The great Yogi Berra once offered some baseball philosophy for the ages when he announced, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.’’
He could have added, “When it’s over, it’s over.’’
That would certainly seem to be the case for David Wright, captain of the New York Mets and, for a long time, the face of the franchise. Wright is 35 years old and back, neck and shoulder injuries have limited him to 75 games since September, 2014.
He was the most dependable bat in the Mets lineup for a very long time and holds franchise records for hits, runs batted in, doubles, total bases and extra base hits. He was well on his way to being a Hall of Fame candidate when injuries began setting in.
Now he is an afterthought as the Mets prepare for a new season. It is a sad circumstance for one of the game’s truly good guys.
In 2009, Wright was hit in the head by a 93 mph fastball from San Francisco’s Matt Cain and it was the beginning of a troubling string of mishaps. There was a stress fracture in his lower back that cost him two months in 2011. There were the usual baseball-related injuries for the next few years, a strained hamstring here, a broken finger there, nagging little stuff.
Then, in the first month of the 2015 season, Wright stole second base and felt something in his hamstring again. He came off the field and a day or two later was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine. It is the kind of injury that is not conducive to playing baseball. The condition kept him sidelined until August and it would signal the start of a rapid downward spiral.
He was back in time for the Mets first World Series appearance since 2000 and even hit a home run. But trouble was ahead. On June 3, 2016, he was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck and underwent surgery. He played just 37 games that season and none at all in 2017 after a shoulder impingement forced rotator cuff surgery in September. That was followed by another back surgery in October.
The Mets recognized reality and signed third baseman Todd Frazier in the off-season, knowing that a return by Wright was doubtful at best. Still, Wright showed up in training camp, hopeful that he could battle his way back. That was not to be.
There were days, he said, when he felt pretty good, other days when he felt all right, and too many days when he just felt downright bad. The bad days outnumbered the good ones and finally the decision was made to shut him down. There will be no baseball activities for eight weeks. After that, who knows?
In May he will have been away from the field for two years, a lifetime for a player his age. He talks optimistically of playing again but he faces long odds of that ever happening.
The Mets will keep him around, probably as a bench coach, and they should. He will be an inspiration to the players for the dedication he showed, the courage he displayed in the face of this difficult stretch of injuries. He deserves nothing less.