PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - David Wright steered clear of the "Team to Beat" rhetoric the Mets have exchanged with the Phillies in past years at this time. But the All-Star third baseman, after an under-the-radar offseason, showed up Wednesday for the Mets' informal workout and sounded confident that this much-maligned club is capable of winning a World Series.
"Maybe from the outside looking in, there are some different expectations on us," Wright said. "But we feel like we're going to go out there and win the National League East and go deep in the playoffs and win a World Series. That's the expectations that I've gotten from the guys that are here early and those are the expectations I have for this team, is to get back to where we're winning the National League East."
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It's been a while. The Mets won the division by 12 games in 2006 but have been in a downward spiral since then, missing the playoffs twice with a pair of epic collapses before stumbling to an injury-ravaged 70-92 finish last year. The 2009 season destroyed any of the lingering spirit from the 2006 club, which was a hit away from the World Series, but Wright believes this group can find a similar mojo over the next six weeks.
"The fact that this is basically the same core group of guys in 2006," Wright said. "The fact that we've got some guys that are looking good, that are healthy. We got a guy in Jason Bay who's an RBI machine, he's a run producer and you put him in the middle of that healthy lineup you're going to create instant matchup problems for different pitchers.
"Of course there's a lot of optimism - for every team going into spring training. But for us with how Jose [Reyes] looks, and just a lot of people with something to prove, I like our chances. I guess it's a combination of optimism and confidence I have in this team."
As the face of the franchise, and its de facto captain, Wright has an obligation to raise the bar for the Mets, who are once again dealing with an image problem. When ownership shut off the spigot of cash flow after the Bay signing, that left many to wonder if the Mets are hurting for money or simply against spending more.
With a number of holes, the Mets can no longer be considered on a level with their biggest NL East rival, especially after the Phillies have won a World Series and back-to-back NL titles. But to borrow from the Jets' chief provocateur Rex Ryan, Wright has no plans of kissing the Phillies' rings either.
"I hope that it's not the outside underdog role that gets guys fired up," Wright said. "I hope it's the embarrassment of last year. I hope it's the not being able to close the last two years before that. That's enough motivation without having to play that undercard role.
"I don't like that underdog role anyway when guys use that. But I hope everybody's expectations are that we go out there and we're one of the best teams in baseball because I think that's what our expectations should be - no matter what the outside people's expectations have for us. I think we're in one of the most dangerous divisions in baseball and I don't think by any means should anybody be counting us out before spring training starts."