David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since 1991, when he started covering New York City
It wasn't the "cougar" connection that riled up David Wright, who sounded like he was flattered to be named the dating site's "hottest cub" by its clientele of older women. He also understood that the Mets only had the best intentions when they tried to court CougarLife's membership base for All-Star votes on his behalf.
No, what's been bothering Wright lately is the relentless campaign to get him the starting third baseman's job for next month's Midsummer Classic at Citi Field. Wright appreciates the effort. He really does. But the Mets captain can't -- and won't -- allow himself to be put on a pedestal as the team spirals downward in a losing battle for respectability.
This week, Wright reached out to someone in the Mets' marketing department and asked them to turn down the volume. Every team promotes its players for the All-Star Game, bombarding fans with Twitter hashtags and emails. But Wright took particular exception to Citi Field trumpeting his cause between innings of games that have become a nightly fight for survival.
Not only is it uncomfortable for him, the 24-and-1 message goes against everything Wright wants to establish in Flushing. He's the biggest gate attraction, and at $138 million, he's paid like it. But for Wright, there's no individual glory to be gained as long as the Mets are losers. And if that means sitting on the bench behind the Giants' Pablo Sandoval, who beat him last year for the starting honor and currently leads by 200,000 votes, Wright can accept that.
"It's nice when the organization is trying so hard to do something for one of their players and I can't thank them enough for that," Wright said. "But at the same time, I've asked them to kind of back it down a little bit, especially with the stuff between innings. You appreciate what they're trying to do, and they're very good-hearted, but at the same time, this is a team game."
From the Mets' standpoint, what else is there? After Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Cardinals, which featured another wasted Matt Harvey gem, they dropped to 24-37 in front of an announced crowd of 25,471.
Wright is familiar with this kind of futility. He's lived it for too many years in Flushing, if not quite to this extreme. To be fair, Wright had to know he was signing on for even more losing when he agreed to an eight-year contract last November that made him the highest-paid Met in team history.
We're not sure what Jeff Wilpon and Sandy Alderson promised Wright to convince him to stay. He said he needed assurances the Mets would take steps to become a contender -- as soon as fiscally possible. But this season has felt like a step backward, and Wright, in many ways, finds himself alone again.
On Thursday, the Mets used the same lineup, spots one through eight, for a third straight game -- and it was the first time they had done so for as long a stretch since April 2011. Wright also batted third back then, sharing a lineup with Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. It was Jordany Valdespin in the leadoff spot Thursday, with Lucas Duda protecting Wright rather than Beltran. The Mets didn't score until Marlon Byrd's one-out homer in the ninth inning.
As much as things are supposed to be changing, it's still the same scene for Wright. Now he finds himself trying to console Harvey, another superstar who is being forced to develop a taste for losing. The All-Star Game would be a welcome respite from that, if only for a few days. But Wright won't sell his soul to start it.
"We can't let this become a one-player production," Wright said.
Some things, unfortunately, are out of his control.