The Mets still will be here after David Wright has left.
That basic truth didn’t seem all that real Saturday night, when the team’s faithful came out in droves to say goodbye to the face of the franchise — a player whose presence overtook Citi Field so fully that it seemed almost absurd that the Mets somehow had marched on without him for two years. But the captain has to go, and the Mets eventually will need someone new at the helm. Amid all the retrospectives and tributes, that issue came to the fore before Austin Jackson’s RBI double gave the Mets a 1-0, 13-inning victory over the Marlins.
Will it be Jacob deGrom, the Cy Young Award candidate whose leadership style is more about the example he sets rather than the words he says? It could be Michael Conforto, who spent his rookie year being fast-tracked to the major leagues and learning from Wright. There’s also Brandon Nimmo, good-natured and a constant figure in front of his locker, willing to speak whether things are going well or very, very badly. (Nimmo appeared to injure his hamstring rather severely in the seventh inning Saturday and had to be helped off the field, though there was no immediate update.)
Mickey Callaway posited that it could be all three, or really, whoever wants it.
“I think we have a lot of young players that do things the right way,” he said. “I think the Nimmos, the Confortos, the deGroms of the world can all step up and take that leadership role. Obviously, they’re performing very well and they have all those other characteristics that we talk about. They’re great human beings, they’re great workers and those are the types of players that we want to have, and we’ve expressed some of this to those guys and we definitely think we have guys that can fill that role.”
That’s the thing people spoke about the most. The reason they’re doing all of this — the video montages, the special ceremony, all of it — “is not because of the numbers he put up,” Callaway said, “but the person he is.”
It also can serve as a bit of an eye-opener for players in what is, at its core, a result-driven business. Lots of professional players hit home runs or rack up strikeouts, but rare is the player who got the send-off Wright got Saturday night. Every step he took was an excuse to chant his name, and the hush before every pitch he faced contained a nervous energy that this stadium hadn’t seen since the 2015 playoffs.
“They better be” paying attention to everything that’s going on, Callaway said of his young players. “I think it would be foolish if they didn’t . . . I think there’s no way this can’t impact them . . . I hope our players understand that it’s not just about going out there and throwing seven shutout innings or going 4-for-4, it’s about something greater.”
DeGrom certainly seemed to get the point. Not always the most vocal player, he seemed to gladly hold court with the media Saturday — mostly because he got to heap praise on Wright.
“He’s honestly been the best teammate I ever had,” he said.
On Friday, after Wright’s first pinch-hit appearance, deGrom called his wife on the way home. “I told her, I’m really going to miss that guy . . . He’s someone I looked up to . . . It’s sad to see him go.”