base. Here’s a guy who literally represented the face of a season for the 2015 Mets, yet he simply cannot get on right footing in 2016.
Through 43 plate appearances, Wilmer has batted just .179 while connecting on just one long ball.
Flores simply needs more at bats. Wright simply needs to be careful.
Telling an athlete he can no longer compete in the game he loves the way his body used to be capable of is probably one of the more fruitless ventures one can have. Instead of Collins explaining this to Wright, he needs to become overbearing.
Wright needs to understand his baseball life is no longer about home runs and runs produced. At this point in the 33-year old’s career, it’s not about All-Star appearances.
Rather, it’s about winning.
Wright’s presence in that clubhouse during the most critical time of the season, the stretch run, is where his true MVP form will take over.
The Yankees couldn’t avoid it with Mattingly in the early 1990s. Hell, it didn’t even matter as those teams were terrible.
For the Mets, it matters. This team is for real and Wright’s leadership is crucial.
Play it safe now. Be there in October.