David Wright keeps putting his body on the line for the Mets. He’s done it since he signed in 2001, since he debuted three years later. He fought through concussions and hamstring strains and a literal broken back. But he always came home. Now, he’s fighting for one more chance.
I’ve written this article before. About how he deserves to retire on his own time and about who benefitted from his downfall. But the finish line was always if, not when. I didn’t actually think he’d come back. For a while, he couldn’t lift his infant daughter because his back hurt too badly. Why would I expect that man to make a triumphant return to the Flushing faithful? But he proved me wrong. He proved the doctors wrong. By all accounts, he proved himself wrong too.
This time, he’s not fighting his body. He’s fighting his bosses.
“The challenge has been accepted,” Wright told reporters last week. “I’m going to do everything I can to get that clearance. I’m going to do everything I can to put that big-league uniform on, because I’ve come way too far with the work to give it a ‘poor me.’”
No one has specified what, exactly, Wright is incapable of doing. He’s said his arm strength is still an issue, which is predictable, but no one will say if that’s one of John Ricco’s vague benchmarks. Mickey Callaway said there’s a difference between medical clearance for minor league and major league games — for what it’s worth, the CBA does not even mention such a distinction — but couldn’t give any details. They just keep saying that Wright isn’t ready.
What they’re not saying is that the team’s insurance claim on Wright ends if he’s activated. The Wilpons have recouped 75% of Wright’s contract since July 2016, saving them approximately $28.5 million. That will continue until Wright retires or his contract expires, whichever comes first. Unless, that is, he comes off the DL, even for a game. Then the clock resets and the insurance claim will be pushed back another 60 days from the day Wright goes back on the disabled list. Best estimates say that could cost the Wilpons about $5 million.
Is $5 million enough to keep Wright off the field?
The logical, rational answer is no. The ticket revenue and merchandise sales from a David Wright game in 2018, more than 27 months after he last took the field in a major league game, probably wouldn’t add up to $5 million, but it would come close. But it’s not about money. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be about money. Call it good PR, which the Wilpons could sorely use. I like to call it the right thing to do.
He’s probably not up to game speed. I know that and you know that and he knows that. Not because of his stats from minor league rehab games, but because he has spinal stenosis and he’s missed two years of baseball and there are days when he can’t get out of bed. No one expects him to come back and slug .550, nor does anyone need him to. Proper narrative structure dictates he homers again like the last time he returned from the DL, of course, but that’s just theatrics. Wright didn’t fight for two years to have his baseball career die over an insurance policy. If he can handle throws from third base and make contact at the plate, how can the Wilpons deprive him of that? Of one last standing ovation at Citi Field? Wright struck out looking on May 27, 2016 and then disappeared into the abyss of operating rooms and rehab centers. He never got to say goodbye. Fans never got to say goodbye. They never got to tell him how much he meant.
Mets fans deserve a chance to see Wright play. His daughters deserve a chance to see him play. He deserves a chance to play.
“Anywhere I go — St. Lucie or Vegas or even walking around New York earlier this year — the amount of support and the love that has been shown has been overwhelming,” Wright told Newsday last week.
It would be nice if his bosses showed him a little support too.
Photo credit: Adam Hunger – USA Today Sports