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David Wright could be lowered in lineup as he fights through slump

David Wright of the New York Mets tosses

David Wright of the New York Mets tosses his bat after striking out to end the fourth inning against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum on August 20, 2014 in Oakland, California. Credit: Getty Images / Ezra Shaw

At the end of a rough night, one of many in a season filled with them, David Wright quickly gathered his belongings so that he might enjoy a few hours of relief.

From the time he rises, until the moment he walks out of the Mets clubhouse, baseball dominates his thoughts. Only in the time between leaving work and going to bed does he grant himself some reprieve. For Wright, that means finding a way to "submerge myself in some sort of story line."

At the time, his preferred method involved getting lost in episodes of the political drama, "House of Cards." He couldn't have known that the intrigue of his own struggles would eventually take center stage.

"They say you have to be good at failing to be good at baseball," Wright said earlier this season. "That's the part that kind of sucks about it but it's kind of true. You fail a lot."

Never has failure been as steadfast a companion for the Mets' franchise player, creating choppy waters that manager Terry Collins must navigate carefully. Wright's descent has been so conspicuous that Collins has weighed taking him out of his typical No. 3 spot in the batting order, a delicate decision considering Wright's prominence within the organization.

"There's not a segment of this team that isn't talked about every day, not a segment, who to play, and when to play, where to hit him, who should be hitting behind him, who should be hitting in front of him," Collins said. "Not a segment."

Lately, that daily conversation has involved moving Wright out of a spot in which he's been entrenched. Not since 2011 has he batted anywhere but third or fourth.

Slowed earlier this season by a banged-up left shoulder, and limited more recently by muscle spasms in his neck, Wright's seasonlong slump has left him with a .266 average and just eight home runs.

For the first time in his career, Wright has statistically slipped into the realm of a below-average major-leaguer.

More than ever, Wright has been challenged to preserve some semblance of separation, to give himself a mental break from what transpires on the field. Even in good times, leaving those emotions at work has never been an easy task. In bad times, he takes the failures personally.

"I'd like to say I've gotten better at it, but I'm not sure if I truly have," he said. "Because as much as you say you try to leave it here, it's just so difficult because my whole day revolves around playing this game, whether it's before I go to bed at night, I think about the starting pitcher for the next day, what I'm going to do, how I'm going to attack them."

Said Wright: "I wake up and the first thing I think about is the same thing."

With Wright locked in his slump, Collins has been forced to confront the realities of handling a struggling superstar, a delicate matter. Thus far, he has adopted a laissez faire policy, though this may change.

Hitting in the third spot, Wright leads the Mets with 310 RBI opportunities. But because he hasn't hit for power, Wright has knocked in only 56 runs, 20 behind team leader Lucas Duda.

Yet the options may be limited.

Collins has explored moving Daniel Murphy into the third spot, with Wright changing places and hitting second for the first time since 2010. The drawback, however, is that Murphy and cleanup hitter Duda would be stacked back to back.

The lefties bunched together would leave the Mets vulnerable to lefthanded relievers late in games.

Even if the Mets were loaded with hot hitters, moving Wright anywhere below the middle 3-4-5 spots in the order could be counterproductive. On perception alone, doing so would easily be interpreted as a slap in the face, territory that Collins would rather avoid.

"David Wright at 80 percent," Collins said, "is still probably better than anybody else I can put in there."

In his right hand, Collins clutched a yellow highlighter, which he used to mark up the stat sheets sitting on his desk. With Wright in mind, Collins had spent some of his Sunday morning looking up other scuffling stars in the game. Behind him, framed photographs of managers from John McGraw to Tony La Russa adorned the wall, peering down at him like an army of sympathizers.

They, too, seemed curious as Collins contemplated his next move.

"When it comes to David Wright, he's struggling," he said. "We know that, he knows that. He's the kind of person that is not going to make a big deal if I call him in and say we're changing you in the lineup. He's not going to say crap. That's the kind of guy he is."

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