In the age of free agency, where loyalty is measured in contract years and runs only as deep as the next bidder's pockets, David Wright is a nonconformist. He plays third base for the New York Mets, and, to hear him tell it, that's how he wants it to stay.
While players like Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols are and will be defined by their historic contracts, Wright wants to be defined by his team. Just as Band-Aids have become the catch-all synonym for adhesive bandages, David wants to become synonymous with the team out of Flushing.
Despite this perfect attitude, David Wright is not a perfect player. His production on both sides of the ball has become increasingly inconsistent since Citi Field opened in 2009—a year in which he hit just 10 home runs.
Once a man whose long-term goals included staying off of the Disabled List for his entire career, Wright has missed time due to injury twice in the past two seasons, including two months of the 2011 campaign thanks to a fractured bone in his back.
The changes happening at Citi Field this winter could (and perhaps should) resolve some of his issues, particularly the shortening of the fences in left and the near-total elimination of the Mo Zone in right. Wright's power alleys, gone since Shea was demolished, are back, and so should he be.
This should come as exciting news to Mets fans, but as Bergen Record columnist Bob Klapisch wrote on Monday, the Mets will almost certainly trade Wright following what is sure to be a poor start to the 2012 season, meaning all fans have to look forward to are the prospects Queens' favorite son will demand in a deadline deal.
Losing David Wright, especially now that Jose Reyes ha llevado su talento a South Beach, would be a crushing blow to fan morale, and the final tolling of the team that came within one victory of the World Series in 2006. The prospect of a divorce from their franchise third baseman would have shaken any Mets fan to the core just a few years ago, but following Jose's departure, fan sentiment seems to have changed.
It comes as no surprise, really.
The Mets have been heading in the wrong direction for a few years now, and weren't expected to contend for anything in 2012 even if they had managed to retain their dynamic leadoff hitter. Now, the expectations are even lower, and exhausted fans are asking for a quick end to the whole mess.
Pundits have applauded the Mets for their decision on Reyes, of course. An oft-injured 28-year-old speedster isn't exactly the prototypical cornerstone player, and Miami's six-year $106 million offer is viewed as, at the very least, a huge gamble. But was the Mets' decision to let Reyes walk really a matter of financial prudence, or was it simply that they couldn't afford a contract like that?
The Wilpons' financial woes are well-documented, and I'm not asking this question rhetorically just to twist the knife. Fans deserve to know when they're being mislead.
Sandy Alderson's decision to hold Reyes rather than trade him by the deadline was viewed by many as a cause for hope, that perhaps they'd make a real run at Jose after all, and his leaving maybe wasn't a foregone conclusion. The New York Post even reported "secret negotiations" possibly occurring between Alderson and Reyes' representatives at one point during the season.
That Reyes walked without so much as an official offer from the Mets, let alone a first-round compensatory pick—thanks to him going to Miami, who did not finish in the top half of the league and therefore kept their first-round pick and sent their third-rounder instead—is worrisome. It either means Reyes' agent misled Mets executives regarding Jose's intentions after the season, or that Alderson merely retained Reyes for the impact trading him would have on ticket sales.
Think about it: Alderson, knowing Reyes would be gone in 2012 and that ticket sales would decline as a result, opted to act as if they would attempt to sign him in the offseason so there was no immediate impact on ticket sales in 2011.
It's crude, but it's wise from a financial standpoint.
From a baseball standpoint, of course, it's abhorrent. Willfully sacrificing the integrity of the product for the sake of saving money is a sin on par with anything Pete Rose or Shoeless Joe did, and should be punished accordingly.
And they might be getting ready to do it again. This time the fall-guy is Daniel Murphy, who is rumored to be the bait in a deal that might be a straight-up deal for Tigers OF Andy Dirks.
Murphy is the superior hitter, winding up fifth in the NL batting race in 2011 before yet another knee injury ended his season prematurely, but has yet to find a position on the field that he can play and isn't already occupied by a franchise cornerstone.
Should the Mets move Wright out of town, Murphy is his heir apparent, being a natural third baseman and top-flight hitter. Given that, Daniel Murphy stays in Queens if the welfare of the team is the only consideration; that he's being talked about in a possible one-for-one trade with a 25-year-old utility outfielder means their priorities lie elsewhere. There would be no cause for trading Murphy at all, let alone for such a pittance, unless money was the motivating factor, as Dirks would come cheaper.
And now David Wright—considered the face of the franchise—if a losing franchise is in fact entitled to one—could become a casualty of the Wilpons' need to pocket funds while their empire crumbles around them.
While David is not the perfect player, he is the perfect teammate, as evidenced by being essentially the only Mets player to announce his loyalty despite the strong likelihood of being traded and the disastrous downturn the team has taken in the last several seasons.
That kind of player, especially in this day and age, is invaluable. But you can bet your bottom dollar that Alderson will ship him off so his bosses can keep themselves in the lifestyle they've grown accustomed to.
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