Last week, we watched a man admit it’s over.
It was painful to watch for any multitude of reasons, none of which were eased by the fact that we’ve all known this day was coming for two years. Because we have. Even the most optimistic among us knew, on some level, that David Wright wasn’t coming back. On Thursday, he admitted it too.
“Throughout this process, a lot of times my mind and my heart were telling me one thing, and my body was telling me something completely different,” he said at a press conference. “It was always, ‘I can do this. I can do this.’ The goal when I was injured was to come back as the player I expected myself to be. Once things ramped up and baseball activities got tougher and the games became for me more of ‘Just let me get through this and survive it,’ it became more apparent to me that that goal is now, ‘I just want to put this uniform on again.’ . . . I needed the games for my body to finally tell me, ‘It’s not happening. It’s not working.’”
I wanted to believe that he could do it, that he could overcome the spinal stenosis. I wanted it for me and for him and his daughters. So I guess, technically, my wish was granted. I get one last David Wright game. But to get there, I had to watch a man admit it’s over.
Sandwiched between John Ricco and Jeff Wilpon, Wright sat in the Citi Field media room and cried. In orange and blue, he said his body had failed him. It had been 840 days since his last major league game, since he stood in a batter’s box and watched strike three cross home plate. He’d tried some minor league games, a few that Gameday had recorded, a few it didn’t, but we knew this was the end. The lies we told ourselves were fantasies. “He’s just rusty!” we proclaimed. “His bat speed is still there,” we pretended. “The arm strength will be back, just give it time,” we whispered. We knew it wasn’t true. But we lied because we wanted to believe it. We lied because the alternative was failure.
We can’t lie anymore, because Wright told us not to.
“As far as regrets go, I can’t say I have regrets,” he said Thursday. “I felt like, I knew one way to play the game, I tried to play that way, and there’s not a lot of people out there who can say they made it to the big leagues, that they got to be with one team for their entire career, and got to captain that team, and to have the success that, at least in my mind, I like to think that I had.”
And with that, a 13-year career ends.
For me, Wright was the Mets. He was young when I was young and he was sad when I was sad and he was hopeful when I was hopeful. I will never be a Hall of Fame-level talent at anything except convincing myself that I’m on Amazon’s website anyway, I may as well just buy the boxset of “The O.C.,” but I lived vicariously through him, because that’s what sports fandom is at its core.
Wright was good, but the Mets were bad. Of the 13 seasons he played at least part of, the Mets finished atop the NL East just twice. There was heartbreak and disappointment and a lot of bad baseball. But there was also Wright, who never complained, never grumbled, never asked for a trade. He was pure joy to watch, and he played like he enjoyed doing so. He was just there, every day. Until he wasn’t.
We’ve had two years to prepare for goodbye. Wright sat at that press conference and said it’s over. Now we have to do the same.
We lie because we don’t want to admit the truth. We lie because we don’t want to acknowledge that we’ll never see another Wright home run or a sidearm throw from third. We lie because we’re not used to watching people give up. Athletes, overwhelmingly, don’t give up. They push their careers as far as they can go and then hang on for a few more years. Wright didn’t get that option. His body betrayed him and stole him from us before his time was up.
We lie because admitting it’s over is admitting defeat.
Photo credit: Andy Marlin – USA Today Sports