Yesterday afternoon, David Wright held a press conference to announce his timeline for the remainder of the season.
Unfortunately for Mets fans, myself being one of the biggest out there, this also happened to mean he was announcing his timeline for the remainder of his career.
Yes, David Wright is finally hanging it up. So this is my love letter to him after a career well-played.
When David announced that he was going to be calling it quits after this season, I got a little bit choked up. That’s actually an understatement; I cried. Not only because he himself was crying while announcing his plan to retire the media, but also because I feel connected to David. No, I have never met him (although I did once walk by him on the streets of Manhattan while I was walking home from Synagogue one night) but I think that speaks volumes to the power of sports. More on that later, though.
I, like most other Mets fans, first fell in love with David when he came up to the big leagues in 2004. I remember that he was supposed to be the next big thing, the “it” boy, if you will, for my beloved Amazins.
He was that and a whole lot more.
In 2005, he stole our hearts by making a ridiculous barehanded diving catch on the outfield grass (here’s the video, in case you’ve never seen it before).
In 2006, David helped lead the Mets to their first NL East title since 1988, an 18-year drought. He hit a ridiculous .311/.381/.531 with 26 HR, and 20 SB. He cooked the Dodgers up in the first round of the playoffs before he and the rest of the squad fell to the Cardinals in seven games in the NLCS. Still, at just 23 years of age, David was demonstrating that he could be a leader and a face of the franchise for years to come.
He also hit a walk-off off Mariano Rivera and demonstrated the exuberance of a small child while running from home to first, and that made me love him even more. (Again, here’s the video in case you haven’t seen it).
Everybody knows about the infamous collapse in 2007. It was no fault of David’s, though; he triple-slashed .352/.432/.602 with 6 homers in the month of September. The Mets missed the playoffs and David just nearly missed an MVP award, coming in fourth place with a season triple-slash of .325/.416/.546, 30 HR, and 34 SB. With the 30-30 season, David became one of just three players in Mets history to have a 30-30 season, joining Darryl Strawberry and Howard Johnson, both Mets legends.
The years from 2008-2013 were quite uneventful for the New York Mets, but they were some of the best years of David Wright’s career. In those six seasons, David triple-slashed .295/.378/.490 with 504 runs, 511 RBI, 125 HR, and 106 SB. He posted 27.9 bWAR in that span. He is very good at baseball. But beyond that, the way he carried himself while playing for some of the worst baseball teams I have ever watched was incredible. He never once complained or hung his head. He always carried himself with an immense amount of class and humility.
He knew he was good. He knew the team was bad. He didn’t care. That’s what makes David so great.
In 2014, David’s performance declined and then in 2015, he was given what essentially amounts to a death sentence in baseball: he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis.
I may have cried on the day I heard about it. Just maybe, though.
For the remainder of the 2015 season, the Mets played great but it was really the first time since David debuted that he wasn’t an integral part of the team. That all changed when he returned on August 24th, 2015, with thunder, as SNY play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen put it (video here). The Mets, after David returned, went on a miracle run where they ran away with the division for the first time since 2006. Couldn’t have done it without David.
The playoffs that year were magical. The Mets fought tooth-and-nail in the NLDS against the Dodgers, beating Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the same series to steal it away from the Dodgers, who were favored. I was at the third game of that series, where Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run bomb in the fourth inning to break the game open.
The Mets would go on to win the NLDS in five games and then sweep the Cubs in the NLCS, unprecedented for a wild card team that was not expected to make much noise in October. And because the Mets won in the NLCS, David finally got the chance to play in his first World Series ever. And boy did he ever make it count.
David Wright came to the plate for the first time ever in a World Series game at Citi Field trailing 1-0 with a runner on first base and hit a moonshot to left-center in the top of the first (video). The Mets took the lead with that one swing and went on to win the game to cut the Royals’ lead to 2-1 in the series. David drove in four in that game.
Again, we all know how the series ended, but I’m positive that without David, that team would not have been able to achieve nearly as high as they did in 2015.
The injuries really started to take a toll after that World Series. David, to date, has only played in 37 games since the 2015 World Series. He’s hanging it up at the end of the season, so that total isn’t going to get much higher. I still love him anyway.
Here’s the real reason David Wright’s retirement is hitting me so hard: I grew up with this guy. I grew up with him as my captain, my favorite player. David is the reason I wanted to play third base. His name was on the back of my first ever Mets jersey. I have a poster of him in my room at home. I picked #5 when I played little league in his honor. He’s my phone lock screen picture. Am I obsessed? Perhaps a little. But I think it’s justified considering what he has done for me.
David has fostered my love for the game. When I was becoming a serious fan in my early grade school years, David was the guy to watch. I always wanted to watch every at-bat of his. I would sneak out of my bedroom after bedtime just to try to watch David demonstrate that he was a master of his craft one more time before I had to go to sleep. I would religiously check the New York Times (Kindergarten Max loved looking through the box scores) every morning before school to see how David had performed the night before.
David wasn’t just my favorite player, he was my idol. I wanted to be David Wright.
And I think that’s the incredible part of sports as a whole, not just baseball: it makes us feel connected to people we have never met. The Mets have been my team growing up, and David is my favorite player. Watching him walk away from the game is so sad to me because it means time is passing. It means that every good thing has to come to an end. It means that even though baseball goes on, and life goes on, he’s not going to be there, donning the orange and blue and playing third base. I’m turning 20 in a few days and David has been in a Mets uniform for practically my entire life (or at least most of the years I remember, anyway), so not having the familiarity of Captain America on the squad is going to be heartbreaking to me.
Still, though, life goes on. Baseball goes on, even if David isn’t there to play it. He’ll always be Mr. Met in my heart, and hopefully the hearts of Mets fans everywhere. And when he laces up his cleats for the last time later this season, you can bet I’ll have my eyes glued to the television. I need to see my idol show me anything is possible just one more time. Just one more time.
I love you, David.