A plethora of injuries have plagued Mets captain / 3B David Wright the last several years, most prominently his spinal stenosis and recent herniated disk in his neck. While Wright insists he’ll make a full recovery in time for the 2017 season, the New York Daily News’ Ebenezer Samuel — perhaps serving as ghostwriter for Fred and Jeff Wilpon — urges, “it’s time for you to retire, because if you don’t, things can only go downhill from here.”
He’s 33 years old now, and even before he returned to Flushing this weekend as a shell of his former self, he was playing like a shell of the Wright who owned Citi Field. And that’s hardly fair for the Mets, who have so many reasons to move on but undoubtedly won’t if Wright wants to play again next season. He has four years and $77 million remaining on his deal. It’s hard to see the Mets not indulging the comeback of the player who once defined the franchise, of not penciling him in at third base out of obligation. It’s hard to see Fred Wilpon, who called Wright “one of the best ever,” and Terry Collins not giving Wright a chance to play through his issues.
Thing is, even before all this, Wright was having issues. This was a player in decline even before late May, when he was diagnosed with the herniated disc that led to June surgery. David Wright just wasn’t — and isn’t — the David Wright of old, isn’t the same player who carried the franchise and its fans through so many middling years. He hasn’t hit .300 since 2013, hasn’t bopped 20 homers since 2012 (when he hit 21).
And at his age, coming off major neck surgery, after years of hoisting the team on his shoulders (no wonder he has a bad back), does anyone actually think he can ever really be the player he once was?
It seems unlikely, sure, but who’d have wagered a (presumably) PED-free Alex Rodriguez would hit 33 HR’s last season at the age of 39 after missing the entire 2014 season on suspension and playing just 44 games the year prior? Presuming the Mets are committed to fielding the best lineup possible (and that’s certainly been the case for most of the last two years), why begrudge Wright the opportunity to mount a comeback? “Hardly fair to the Mets?” Who put a gun to the franchise’s head and forced them to commit $138 million to a guy who might well have won a couple of rings had he gone elsewhere at the time? You’d have to go back to the days of Dick Young to find the last time a NY columnist so blatantly carried water for ownership (and trust me, Ebenezer Samuel is not gonna be mentioned in the same breath very often).
More than once I’ve moaned long and loud about Wright’s on-field struggles and the way he’s been almost entirely immune from criticism, but suggesting he’s under some obligation to hand money and uniform back to the club is beyond nonsensical. Whether he’s owed $70 million or $70, David Wright has a right to ply his trade to the best of his abilities. If he’s no longer capable of helping the team win, that’s a shame, sure, but that’s one real-life result of the Mets rolling the dice on a long-term pact. And there’s something slightly screwy about Samuel’s timing, what with Jose Reyes on the brink of returning to the top of the Mets batting order. Like Wright, Reyes has been the definition of injury-prone. Like Wright, Reyes’ production and range have diminished. Unlike Reyes, Wright has yet to be accused of shoving a woman into a sliding glass door. Yet it’s David Wright who should save face by declaring his retirement (and leave a gargantuan sum of money on the table).