The Mets’ E.J. Smith

by Taryn “The Coop” Cooper

David Wright Ties All-Time Hits RecordWhen I had the concept of this post a few days ago, the Mets were on a losing streak.  And not just any losing streak, but one in which they were barely scoring **A** run let alone several, and poor performances by individual players were being amplified to the nth degree (I’m looking at you, Lucas Duda and Ike Davis). 

At this time, it seems a bit ill-advised to go on an attack of the Mets, since they’ve not only won their last two games, but they’ve gotten contributions from Davis, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell and “Team Captain” David Wright in those games.  Yet, I don’t forget how much malaise was involved leading up to those two games. 

Nor do I forget what’s been really going on since, oh, about the last out of the 2006 National League Championship Series.

And why anyone, let alone David Wright, would want to be associated with this team as the de facto leader of a sinking ship?

See, folks, this is the burning question I have. 

I come not to bury Wright nor am I here to praise him.

I’m here to figure out just what, exactly, is in it for him. 

Does the glamour of New York City really attract him?  Is he really that loyal of a guy that because he followed the Mets farm system while a tyke in Virginia (when the Mets were still the “Tides” in their AAA affiliate) that he’d be willing to stay?

Let’s take a look at the bigger picture of David Wright’s time with the Mets.

He played 69 games in 2004, and became a regular in 2005.  While he’s been blessed with not having that many injuries in his time, he’s been involved in some good teams (2005), some really great teams (2006), and then epic disappointments year after year after lonely year from 2007 through 2012. 

For a team that has been around 50 plus years, Wright will be, at the end of his contract, at the top of the Mets’ leaderboards.  However, this is not so much a “Wright is awesome” thing but much more of a “Mets have done a really bad job of developing their talent within” thing.  Look at the Houston Astros, the Mets “sister team” of 1962.  They’ve had the likes of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell in their hey day, and not to mention were even graced with pitching greats like Nolan Ryan. 

Prior to Wright becoming the all-time Mets hits leader late last season, Ed Kranepool had held onto that honor simply because of longevity, not that he was some super power with his time on the Mets.  At least by the end of his contract, Wright will have earned a lot of his stats by talent, and not by longevity alone.

But here is what gets me.  During the World Baseball Classic, Wright had earned the moniker “Captain America” for coming through in the clutch.  Here’s the thing: he was surrounded by elite talent on the USA team, including offensive threats like Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton and Brandon Phillips.  The point is, Wright has proven his effectiveness when he’s surrounded by other big or medium-sized bats in the lineup.  If you look at the years when Wright had the likes of Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado around him, he absolutely shone as the “Wing Man.” 

I don’t subscribe to the idea that David Wright is “unclutch,” but looking at how he performs when there’s less stress in the lineup is dramatic. 

So I ask…what exactly was in it for Wright to commit to an eight year extension last winter? 

“Wright’s contract calls for him to earn $11 million next year, $20 million in each of the following five seasons, then $15 million in 2019 and $12 million in 2020.

The $15.5 million in salary that is being deferred without interest is to be paid in equal installments of $3.1 million each June 30 from 2021-25.”

And furthermore, what was in it for him to defer the $15.5 million total in years post-contract (according to ESPN NY)?

Besides a financial reason (deferring payments is not a bad thing necessarily…just ask Bobby Bonilla on that one), why would Wright agree to something like that? 

davey_press_conf

Here is how I imagine that meeting to go down…

SCENE: Sandy Alderson, David Wright sit at a meeting table with Wright’s agent and Jeff Wilpon (because he’s always around).

Sandy Alderson: David, we’d like to offer you a contract to have you potentially retire as a Met. 

David Wright: Well, gee whiz, that’s swell!

Wright’s agent: What’s in it for my client?

SA: We have a fine list of benefits.  He can get free Shake Shack burgers for life! His own parking spot at CitiField…

Agent: He has that already!  My client doesn’t need to buy a drink in this town.  What are you doing to improve the team?

SA: It’s going to take some years.  I can’t say we’ll win a pennant, and that we have anyone in the system who we are looking forward to having in Flushing.  But hey! You’ll be the face of the franchise…

Agent: My client already is…

SA: Yes, but officially! Oh and by the way, we’re prepared to offer a significant amount but you’ll need to defer it for a few years…

Agent: How many years are we talking?

SA: From 2021-25…After the contract is up, of course!

DW: Deal!

(Jeffy stares into the distance, figuring out where he’ll take Wright out for the beer and burger he promised him)

/end scene

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m scratching my head.  David Wright being named “Captain” of this team isn’t some great feat. In fact, it’s almost insulting that he’s the Face of the Franchise when he’s presided over some of the worst seasons in Mets history.  And you ALL know that the Mets have had some historically abysmal seasons. 

It’s not entirely his fault.  In fact, it’s not his fault at all.  The true folly of this team has been with the way or rather lack of action in supporting David Wright in the respect of surrounding him with good players.  This is not a Steve Phillips, Jim Duquette, Omar Minaya or Sandy Alderson thing.  There is something going on behind the scenes that once again, a strong talent is thrown to the wayside because of lack of future insight on the team.  During that meeting dramatized above, there was no Travis d’Arnaud in the system. 

A Captain isn’t meant to carry the team, he is supposed to set an example. Yet, fairly or no, David Wright’s time with the Mets will be judged on how the team performs.  And you know what, I’m judging it too. 

E.J. Smith went down with the Titanic when it hit the fatal iceberg in April 1912. 

Is David Wright that devoted to the Mets that he’s willing to go down with the ship, rather than win somewhere else?

I don’t know whether to admire him or smack him upside the head. 

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