In short time, David Wright will have his day at Citi Field. The New York Mets will welcome back their captain, offer obligatory gifts and well wishes, and retire No. 5 to insure the next generation of ordinaries such as Jim Beauchamp and Jim Gosger never have the chance to slip it over their shoulders.
The Mets will never be able to measure up to the New York Yankees in terms of their immortals, save for Tom Seaver, one of the great righthanders of all time. And there is no reason to believe Wright will ever generate enough interest to be elected to the Hall of Fame. He simply wasn’t given enough time.
But in Mets history, which dates to 1962, there has never been a more consummate player, nor one whose ceiling was lowered so prematurely by injuries that not even three years of sweat could heal.
That’s why there were tears on Thursday when Wright, just 35, sat at a table in the Mets pressroom surrounded by his current teammates to say enough was finally enough.
On Sept. 29, the final Saturday night of the 2018 season, after being on the disabled list since May 2016 with back, shoulder and neck injuries, Wright will start one last game at third base. Presumably, Jose Reyes, the other aging symbol of Mets greatness a decade ago, will be right beside him at shortstop.
And then it will be over, seven years after the problems first presented with a stress fracture in his back.
“It’s debilitating to play baseball,” Wright admitted. “There’s not going to be any improvement.”
As for the specifics, the Mets say Wright is not officially retiring. He was placed in the “medically unable to play” category, necessary for two very important financial reasons.
First, it allows Wright to collect the last $26.4 million on his contract, a gift, most certainly, from a grateful management.
More significantly, the Mets will still be reimbursed by the insurance policy bought to protect themselves should Wright not be able to play. Wright needs to remain on the 40-man roster until the Mets and their insurer can mediate a financial settlement that would then lead to Wright’s release.
Wright gave his comeback one final shot this season, working his way from Class A to the Mets Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas. But his performance proved substandard, certainly to him.
He came back to New York earlier this month and participated in a pair of simulated games. And then on Wednesday, he sat down with Mets owner Jeff Wilpon and helped design his farewell that will give his young daughters their first and only chance to see their father play.
Not even Wright knows how long he will be able to play on that final night or how the Mets will choreograph his final steps on the field.
Perhaps he will win the game with a walk-off hit like Derek Jeter, the Yankees captain, did on his final at-bat? After all, no Mets player has had more walk-off hits (eight) than Wright has.
“I needed the baseball stuff and the games for my body to finally tell me it’s not happening, it’s not working,” Wright said Thursday. “It was just survival mode.
“I’m going to do everything in my power to prepare for that game,” he said Thursday. “I’m going to have fun with it, but I’d like to make the plays, and I’d like to get a hit or two.”
After being the 38th player selected in the 2001 MLB draft, Wright played 13 years for the Mets, won a pair of Gold Gloves and represented them in seven All-Star games. After missing most of the 2015 season with spinal stenosis, he homered in Game 3 of the 2015 World Series – his final highlight moment.
He will leave leading the Mets in most of their important offensive categories, from at-bats and hits, to doubles and RBIs. Even in strikeouts.
“Based on his career accomplishments for this franchise and based on how hard he has worked the past two years, David has earned the opportunity to return to a Major League field,” Wilpon said. “Out of respect for him personally and for our fans, we want to give him that opportunity. The decision has nothing to do with insurance or finances, but about David’s long-term health, his quality of life and his desire to get back on the field.”