Throughout the 57 years of the New York Mets existence, there have been a handful of homegrown talents with hall of fame ability that, due to unforeseen circumstances, failed to reach such lofty goals. David Wright, the greatest third baseman in their franchise’s history, is possibly the greatest example of such circumstances.
From his 2004 debut in a Mets uniform at the tender age of 21, Wright was immediately the most complete player in the team’s history. A contact hitter with tremendous power and an excellent glove, Wright was a can’t miss potential great. In that rookie season, Wright hit 14 homers and 40 RBI in only 69 games. Adding to his incredible ability was Wright’s golden boy looks and a photogenic smile. He was the Mets answer to their hometown rivals Yankees Derek Jeter: a complete ball player who was not only a matinee idol, but one who said and did everything right on and off the field. In 2005, Wright continued his ascension, batting .306 with 27 homers and 102 RBIs, and along with fellow Mets young star Jose Reyes, led the Mets to their first winning record in four seasons. 2006 would be a breakout year for Wright, Reyes and the surging Mets.
The 2006 Mets were easily the greatest offensive team the Mets ever assembled. The lineup, besides Wright and Reyes, consisted of Puerto Rican stalwarts Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. All four players put up incredible numbers, with Wright batting .311 with 26 homers and tying Beltran for the club’s leader in RBIs with 116. This offensive juggernaut led the Mets to 97 wins and easily winning the National League East by 12 games. Unfortunately, the postseason would end in disappointment, as the Mets lost in seven games in the National League Championship Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, the eventual World Series champions. Wright had a horrendous NLCS against St. Louis, only hitting .160 with a paltry one home run. It wouldn’t be the last time the Mets choked during Wright’s career.
In 2007, Wright became the third Met in franchise history to have a 30/30 season with 30 homers and 34 stolen bases. In addition, he batted a career high .325 with 107 RBI. With 17 games left in the season, the Mets had a seemingly insurmountable seven game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies. Incredulously, the Mets blew the lead and missed the playoffs in one of the greatest collapses in the history of sports. Wright was tremendous during the last month of the season, batting .352 with six homers and 20 RBIs. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to stop the late season bleeding.
2008 was almost an exact carbon copy of 2007. This time, the Mets blew a three and a half game lead with 17 games to go. Wright had his third straight All-Star season batting .302 with 33 homers and a career high 124 RBIs. He once again flourished the last month of the season, batting .340 with six homers and 21 RBIs. Unfortunately, it was all for naught, as the Mets once again collapsed down the stretch and missed the playoffs.
The 2009 and 2010 seasons were huge disappointments for both the Mets and Wright. Wright only had 10 homers and 72 RBI. Wright’s low power numbers were greatly affected by the Mets move from Shea Stadium to the brand new Citi Field. Citi Field was initially built as a cavernous, pitcher friendly stadium. In 2009 and 2010, Wright hit a combined 17 homers at the new ballpark. While he did drive in 103 RBI in 2010, his fifth and final 100 RBI season, he struck out a career high 161 times and batted a career low .283. It was obvious to everyone that the new field had adversely affected Wright’s hitting.
In 2011, Wright suffered a back injury that would be the beginning of the end for him. It was a testament to Wright’s enormous talent that he was able to have back to back .300 and All-Star seasons in 2012 and 2013 despite the power numbers being down and battling back and hamstring injuries.
Wright had his worst offensive season in 2014, the result of injuries that slowed him down, despite only being 31 at the time. In 2015, Wright was diagnosed with lumbar spinal stenosis, which rendered his lower back to the point where Wright had a hard time getting out of bed. Because of his dedicated work ethic, Wright was able to come back late in the season and play a part in helping the Mets win their first National League East and playoff berth since 2006. Wright even hit a homer in his only trip to the World Series, a losing effort vs the Kansas City Royals.
Wright suffered another major injury early in the 2016 season, a herniated disc in his neck that unfortunately ended his career. Wright fruitlessly attempted to come back, but after missing virtually all of 2017 and 2018, announced his retirement. In a class act by the Mets organization, he was allowed to get two last at bats in the final two games of the 2018 season.
David Wright’s career was a microcosm of many of the disappointing seasons and potential greats throughout the Mets history: incredible potential struck down by unbelievable bad luck. Wright was the most complete player in Mets history. Seven seasons of hitting over .300. Five seasons of driving in over 100 RBIs. Two gold gloves for his defensive acumen. Add these on the field attributes to his off the field charitable work and a work ethic second to none, and you have the dream athlete any ball club would play huge money to acquire. Despite his setbacks, Wright is not only the greatest third baseman in Mets history, he also set the standard for sportsmanship for a franchise who’s had their share of malcontents.