When you think of the New York Mets, you think of David Wright.
He’s been the face of the franchise since Mike Piazza left, and guided the team from the height of the 2006 season through the tough period that followed, and back again through the exhilarating run last season.
More importantly, Wright is one of the few Mets to have played their entire career in the orange and blue – even Tom Seaver can’t say that.
The Mets will miss Wright’s bat in the middle of the order, since he has seven home runs this season. but much more than that, they will miss his leadership.
“Well, David was special. He had the respect of every guy in that clubhouse,” said Mets manager Terry Collins on Thursday afternoon. “I think in our sport, you’ve got to look in the mirror. I think every guy has a chance to be a leader in that room. It doesn’t have to be bold, you don’t have to stand in the middle of the room and give a speech.
“A lot of times, it has to be, people have to watch and see what you’re doing. I watched Jeff Bagwell (whom Collins managed in Houston), never said a word, but led by example. For years, I used to tell young players, follow him around, do what he does. He didn’t have to say anything, but worked harder. Like David, this guy worked very, very hard. Took pride in what he did, got himself ready every single night. You want to be good, do what he does.
“And I think sometimes, that’s where we’re at right now in our clubhouse. These veteran players, it’s not that they’ve gotta go hit homers. They’ve got to show these young guys what it is to be a big-leaguer right now in tough times.”
The obvious choice to assume the role of captain is Curtis Granderson, a respected veteran in the clubhouse, and as the leadoff hitter in the lineup, it’s a natural that leadership starts with him. That was shown on Thursday night when Granderson led off the game with a homer, and the Mets went on to win, 6-4.
Starting pitchers don’t get enough credit for leadership, but this is a team that derives a lot of power from their rotation.
When Noah Syndergaard is on the mound, there’s no question who is driving the team that night.
One other Met has already shown to be a leader of this club even though this is his first year in New York.
When he Mets brought in Neil Walker this offseason, a big reason was his leadership abilities in addition to his strong bat and great play at second base.
Walker said of players stepping up with Wright out, “We kind of know the deal. We know we have to band together regardless of who’s on the field and who’s not on the field. If we’re going to get this thing done and get to where we want to be, everybody’s got to be on board going in the right direction. We certainly have that group here. Guys like David Wright, you certainly can’t replace those guys, so you just try to do the best you can.”
Wright has been out the past week, so the news of his surgery is not too much of a surprise.
“I was expecting it,” said Collins. “I had talked to David, wanted to know where his head was, knew what he wanted to do. He was resigned to the fact that this would be in his best interest, which I totally supported. It was just a matter of everybody getting on the same page and he just said, right know it’s the only way you’re going to get better.”
No timetable has been set for Wright’s return, and Collins said the club is going on the assumption that he won’t have him for the remainder of the season.
“I think, as an organization, we’ve got to say, it’s going to be quite awhile, so even if it’s two months out, you’re talking about September, where you can increase the rosters anyway,” he said. “So, we’ve got to make sure that we have to consider until September that we won’t have him.”
It’s going to take a while.
“I have no idea,” the manager said. “I have not talked to anybody. I don’t know what the recovery time is on this. I have no clue what it’s going to be, we have to resign ourselves to the fact that, probably for the next two months, he’s not going to be there.”
This is the latest health issue that Wright has had to deal with, as he dealt with spinal stenosis last year and has played through chronic back problems this season.
“It’s been very hard, been very hard,” Collins said of witnessing Wright going playing with pain. “It’s probably 2012 or 2013 that this guy was playing as good as anybody in baseball. You could sit on the bench and marvel that teams were pitching to him, couldn’t believe that teams were pitching to this guy because he was hitting everything, getting doubles and getting on base, hitting home runs, and all of a sudden, to see in the last two years what he’s had to go through and what he has to go through just to play.
“I mean, I saluted him when I saw when he came back (last season) and I watched every day what he had to go through. I mean, he’s at the park at 11:30 for an 8:oo game to stretch and get massaged, do all the things that just enabled him to get back on the field.
“In spring training, it’s incredible, it just shows you his dedication to be as good as he possibly can be and how he feels about the game and how he feels about this organization that he’s gotta be the guy, and he did whatever he could to be that guy. So, just right now, we’re inside feeling something to say ‘hey, look, hang in there and get back.’ This guy’s one of the best I’ve ever been around.”
Walker said of seeing the preparation Wright put in every day, “It showed how much he cared, showed his heart. He showed how special a person and player he is, to see him grind through on a daily basis and get himself ready to play, and obviously he gave his best every time he was out there. That’s why he’s the captain. That’s why he’s as good a player and a guy as you’re ever going to play with.”
The Mets also have been dealing with the losses of catcher Travis d’Arnaud and first baseman Lucas Duda in the lineup and they will be back before Wright.
“When they come back, they’ve got to produce. They’re huge proponents of a very, very good team,” Collins said of Duda and d’Arnaud. “When they get healthy, when we get them back, hopefully they’re ready to play and they can jump right in, hopefully they don’t have to go through the period of getting back…When they get back in that lineup, they’ve gotta be ready to play.”
Collins said of who will replace Wright at third base and whether Wilmer Flores and Kelly Johnson will keep playing there primarily, “Everything’s been discussed. We knew two days ago that this was a definite possibility, and so we talked about every other option, moving guys. We’re still open to anything, but right now for the short term, this is what we’re going to do.”
No matter what happens at third, it’s going to be impossible for the Mets to replace David Wright.