David Wright was dressed like any other Met during Tuesday’s workout at Citi Field. The royal-blue hooded sweatshirt, pinstriped pants, cap with the freshly-stamped playoff logo. But in reality, Wright must feel barely tethered to this team.
Sharing a uniform, and the clubhouse, is the not the same as grabbing a bat to face the Giants’ ace, Madison Bumgarner, in Wednesday’s wild-card game. Wright deftly moved around that void during a 10-minute conversation on the field, maybe to cover up the painful longing to be out there, to somehow paint a smile on the dismal fact that he won’t be playing for the Mets this October.
As usual, Wright did that artfully, from years and years of practice. He’s too familiar with masking disappointment, thanks to a Mets’ career defined more by heartache than jubilation. And to see Wright having to do it again Tuesday, as his teammates prepared for the Giants, was a cruel twist to the Mets’ remarkable September push for the postseason.
Wright deserves to be a bigger part of this, to be something other than a spectator. But two debilitating back injuries, first the spinal stenosis and then the surgery to repair a herniated disc earlier this summer, took this season away — and may also threaten his career. Wright refused to provide any updates about his own condition, despite being asked numerous times, saying only, “Everything’s going great.”
As one might expect from the captain, Wright declined to discuss his situation because he wanted to keep the focus on the current Mets. That included his efforts to try and downplay the frustration of being sidelined for the franchise’s first back-to-back playoff appearance since 1999-2000, or four years before his major-league debut.
“It’s hard,” Wright said. “I’ve been in this organization since I was 18 years old. I’m really excited to play even a small role, after the  games I’ve played to help this team get here — or at least that’s what I tell myself. Of course I want to be out there. But there’s nothing I can do to get out there. So I do what I can to contribute something, I guess.”
Those words sound strange. Just feel wrong. Wright, at 33, seems much closer to retirement than another trip to the World Series after falling a few wins short of a ring last October. Over the weekend, Wright watched from Los Angeles — his rehab site — as the Mets clinched the wild-card berth at Citizens Bank Park, one of his favorite places to hit. On Tuesday, Wright moved like a ghost among the other players in uniform. There, but not really. And that still requires some adjusting to — for him, for us, for the Mets.
“I feel like an older brother,” Wright said. “You can’t help but feel excited for them. It’s not about having marquee players or having one or two or three superstars. It’s about a team that has come together. A lot of these guys played together in the minor league and now are winning at the highest level. And I think that’s something that this organization, this fan base, can really rally behind.”
Listening to Wright talk about watching the Mets from a “fan’s perspective” during October is disappointing for everyone. But he’s also had to see Jose Reyes, the other half of the team’s dynamic duo from their early years together, take over his position at third base, a development that has to stir mixed emotions in the captain. While Wright is happy for his friend, how can he not ache that it’s not him standing there? “Pretty soon I’m going to be taking notes from him,” Wright said, smiling.
The Mets and Wright have plenty to sort through in the months ahead. Wright deflected a question about his status for spring training — “Now doesn’t feel like the right time,” he said. But the belief has always been that he’ll try to make a comeback this February in Port St. Lucie. For now, he’s content to still be part of the Mets, if not playing for them.
“I hope to be here through winning the World Series and then get back to rehab,” Wright said. “That’s the goal.”
For all Wright’s been through, some things don’t change.