David Wright has agreed to sign the rest of his life away to the New York Mets, agreeing to the richest contract the franchise has ever given out. The total value of the contract will net him $138 million, making him the highest paid Met. EVER.
I’ve never been a David Wright fan. I’ve always felt like his value has been overstated because of his Derek Jeter like presence in the club. He’s a good looking guy who plays the game hard and never becomes back page folly. He avoids any and all kind of blame, an amazing feat considering he’s viewed as the leader of a New York sports franchise. Ask Patrick Ewing what it was like never winning a championship in New York and having to come into work amongst fans who blamed him for it.
The thing is not every player is Derek Jeter. He’s won five championships. He dates super duper models*. He sends women gift baskets after he’s had his way with them at night. He’s a living legend in almost every right. When he reaches a milestone, he does so in style. See, getting his 3,000th hit while hitting a home run. And judging by his stats from last year reports of his decline were very much said too soon.
*=He dated Miss Universe. You know how many guys get to date women on that scale? And he did so publicly with an Indian woman at that. Do you understand what that entails when a non indian man decides to date an indian woman? Did her parents just never pick up a paper? Were they Yankee fans and were excited that their daughter was dating the shortstop and future hall of famer? Miracle worker this Derek Jeter.
But David Wright, as stated above, is no Derek Jeter and the fact is no matter how many toothy smiles he gives he won’t ever resonate with the Met fan base the way Jeter does with the Yankee fan base. If he’s our Derek Jeter than we’re as third class as every Yankee fan claims. Its not to say that Wright isn’t a great player. He is, but he’s not what we think he is and he’s not what we based his new contract on.
Most Met fans are rejoicing in the news that David Wright will be a Met for life. I’m not. He’s not a great fielder, he’s a good fielder. He’s not a great clutch hitter. In fact he’s very rarely clutch. He’s got great stats but he racks up those numbers in meaningless games. He’s the leader of a team that has not had a winning record in four seasons. This is the guy you paid $138 million to over the final seven seasons.
I’m sorry if you’re waiting for stats to back up my case here. But I don’t need them. I’ve watched 90% of Mets games that Wright has played in and he does two things well: he racks up stats during blowouts and he smiles well enough to engender compassion and gratefulness. The biggest argument that most Mets fans have is look at his statistics. And I will argue back that they have not seen him in situations over the last few years with the chance to drive in more runs where he failed by doing the absolute worst thing you can do in those situations: strike out. You can give me any advanced metric you want to play up Wright but he doesn’t pass the all important eye test. Any real fan, who truly cares and watches the team as closely as I do (yes I’m being perfectly objective when I say this), knows what I’m talking about. He doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers and there are enough holes in his swing that pitchers feel confident enough to get him out. That’s not a superstar. That’s a star.
But in our ever present struggle with Yankee fans the Mets fans have put it in their heads that Wright is our Jeter and that argument falls on completely deaf ears as well. He’s not. He doesn’t have the rings, or the general ability to come through that Jeter has shown throughout his career. Wright does many things well, but all in moderation, making him a superstar by default because there’s some unwritten rule that says every team MUST have a superstar. But that mandate doesn’t sit well with me and shouldn’t for Mets fans. When a guy of superstar ilk comes along, you will know him. He walks different. He gives you confidence in any and every situation. You don’t dread his at bats like a kid waiting for a report card. But the Mets fans have decided to look past the eye test and enjoy the illusion. And the Mets in turn have paid him handsomely to keep the fan base playing up to that illusion. Its a win win for both sides.
All of that to secure the services of a home grown star and avoid any further embarrassment. This deal doesn’t secure the Mets first winning record in five years. This only secures the Mets ongoing war with the press to win their half hearted approval. Not signing Wright would’ve meant mutiny within the fan base and total bashing by every media outlet in New York for an ownership group who (literally) can’t afford to lose any more paying customers. In reality, Wright is the only thing clean about this Mets franchise and the only pristine thing in the whole organization. The Coupon family couldn’t let him walk away. Then the focus would be completely on them and they couldn’t have that. They can now throw David Wright in front of the fire before it reaches them but the truth is no one blames him because everyone knows what a complete screw up they are in the first place. Really, who can look bad standing next to the Coupon family? Doesn’t Wright become bigger and better in light of the Coupon family’s distressing financial situation and idiotic decision-making?
But is that the right reason for signing Wright? Did the Mets compromise their own team for the next few seasons by signing Wright to a deal that could financially cripple them for years to come? If this contract is backloaded and there truly is a “hard cap” that even has the Steinbrenners running to shave a few million off the edges, exactly how much money will the Mets have to throw around on a 25 man roster? We know now that Sandy Alderson was brought in to cut payroll and fatten the farm system up. But will he stay long enough to reap the rewards when the next two seasons could entail more of the same?
The Mets are looking at 2014 as the year of the purge. When Johan Santana’s contract and Jason Bay’s contract magically disappear off the payroll. But what will happen next is anybody’s guess. We’re hoping that a bunch of kids mixed in with a free agent or two will mesh perfectly to finally reward Met fans for their patience. Patience that has been long waning thanks to ponzi schemes and putzes running the organization. But the feeling is that the David Wright signing begins a new era in Mets land. A promise that the payroll restrictions aren’t as crippling as people think. That the Mets can drop an ineffective player regardless of salary ramifications (see Bay, Jason). That the Mets do care about the product on the field and the fans who pay to see them play by signing talented home grown players that fans have seen age before their very eyes. That the fans have a legacy player in the ilk of a Tom Seaver because they were robbed of that with Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden.
I agree that the Mets deserve those things and should get those things, but let’s remember one thing: the goal is to win and get better. I woke up this morning to the news of David Wright’s signing not sure if we accomplished either goal.