Harsh comments about Wright are all wrong
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Face of the Franchise has been scarred. How can that be? We're not talking zit or shaving nick here. The image of David Wright has been publicly besmirched. The man who most and best represents the Mets has been frequently disparaged. A beloved figure -- and rightfully so -- as recently as the summer of 2008, Wright now suffers slings and arrows, and that is nothing short of outrageous. And wrong. It ought to cease.
I hear comments, not all intended for my ears, in the stands, on planes and in elevators. From what I am told, Wright no longer is held in high regard by the drive-time alarmists. I read comments that follow reports about the Mets on these websites. I read how his employer damned him with faint praise last summer.
And I am stunned and appalled.
What has Wright done, or not done, to warrant such treatment and intolerance? The benefit of the doubt no longer is afforded him, and it ought to be.
At age 30 and approaching his ninth season in the big leagues, David Allen Wright still is David Up-Wright, the guy you want your daughter to bring home and your son to follow. In 2004, the year of his debut with the Mets, agents wished they could represent him, opposing general managers wished they could acquire him, parents wished they could adopt him. By the end of the 2006 season, hundreds of would-be big leaguers wanted to be him. Little of that has changed in the interim years.
But now David Up-Wright is being ridiculed, even scorned. When the Mets begin their season at Citi Field on April 5, he is likely to be jeered. Merely the possibility of such treatment is difficult to fathom if you were there for the opening home game in 2007. It is more difficult to accept without questioning. What more do you folks want?
He plays hurt, he plays hard. He gives all he has. He keeps himself off Page 6 and its cousins. He respects his elders, honors his mother and father, serves as a spokesman for charities, signs autographs, says "please" and "thank you" and "excuse me." He cares about his fellow man. When his team melted in the gunlaps of the 2007 and 2008 seasons, he was quite upright; too many of his more veteran colleagues weren't standup at all.
As he has matured, Up-Wright has learned to express his feelings in a proper way, in a way that offends no one, not even those whose behavior has prompted his criticism. He's a good teammate, a good player and good person. He's genuine.
"I take the good with the bad," Wright said on Tuesday morning upon his return to camp. "I've had a lot of good and some bad in my career. I've experienced the good, the bad and the ugly here. But I have no complaints."
Wright had been in Manhattan for treatment for a torn abdominal muscle, an injury that has interrupted his preparation for the season. For the first time in his life, Wright received an injection of cortisone. The hope is that the anti-inflammatory will allow him to resume some baseball activities on Thursday. If only cortisone could eliminate verbal and written inflammation.
"We've had a tough run, and people are disappointed," Wright said. "So are we. The results have been bad. I'm in my ninth year, and we've been in the playoffs once. You can't look at this as success. We got greedy after 2006, but we didn't get it done. I can see why people are disappointed. I can see why they're down on us, and on me, too. I've been here the longest now ... so the failures of the team fall on my shoulders."
Why should that be? Up-Wright had nothing to do with Jose Reyes' hammy, Johan Santana's shoulder, Carlos Beltran's knee, Carlos Delgado's hip, Jason Bay's concussion, Pedro Martinez's toe, Billy Wagner's elbow, Ryan Church's concussion, Luis Castillo's drop, Tom Glavine's final Mets start, El Duque's calf, Oliver Perez's contract, Duaner Sanchez's cab ride or the Wilpons' troubles. And though he was involved, Up-Wright wasn't the most responsible for Ike Davis' bone bruise. And he never chose to bat Reyes third.
At the same time, he was quite responsible for the good times that seemingly have been forgotten. He points out that if either the 2007 or 2008 seasons had ended a day earlier, "the seasons would have been successful. ... Some things that happened in those years [and 2006] are some of the best times I've ever had on a baseball field. If other people weren't happy, I can't let that take away from what I enjoyed. I wasn't satisfied, but we had a lot of fun getting as far as we did."
Those were heady days. Up-Wright won Gold Gloves and earned MVP points, he batted between Reyes and either Beltran or Delgado. His career path was bathed in spotlights. The wall in right-center was within reach of his swing. His body hadn't yet betrayed him. He was going to emerge as the most accomplished player the Mets had ever developed. The reaction to his introduction was almost exclusively positive.
And now that he has fought through a concussion; a stress fracture in his back; the disappointments of 2006, 2007 and 2008; the significant shortfall of his own performance; and the departures of Reyes and Beltran ... Now there are calls to trade the Face of the Franchise.
They sound like fingernails on a blackboard to me. The sound can't be comforting for him, a guy who has no mean spirit in him and routinely puts the team first. Up-Wright appreciates -- no, cherishes -- all he has. He appreciates, but is not content with, what the game has given him. He longs for a ring as much as anyone and doesn't moan now that the chance of a ring is greatly diminished. He is anything but a malcontent.
"I feel great about where I am," he says.
He understands that younger players are afforded the benefit of the doubt. He says that if Derek Jeter could be booed, he, too, can expect that treatment.
"I don't feel scarred," he said, though he acknowledged that the way he occasionally is received sometimes "ages me."
He is confident that he puts so much into his career that "when it's over, I can see myself having zero regrets. ... I've been tremendously lucky. I got the chance to fly through the [Minor League] system. I was ushered into the big leagues by Hall of Fame-caliber teammates. I've had success. I've been rewarded. I've had some injuries, but some of the guys I know from home are [in the service]. I got an e-mail from one who wants to know if I can send a box of [Mets] T-shirts to the Middle East. It would be good for morale.
"I'm in a position [where] I can help because of baseball. How can I be down about what's happened?"
And how can anyone be down on David Up-Wright? Cut this guy some slack and appreciate all that he is.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.