If the New York Mets are going to turn the corner and claim their first championship in three decades, they will need the face of their franchise to play like it.
One of the National League’s most promising rotations when healthy? Check. An elite closer capable of finishing off tight contests? Check. A well rounded and versatile lineup? Check. The New York Mets have all of these things covered on their checklist, but the one thing they have been missing over the last two seasons is a an elite, franchise player — a face of the organization. In years past, David Wright did an admirable job fulfilling that role.
Though an All-Star as recently as 2013, Wright was not shattering any club record books. He slashed .307/.390/.514 that season, but missed some time to injuries, registering only 430 at-bats. He hit 18 home runs and drove in 58. 2014 was even more worrisome. That season he eclipsed 500 at-bats for the first time since 2012., when his line was .306-21-93, compared to just .269-8-63 in 2014.
The last time the abundantly praised Wright was truly an MVP candidate, you have to turn back the calendar to his first five years in the league. At age 24 in 2007, the Mets’ third baseman did it all. He produced a 30-30 season, having gone yard 30 times with 34 bags swiped. He slashed .325/.416/.546 with 107 RBI when PEDs were still a considerable entity within the game. Wright kept his name clean through it all and that same season finished fourth in NL MVP voting and took home a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and was named to his second All-Star squad.
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It was perhaps the pivotal season that made Wright the great hope Mets fans had starved for since the Mike Piazza era in Queens. Following up 2007 with another stellar campaign in 2008, Wright again took home a throng of individual awards, finished seventh in NL MVP balloting and put together a snazzy .302-115-33-124-15 line from the dish.
Since those two prodigious outputs, Wright has been okay. 2007 produced a WAR of 8.3, a career high, and 2008, 6.8. Only twice since then was he able to pull off a WAR higher than 3.2 (2012 & 2013). He’s never been one to shy away from hitting for average, as his .298 career clip can attest to. But his power has been sporadic. Three times in his career he has surpassed 400 plate appearances, yet failed to hit 15 home runs. The one season that stands out most is 2009, where he had 618 PA yet went deep only 10 times.
If Wright was right in last year’s postseason, he might’ve been the difference between the Mets winning a World Series, instead of just a pennant. Over the course of 14 games and three series, he hit a dismissible .185 with only one home run and nine runs batted in.
The 2016 New York Mets will be a well rounded squad. With strong supporting names like Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, Michael Conforto and Travis d’Arnaud in the lineup, David Wright — health permitting — has a favorable chance to reclaim his reputation as one of the most valuable bats in the entire National League at age 33. Until Thursday, the club’s captain was yet to step foot into a batter’s box this spring. He went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly as the DH.