It took me some time to digest but I’m finally ready to talk about it. Number 5, our Captain, David Wright is finally hanging up the cleats. This is a moment I thought I was prepared for. I wasn’t. This is something I’ve seen coming for a long time so I thought that would help. It didn’t. Watching Wright take the field for one final time brought a tear to me eye and I’m not ashamed to say it. But before I get into all that I want to take you back to the beginning.
The year is 2001 and the Mets are coming off their World Series loss to the Yankees. In that years armature draft they selected Aaron Heilman in the first round (18th overall) but that’s not the story here. They also had a supplemental first round pick as a result of Mike Hampton leaving in free agency to go tap the Rockies in Colorado. And with that pick they selected a High School kid coming out of Hickory Virginia, David Allen Wright.
Fast forward to the year 2004 and the Mets are coming off a 66- 95 record and a last place finish in the division. The Mets had an exciting young player in Jose Reyes but he still hadn’t played that much and there wasn’t much to be excited about around him. Whether us Mets fans knew it or not, that summer would change the course of Mets history for years to come. On July 21 they called up that kid from VA for a game against the then Montreal Expos and he never looked back. That day he went 0-4 but it didn’t take long for everyone to see they had something special here. The next day he got his first hit (a double of Expos pitched Zach Day) and he finished that year as the This Year in baseball Awards Rookie of the Year.
2005 saw both Wright and Reyes played their first full, healthy seasons and they got some backup in the form of Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. It also saw him make one of the most spectacular bare handed catches you’ll ever see from an infielder. 06 saw even more reinforcements in Paul lo Duca and Carlos Delgado, but you could already see who this team was built around. Wright at this point had become a star. He set a Mets record with 74 RBI before the All-Star break, was voted to his first All-Star game, and even made it to the finals of the Home Run Derby. That August he signed a 6 year $55 million contract extension and he helped lead the Mets to their first playoff appearance since their run in 2000. And although they were eliminated one game away from getting to the World Series, we all thought the best was yet to come.
When it comes to 2007 and 2008 we all know what happened and I’m not here to talk about the negativity. What I will say is through both collapses, one person you can’t blame is David Wright. Those years he produced back to back 30 home run and 100 RBI seasons. He even joined the illustrious 30-30 club in 2007 with 30 HR and 34 SB. No matter what this team did there was nothing that could stop him….. Enter Citi Feld and Matt Cain.
Sure 2009 started off great. He was selected to Team America in the 2009 WBC and had a 9th inning walk off hit to send them to the semi-finals. Wright then hit the first Mets home run at their new stadium, on opening day none the less. But this new ballpark was a cavern that proved too much for not just Wright but any and every major league hitter. To this day I’m convinced that Babe Ruth himself wouldn’t hit more than 15-20 homers in the first version of Citi Field. Wright struggled that year and ended up with only 10 home runs. But to add injury to insult that wasn’t the worst of it. On August 15, Wright was hit by a 93 MPH fastball by Matt Cain of the Giants, suffering a concussion, and going on the DL for the first time in his career.
2010 saw a return to form for David Wright and would end up being the last season he eclipsed 100 RBI. 2011 though is what can now be considered the beginning of the end. In May of that year he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back. Though he only missed a couple months it was a sign of things to come. On the brighter side though, 2011 saw a first for David as he not only surpass Mike Piazza with his team record 90th game winning RBI (one of many team records that would fall to his greatness) but he also got to play shortstop for the first time in his career due to injuries to Reyes and Daniel Murphy.
2012 was a better year for Wright as they decided to move the fences in for the first time at Citi Field and the whole team improved offensively as a result. In September of that year, another Mets record fell as David became the all time hits leader in team history passing Ed Kranepools mark of 1,418. That off-season Wright also signed a 7 year $138 million contract extension that had everyone believing he would spend the rest of his career in the orange and blue. This is what really endeared him to Mets fans. The team was in a downturn and he could have gone anywhere and probably made more money. But he decided this is where he wanted to be and he was determined to help this team turn it around. This contract also contained the now infamous insurance policy that would come in to play far too soon.
