David Wright was drafted by the Mets in 2001, months before the Twin Towers fell. That was a different era for the Mets, a different era for the city. It was Mike Piazza hitting a home run in the first game in New York after 9/11. It was John Franco, the captain then, wearing a Sanitation Department shirt under his uniform. Those Mets strove and retired. They never won a World Series. Then came David Wright up to the majors at 21 years old in 2004, a fresh face, a fresh spirit, a new city.
He was a Bloomberg-era Met, a Met of go-years and optimism and potential. An All Star, a Gold Glove winner, a Met of the new millennium. The Mets’ last-millennium home, round Shea Stadium, had a date with the wrecking ball. He welcomed the new field into existence, despite deep fences that blunted his power. He was always smiling. He was rarely controversial. He did charity. He played the game right, whatever that means. He mentored the youngsters, like the one he’d been just recently. In 2013 he became the captain.
Not the captain with the same international fame as that other lauded Captain in the Bronx. He didn’t make a big deal about it. He didn’t wear a C. He worked hard and he kept smiling. It’s a beautiful game, he played it beautifully. There were some playoff appearances, a World Series. The city was thriving and exciting. He was a Virginia boy who adapted to Queens, he was Captain America thanks to World Baseball Classic heroics in 2013. It was a simpler time.
Soon the injuries began, the spinal stenosis. His back had always been broad and strong before. Yet the injuries were crippling. There were dark times. There were short seasons. There were minor league starts and the always-promise that maybe this month was the month. Maybe this season he’d be cleared for baseball activities.
It got so the Mets fans who crowded into Citi Field Saturday night to see what was billed as Wright’s last game had spent years forgetting that the end of Wright’s career might be coming. He was the captain—he was also a ghost.
But on Saturday the return became reality. A Met at the beginning, he was a Met at the end. Meaning he walked once and, in his final live-long at-bat, popped out to Marlins first baseman Peter O’Brien, and fielded without issue a gift of a ground ball, an easy bouncer of the type that is certainly the easiest of all ground balls to field, as if for an inning the diamond gods were nice to him. Wright snagged the grounder and did no wrong in his short innings.
And then the Mets fans did what they could to thank him. For the rest of the game they booed that first baseman, O’Brien, an unassuming player, just doing his job, a .227 lifetime hitter, has played pieces of three years, the kind of guy Wright might have mentored if things had gone differently. The crowd roared whenever O’Brien, poor guy, did anything, because what else could one do now that Wright was gone. At 35, he is not an old man. He is comfortably wealthy; he’s surrounded by family. He’s just a guy who got some bad breaks playing a game for a decade or so in one city. Now the link to that old city is broken. Now he’s left third base for a new player, a new era for the city.