Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
David Wright, perhaps the most well-respected New York Met in the last decade, is injured.
He will miss the start of the 2018 season due to a flare up in his battle with spinal stenosis. The news, which adds another chapter in a long and seemingly never-ending novel that has pitted Wright against his own failing body, comes after an evaluation in Los Angeles determined his chronic shoulder and back issues continue to deteriorate. The prognosis has given an eight-week timeframe for further evaluation, but this new setback begs the question that has been lingering on the minds of baseball fans across the country:
Is David Wright’s career over?
What he once was
Remember the David Wright of days past? It seems so long ago, but there once was a time when the Mets had one of the premier third basemen in all of baseball.
Wright broke onto the scene as a 22-year-old; the 69 games as a 21-year-old offered a tantalizing glimpse at the player he would become after slugging 14 home runs and hitting .293. 2005, his first full year in the majors, saw this numbers jump to a .306 batting average, 27 home runs, and the first of four consecutive years eclipsing the 100 RBI mark. The 2007 and 2008 season saw him win back-to-back Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger Awards as the best defensive and offensive third baseman in the National League. By 26, he had three All-Star Game appearances while finishing in the top-10 in MVP voting for three consecutive years.
From 2005 to 2009, Wright played no less than 144 games. At most, he played 160 of 162 games in three different seasons. A concussion in 2009 resulted in the least amount of games in his career at 144, but 2010 saw him hit .283 with 29 home runs and 103 RBI. His ascension to being the fourth ever Met Captain put him in the hallowed company of Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, and John Franco.
What he is now
The first sign of a deteriorating back came in 2011. Wright was still in his prime when a stress fracture forced him to sit out two months of a season that saw him post career lows in batting average (.254) and games played (102). 2012 and 2013 proved to be consecutive years that saw Wright return to form. 2014 was vastly underwhelming despite 134 games played, and 2015 was the beginning of the end.
That year, Wright was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a condition that creates spaces in the spine that put pressure through the nerve endings running through the arms and legs. After back-to-back years in 2015 and 2016 that saw him play in less than 40 games, Wright underwent neck surgery that forced his sights toward a return in 2017.
But that return never came to fruition. Wright failed to appear in a single game in 2017 after undergoing rotator cuff surgery and additional operations to repair ligaments in his back while also removing bone spurs.
In an interview with Mets reporter Anthony DiComo, Wright opened about the mental and physical impact of the surgeries and said, “You don’t know how you’re going to feel in a month from now. You don’t know how you’re going to feel a couple weeks from now. You’re hoping that it continues to get better, but you just don’t know.”
Wright’s career, which seemed destined for greatness and possible Hall-worthy acclaim, suddenly plummeted into an inescapable void burdened by uncertainty.
Is this the end?
That burden of certainty Wright has to face is undoubtedly casting a shadow over the Mets front office personnel.
There is no secret that Wright is one of the good guys of baseball. His conduct on and off of field has been nothing short of class and respect. His workmanlike attitude set an example of how the game should be played while his influence in the community with projects such as the David Wright Foundation is a testament to his humility and generosity.
But baseball is a business, and a heartless one, at that. Wright still has three years and $47m left on his eight-year contract extension signed in 2013 and while the contract seemed like the smart move, it is now an albatross hanging around the necks of ownership. The free agent signing of Todd Frazier was a savvy move to prepare for a situation such as this, but the Mets need to address the long-term situation just as much as they addressed the immediate one.
Wright is 35. His best days, even if he were to be at 100 percent health after his DL stint, are behind him. The cruel hand of fate has left its mark on Wright’s career and he now stands at a crossroad, one that could be life-altering if he goes down the wrong path.
That may seem extreme, but the truth has never packed a light punch. The surgeries are numerous, the toll on his body immeasurable. Wright has nothing to prove to the baseball world. If this is the end, he will be remembered as one gentleman of the sport. The accolades collected over the course of 13 years will testify to a unique skillset hampered by something completely out of his control.
How does the saying go? Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened? If this is the end, let us remember the tale of an Amazin’ Met.
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