David Wright: Tough Love

Tracy YoungContributor IJune 17, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 14: David Wright #5 of the New York Mets argues with home plate umpire Jim Wolf #78 after striking out against the New York Yankees on June 14, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Being the eldest of four brothers came in handy last night during a game against the Os when David Wright gave pitcher Mike Pelfrey some tough love—once on the mound, and then in the dugout after Pelfrey came out in the sixth inning.

On the mound, the Mets' third baseman Wright talked into his glove, but his shoulders surged up and down, as if he were trying to shake Pelfrey with them.

Usually, when Wright goes to the mound, it’s as more of an observer to a conversation between the pitching coach Dan Warthen, manager Jerry Manuel, or perhaps a healthy Carlos Delgado.

He’ll stand a few feet away, listening carefully.

Not last night. Wright took the initiative, and spoke to Pelfrey with the same intensity he shows when at bat.

Then in the dugout, his hat off, Wright got in Pelfrey’s face, gesturing and clearly delivering a message that he knew Pelfrey might not want to hear, or maybe already knew, but that he felt was necessary.

Wright obviously knows Pelfrey and his potential well enough to say that the team needs him to step it up, and that Pelfrey, the game’s winning pitcher, could handle the constructive criticism.

The confident Wright looked more like a manager than a player just a couple of years older than Pelfrey, whose big physique makes him seem older than he is.

In the Mets’ previous game, an ugly trouncing at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, Wright vehemently argued a strike call that eventually got Manuel tossed.

Normally, when Wright disagrees with a strike call, he’ll just check with the umpire, exchanging a few polite words.

He rarely argues. If it’s a called third strike, he might show disgust, but more at himself.

He’s also managed to lead with his bat, shifting his approach at the plate to accommodate the quirks of the new stadium.

In a fairly bleak span for the Mets, with injuries to key players taking a toll and some ugly losses, Wright leads the league in batting with a .365 average. Carlos Beltran’s not far behind with .336.

Wright said he knew from his first batting practice at Citi Field that there would be fewer homers than at Shea.

He has adjusted his mental approach, but not necessarily his swing, with great success—line drives, going the other way, and putting the ball in play.

He’s also become more proactive on the base path. He already has 18 steals this season. He had 15 all last year.

Of course, no one’s perfect. He has struggled through slumps, he has a lot of strikeouts, and only a handful of homers. And the Mets have left hordes of runner on base in clutch situations.

In any case, he’s a probable All-Star once again—another feat to add to a weird, remarkable season.

But Wright’s average and his increasingly vocal leadership are bringing that mythological C more into focus.