It wasn't supposed to turn out this way for David Wright. Until the injuries began throttling him in earnest, the Mets third baseman was on the least likely track lifelong Met fans would have expected of anyone manning third base for them — the Hall of Fame. Even interrupted rudely enough by that horror of a 2009 season in which he spent the entire year trying to adjust to the Mets' new playpen, Citi Field.
Now, with his umpteenth attempt to work his way back from injuries falling far enough short of what he and the team once might have expected, all indicators are that Wright will be re-activated on 25 September and play a final game starting at third base 29 September. Wright himself said as much Thursday.
"The way I feel right now, and from everything the doctors have told me, there's not going to be any improvement" the 33-year-old told a press conference. "So I don't see [playing past that final homestand] as a possibility."
Look at things this way if you must: At least Wright isn't going to subject us to one of those garish "farewell tours" during which he'll accept all manner of tribute and gift from opponents and his own club alike. Oh, he might get a special farewell with and from the Mets, but at least he won't be criss-crossing the country adding to his bric-a-brac collection. Nobody's going to present him with a chair made of bats with which he bombed the opposition. And since he hasn't smashed any dugout phones that we know of, he won't be adding one to his garage collection.
And there was one positive to Wright's injury-thwarted past few seasons: we didn't have to watch a physically challenged version of him try to do the things he once did with the flip of a switch.
Heck, we even got to see him do some damage in a World Series, in Game Three. In the same game in which Noah Syndergaard stunned the world as he started the game by dropping plate-crowding Royal Alcides Escobar onto his seat, the only game of a Series the Mets actually could have won, Wright batted with Curtis Granderson aboard leading off the bottom of the first and drove Yordano Ventura's 0-1 service seven rows up the left field seats. Then, in the bottom of the sixth, he fisted Kelvim Herrera's first pitch to him over the middle of the infield for a two-run single.
A lot of the greats don't get even that chance to light things up in any postseason, never mind a World Series. Those who do probably thank God every day for it. Just ask Albert Pujols, who shone in the postseason for the Cardinals, especially in 2011, then signed for Alex Rodriguez money with the Angels only to have his heels and his legs begin betraying him when he still might have had several solid seasons left. His Hall of Fame credentials were secured with those great Cardinals years, but Pujols deserved better than to have to fight one after another injury just to become an imitation of his former self.
Wright was the face of the Mets who bridged between two eras of club greatness. He was one of the hapless who had to watch Carlos Beltran look at Adam Wainwright's bender for the third strike that ended the 2006 National League Championship Series, then bear the slings and arrows of back-to-back division race collapses followed by lean, mean rebuilding for a brief return to greatness in 2015.
The problem is that his troubles began in 2014, when he suffered a contusion in his left rotator cuff that disrupted his hitting and glove work alike. It was a nasty finish to a season that began when he was voted the face of Major League Baseball in an online contest. Then, in early 2015: a right hamstring strain incurred while stealing second, followed almost immediately by a diagnosis of spinal stenosis. The following season: A herniated neck disc in June, season over. In 2017: A right shoulder impingement during spring training, season over even before he turned up with a rotator cuff issue in his right shoulder that August.
The shoulder and back issues persisted as Wright tried gamely but ultimate in vain to return from them this year. His eventual bid at rehab games in the minors turned up short enough for comfort. The fourth captain in Mets history (following Keith Hernandez, Hall of Famer Gary Carter, and John Franco) is done, except for that final homestand to come.
Wright couldn't bring himself to say the R word during Thursday's press confab. But he was on the brink of tears when he addressed teammates and fans directly. "It's truly been an honor to take the field with you and serve as your captain," he managed to say. "To the fans, words can't address my gratitude."
When he signed that delicious seven-year contract extension in 2012, the Mets said they were contravening their policy against contracts that long because of Wright's value as a player and as a role model alike. Insurance has allowed the Mets to recoup 75 percent of his salary during his disabled list absences and rehabilitation; activating Wright for that final homestand will cost the Mets a few million with the 60 day clock reset covering this season and a piece enough of next.
But a time comes when the most diligent of men working their way back to the field have to admit it's an exercise in futility, no matter how much money they might leave on the table. The spirits are too often willing when the bodies finally reply with language that would be considered obscene in Sodom and Gomorrah themselves.
If Wright formally retires after that final homestand, he'll let the Mets off the hook for the final full two years ($27 million) of that contract extension. Cold economics says that would be the right thing to do. A seven-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner, and man of absolute character who was a study at the plate and often in the field, and who never seemed to let the craziest of insanity around or within his team knock him off the plot knows plenty about doing the right thing.
But only a colder heart would begrudge him one more chance to play in the uniform to which he's brought a shard of dignity, especially with the Mets season having been lost long before even a ceremonial Wright return became a topic. If the Elysian Field gods are in their right minds, let Wright poke a base hit or two, maybe even in support of Jacob deGrom.
It won't mean a thing, except to Mets fans who could use all the pleasure they can get, and maybe to Wright. But it won't hurt the one thing for which Wright stood above everything else, the integrity of the game. Franchises don't always have players at his former level of greatness. And few enough of the greats get to retire the way they hope. Let Wright have his last homestand. It won't help the Hall of Fame case to which his body put paid far too soon, but it'll be a better farewell than all the bric-a-brac ego-stroke farewell tours ever offered.