Not Charging the Mound Does Not Make David Wright Less of a Leader
This season and this week in particular have been brutal to the Mets with the barrage of injuries.
During yesterday's game against the Cardinals, the Mets lost Jon Niese during the second inning for the season when he completely tore his hamstring muscle from the bone. Gary Sheffield also went down lame in the sixth inning after getting a hit.
Less than five minutes before Sheffield went down, David Wright was knocked down by an 87 mph fastball by relief pitcher Brad Thompson. This was probably in retaliation for Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick getting plunked on the elbow by Nelson Figueroa. Pitchers do protect their hitters, always have, always will, and that's how it should be done.
The big difference was that Thompson went after Wright's head, a major no-no in baseball world. Because of this incident, in addition to the fine and suspension imposed by Bob Watson of the Commissioner's Office, Thompson will have the label of "head hunter" added to his reportoire.
Most likely about 75 percent of the other players in the Major Leagues would have at the very least glared at, yelled at, or more likely charged Thompson, with a bench-clearing brawl being the end result.
I have seen many games where a knocked down player has said after the game "he hit me below the waist so it was a message, if he had hit me above the waist, that would have been personal and I won't stand for it."
Wright took the high road and dusted himself off and got back in the batter's box after the umpire warned both benches, no doubt shaken and angry, but he was not about to make a federal case out of this event.
He was not shocked that he was thrown at, maybe his back would have been the target, just not at his head. He said that sticking up for teammates is a part of the game but throwing at it a guy's head in retaliation is not how its done.
Wright hit into a double play that particular at-bat, but he had three hits on the day, and five hits total for the two game series, so he was no doubt a target and Cardinal Manager Tony La Russa admitted as much after the game.
Thompson said the pitch got away from him, he missed the spot, but I don't think even his own manager believes that, and neither should Mets fans. La Russa was clearly upset at Thompson for taking the inside pitch advice too literally.
Gary Sheffield and Jeff Francouer were more clearly angrier than Wright, but honestly, they were on the outside looking in during that at-bat and were pissed that their teammate was targeted to be hit in the head.
Sheffield even called time out during his at-bat which followed Wright's and had words with Thompson and asked him "are you going to throw at my head too?".
Wright appeared to be fairly calm but had to be upset, however charging the mound is not his style—just not how he was raised.
He frequently credits his parents for being role models and that sportsmanship is as much a part of the game than the end result.
Surprisingly, there are many fans who last night and today are saying that Wright is not a real man, or a team leader, they would charge the mound regardless of the consequence.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I do think that Wright not reacting violently shows a self control that comes with leadership. It's easier to react negatively than to take a step back and evaluate the situation to decide your course of action.
He is the face and voice of the Mets and holds Fantasy Baseball Camps and Bowling Events for underprivileged children.
Wright is a role model figure to many kids, and being that it was Camp Day at Citi Field, no kid would probably ever look at David Wright the same way again.
If Wright had done the unlikely and charged the mound, his teammates who know him would have no doubt been shocked and concerned, and maybe to a certain point disappointed in him for this lapse in class and humility.
Make no mistake—if he had charged, the Mets players would have followed, and the result could have ended very ugly for all involved, more injuries, ejections and even suspensions.
As much as the season is over for the Mets, there are still more than 50 games to be played and they need all the healthy bodies to at least make things interesting, and even play the part of spoiler, like the Marlins did to the Mets the last two seasons.
After all, the Mets were winning the game, mainly thanks to Wright's two-run homer in the first inning. So he was already a hero for the day. There was no reason for him to be bitter in the first place.
The bench-clearing brawl that would have ensued may have been disastrous for Wright and the Mets, as he is the last man standing on the injury front.
While Wright has battled some nagging problems, he is the closest player to healthy right now of the Mets starting lineup from April 2009.
Many fans are saying that despite the warning from the umpires, the Mets should have retaliated, and if suspensions occur, so be it, they have to show the world that they have a fighting spirit and you cannot do that to a man and get away with such actions.
Again, that's their opinion, but what would that have solved? I don't think it would solve anything.
In September of 2007, during the second to last game of the season, the Mets were winning 11-0 and ended up with a bench clearing altercation with the Marlins after Luis Castillo was thrown at, but it was his leg, not his head.
Wright was the on deck hitter who the home plate umpire pushed Castillo to and he was on the front line side by side with Castillo when both benches cleared for words and then a shoving match. He showed that he will defend his teammates, but will not instigate any problem, regardless of who provokes him.
The Mets are literally on their last legs, and a fight would have showed fire and spirit, but that's just not how David Wright rolls, and as fans we should be proud that he chose the high road.
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