David Wright didn’t want to go out at all. But at least he’ll be able to go out his way when he suits up in a Mets uniform for the last time on Sept. 29 at Citi Field.
Wright will be activated on Sept. 25 at the start of the Mets’ final homestand and will start the next-to-last game of the season against the Marlins at third base, the Mets announced in a tear-filled news conference Thursday afternoon.
A misty-eyed Wright -- the Mets captain and all-time at-bats and hits leader -- said that after a brief minor-league rehab assignment last month he has come to the difficult realization that his body will not allow him to play big-league baseball again.
“Throughout this process, a lot of times my mind and my heart were telling me one thing, and my body was telling me something completely different,” Wright said. “It was always, ‘I can do this. I can do this.’ The goal when I was injured was to come back as the player I expected myself to be. Once things ramped up and baseball activities got tougher and the games became for me more of ‘Just let me get through this and survive it,’ it became more apparent to me that that goal is now, ‘I just want to put this uniform on again.’ . . . I needed the games for my body to finally tell me, ‘It’s not happening. It’s not working.’ ”
So, after Sept. 29, Wright will call it a career, although he and team COO Jeff Wilpon were careful not to use the word retirement.
Asked if he might change his mind and try to play after this season, Wright said: “I would say physically and the way I feel right now and everything the doctors have told me – that there’s not going to be any improvement – I don’t see that as a possibility.”
Wright said he wasn’t sure how many innings he’ll be able to play or how many at-bats he’ll get on the Saturday night game, which also happens to be Fireworks Night.
“I’m certainly going to do everything in my power to prepare for that game,” he said. “I was joking around with [Jacob deGrom]: ‘I hope you’re not pitching on that Saturday.’ I’m sorry to whoever is pitching. I’m going to try my best out there and certainly try to make the plays. I’m going to have fun with it, but also want to make the plays. I’d like to get a hit or two.”
Even though Wright will be active for the season’s final six games against Atlanta and Miami, he made it sound unlikely he will appear in any game that week other than the one on Sept. 29. Wright’s last big-league appearance was on May 27, 2016.
“Maybe if there’s any soft-throwing lefties in any of those bullpens,” Wright joked, “I might move out to the plate for whoever’s supposed to hit.”
It was Wilpon who made the announcement that Wright, after more than two years of attempting to come back from spinal stenosis in his back plus debilitating neck and shoulder injuries that have led to three surgeries, will not play again after that final appearance.
“His body is still preventing him from making it back,” Wilpon said. “I’ve had many conversations with David, and he’s told me he wants to end this year on our active roster. Based on his career accomplishments for this franchise and how hard he’s worked over the past two years, David has earned the opportunity to return to the major-league field. Out of respect for him personally, professionally and out of respect for our fans, we want to give him that opportunity.”
Wright, 35, has two years and $27 million left on the eight-year, $138-million contract extension he signed before the 2013 season. Since he is not retiring and will be considered physically unable to play, Wright will get paid. The Mets have insurance on the bulk Wright’s contract and have been saving money on it for years. It’s likely the parties will reach a settlement on the rest of the deal.
“The decision has nothing to do with insurance or finances,” Wilpon said. “It’s about David’s longterm health, his quality of life and desire to get back on the field. Giving him a chance to return to the field is the right thing to do for David, our organization and the fans.”
Wright also said there was no “rift” between him and the team about how his rehab unfolded. He repeatedly thanked the only organization he has known for the way it has treated him since he was the Mets’ first-round pick (38th overall) in the 2001 draft.
“Mets ownership and the front office – they’ve certainly treated me like family the last 18 years of my life,” Wright said. “I’ve been wearing this uniform or something similar for half my life now and that’s an honor that I don’t take lightly and it’s something that I take a lot of pride in.”
Wright said his initial goal was to make it all the way back. But when his body told him that wasn’t possible during a minor-league rehab assignment – Wright called that “a gut-punch” -- he set a new goal: to play in one final game in front of the home fans and in front of his two young daughters, who have never seen him play.
‘“I love the game,” Wright said. “But I really, really am going to love that game.”
Wright, who debuted in 2004, is a seven-time All-Star. He has a career batting average of .296 with 1,777 hits and 242 home runs, which is second on the Mets’ all-time homers list to Darryl Strawberry (252). Wright might have been a sure-fire Hall of Famer if not for the injuries that will end his career prematurely.
“If I were to sit here and play the what-if game, it would drive me crazy,” Wright said. “I wish that things could have certainly turned out different for me physically, but as far as regrets go, I can’t say that I have regrets.”
Wright will travel with the Mets on their final road trip and work to get ready for his last game. He said he would love to play next to Jose Reyes, and it would be a major upset if manager Mickey Callaway didn’t start the two veterans side-by-side on Sept. 29.
“It would be cool,” Wright said.
Wright said he hasn’t thought about what’s next in his life. Eventually, the Mets will retire his No. 5, but Wright hasn’t decided if he wants to work for the club yet.
“Jeff has been extremely gracious in kind of asking me those same questions,” he said. “And I don’t know. I do love being around the game, but I also do love being around my family. I think I would like to stay involved in some capacity. I’m just not sure what that is yet . . . Jeff has asked me numerous times what interests me and I’ve yet to find something other than baseball and my family that really interests me.”
David Wright ranks at or near the top of most of the Mets' all-time offensive categories:
HITS 1,777 (1)
HOME RUNS 242 (2)*
RBIs 970 (1)
RUNS 949 (1)
WALKS 761 (1)
TOTAL BASES 2,945 (1)
BATTING AVG. .296 (3)**
GAMES 1,583 (2)***
AT-BATS 5,996 (1)
*Darryl Strawberry all-time leader with 252.
**John Olerud (.315) and Keith Hernandez (.297) are 1-2.
***Ed Kranepool all-tme leader with 1,853.