2013 saw him named as the fourth team captain in Mets history. He was also selected again to the 2013 WBC for Team America. He finished the tournament with the most total RBI for any player and earned the nickname “Captain America”, a distinction he’s still proud of till this day. That year also saw him eclipse 1,500 career hits, named the Home Run Derby team captain, he appeared in his 7th All-Star game, and he passed Mike Piazza for the number 2 spot on the Mets all time home run list. But alas, he only played in 112 games that year and it would only get worse from here. While he was voted by fans as the “Face of the MLB” in 2014, he saw his worse stat line since his injury shortened 2011 season.
2015 would be the year that changed David Wright’s life forever. In April of that year he went on the DL with a hamstring injury. It was while he was out with this injury that we was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column. He would be placed on the 60 day DL and it would never be the same in Mets land again. But if there’s one thing we learned about our captain with this injury, it’s that he was a fighter that would never quit. He came back on an August night in Philadelphia with one of the most dramatic returns I’ve ever seen. In his first at bat in over four months, David Wright returned to the lineup “WITH THUNDER” as Gary Cohen so eloquently put it, smashing a home run over the left field wall and setting the pace for a record 8 homer day for the Mets. His return (and maybe some help from Cespedes, whose heels were clearly fine then) helped propel the Mets to their first World Series in 15 years. This was capped off by what may be his crowning achievement in the game, his first World Series home run in game 3 at Citi Field. It’s a moment he’d been waiting for his whole life and although they lost that year to the Royals, you can tell that experience will stay with him, and Mets fans, for a lifetime.
After 2015 we were all hoping the captain was back and here to stay but it just wasn’t meant to be. We learned that his pregame routine required a minimum of 4-5 hours of physical therapy, stretching, and exercise just to get on the field each day. In June of 2016 he went back on the DL with a herniated disc in his neck that would require surgery and he would miss the remainder of that year. In spring training of 2017 Wright suffered a right shoulder impingement. He would eventually have surgery on that shoulder in September of that year and not play a single game in 2017.
And this my friends was the true beginning of the end. Despite numerous comeback attempts, while his mind and his heart were still saying yes, his body was simply saying no. And though he continued to rehab and even play in minor league games, on September 13 2018 Wright and the Mets made the announcement that broke all our hearts. David would be activated for the final home stand and play his last game on September 29.
September 29. That’s an emotional day I’ll never forget. For all the things this organization has done over the years, David Wrights sendoff was something they got right (pun slightly intended). The whole day was dedicated to him. The mayor even announced that day “David Wright Day”. On that day he got to run onto that field one last time, showered with cheers. He caught the ceremonial first pitch from his 2 year old daughter and got to hit in his customary number 3 spot in the batting order. He started at third base, played 4 innings, got two at bats, and one play in the field. And each ovation he received was more thunderous than the last. Then finally the moment came. After going out to take the field in the top of the 5th, and getting hugs from his longtime teammate on the left side of the infield, Jose Reyes, David Wright was removed from a game for the final time. As he went to the dugout and came back out for one last curtain call there were tears in his eyes. But those tears were shared by the thousands that filled the stadium that night to say goodbye, as well as the millions watching at home.
After the game, a game that went 13 innings and ended in a 1-0 walk-off victory, David addressed the crowd and really had one thing to say. “This is love”. And he was right. David showed his love for this organization and its fans in both the good times and the bad. His loyalty never wavered and for that he will never be forgotten.
All told David Wright is the franchise all time leader in hits (1,777), RBI (970), runs scored (949), total bases (2,945), extra-base hits (658), doubles (390), and walks (761). He’s second only to Darryl Strawberry with 242 home runs and is fourth in stolen bases with 196. He’s the Mets all-time leader in game winning RBIs, walk off RBIs and go-ahead home runs.
So thank you David Wright. Thank you for the memories. Thank you for the passion. And thank you for being the all-time great Met. I know that one day soon your number 5 will hang high above the stadium with the other Met greats and it will be most deserved. It’s been an honor my Captain. Don’t be a stranger. There is much this team can still learn from you as a ballplayer and as a man. #RE5PECT