David Wright thriving in Team USA's loaded lineup
David LennonDavid Lennon
David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since
MIAMI -- Not even Captain America can do it alone.
And pretty soon, when David Wright returns to Port St. Lucie, the harsh reality will set in. No more Brandon Phillips, Ryan Braun or Joe Mauer. Giancarlo Stanton batting eighth? Did that really happen?
For Wright, the past week in the World Baseball Classic has been like plunging through a cosmic wormhole that spit him out somewhere around 2007, back when the Mets boasted one of the more formidable lineups in the National League.
Wright had a career-best slash line of .325/.416/.546 that season, with 30 home runs and 107 RBIs. From 2006-2008 he enjoyed the most productive stretch of his career and finished in the top 10 of the MVP voting each time.
Why then? It's no mystery.
On those teams, Wright was bunched with Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado -- dangerous, intimidating offensive threats. The lineup was filled out with Moises Alou, Shawn Green and even role players that performed well for the Mets, such as Fernando Tatis and Jose Valentin.
Wright had other experienced, respected hitters around him, just as he has now with the U.S. team. In Tuesday's blowout win, he batted three times with the bases loaded and had five RBIs. As a result, people have tried to make him out to be some kind of superhero. Wright, who seems a little uncomfortable with the Captain America shtick, knows it's about more than that.
"I'm not lying when I say that hitting in this lineup is ridiculous," said Wright, who is batting .438 (7-for-16) with two doubles, three walks and a grand slam. "Obviously, that makes my job a lot easier."
Unlike the past few years with the Mets, when Wright's job has been extra difficult, bordering on impossible. Despite the team's many needs, he was left stranded as the Mets kept trying to cycle in younger players, a process that continues with really no end in sight.
R.A. Dickey, who was lucky enough to be traded to a contender this winter, sees the difference when Wright, a talented hitter, is surrounded by them. He becomes that much better.
"Without a doubt," Dickey said. "It was a pitcher's pitch -- it was eight inches off the ground -- and he hit it into right-center to clear the bases for us. He's a streaky hitter, and when he's going good, watch out."
But streaks don't last forever, and Wright hopes he can ride this wave long enough to help the U.S. win its first WBC title. He's been on a decent run since November, when he signed an eight-year, $138-million extension. With that deal, the Mets rewarded Wright for his loyalty through some trying times. Not only did he endure the losing on the field, he absorbed a public shot from principal owner Fred Wilpon, whom the homegrown Met considered to be like family.
Now compare that treatment to what Joe Torre gushed about Wright before Wednesday's's optional workout at Marlins Park, which Wright attended. The longtime Yankees manager, now serving in that capacity for the U.S., mentioned how Wright reminded him of his favorite baseball son, Derek Jeter.
"The focus, I think," Torre said. "The focus and the look in their eye when something important is happening. It gets to the point where it's kind of unfair. You expect him to do something special in key situations. And he's the same guy, one way or the other, because he's just going to play hard.
"And if it's good enough, so be it. If it's not, he'll be there next time."
Joe isn't the only Torre who's a big Wright fan. He sheepishly revealed yesterday that his teenage daughter's favorite player resides in Queens, not the Bronx. She also asked her dad for a scouting report.
"That's a pretty good reach for her to go away from the Yankees on that," Torre said, smiling. "I said [to her] he's everything you hoped he would be, and that's the way I feel about him."
For Wright, this WBC couldn't be going any better. "I get to hit with the bases loaded every at-bat," he said. "You've got a batting champion hitting in front of me, the MVP in front of him, an MVP leading off. Obviously, I've reaped the benefits."
If Wilpon is right about the Mets' financial picture improving, there's no excuse for not eventually giving Wright the more talented supporting cast he deserves. In another week, Wright will go back to facing Gio Gonzalez rather than having him as a teammate. He could be feeling a lot less super then.