David Wright's major league debut came on July 21, 2004.NEW YORK -- David Wright has a $138 million contract that takes him through 2020. He is the captain of the New York Mets. And the 31-year-old Wright is no longer a bachelor, having married model Molly Beers in December.
Ten years ago, though, Wright was a rookie with mismatched clothes, seeking to halt the franchise’s revolving door at third base after being selected with a compensation pick for the Mets losing Mike Hampton as a free agent to Colorado.
Monday’s game at Seattle will mark the 10-year anniversary of Wright’s July 21, 2004 major league debut, an 0-for-4 performance against the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium.
That day remains vivid for him. Getting a glimpse of the stadium while flying into LaGuardia Airport after being promoted from the Norfolk Tides, the Triple-A team he cheered as a youngster in Virginia. Seeing his home white No. 5 jersey hanging in his locker. Stepping onto the field and being cheered by the crowd in a pre-Twitter era in which some mystery still shrouded prospects.
“It wasn’t like it is now with the social media, where you know so much about these guys before they come up,” Wright reminisced. “I didn’t know what to expect. I ran out there for the first time, and to hear the fans’ reaction was very, very cool. To see your name and picture on the scoreboard at Shea Stadium for the first time, hearing your name announced for your first at-bat, it’s all crystal clear to me. But I would say the biggest thing was after the flight from Norfolk here, walking into the clubhouse and seeing ‘WRIGHT’ and the ‘5’ hanging in your locker, it hits home.”
His favorite memories are reserved for the 2006 season, when the Mets halted the Braves’ run of 14 straight division crowns and ultimately reached within a game of the World Series. After three straight days failing to clinch in Pittsburgh, the Mets returned home and blanked the Marlins, 4-0, behind Jose Valentin’s two homers and 6 1/3 scoreless innings from Steve Trachsel. After the game, the party spilled onto the field, with a goggle-wearing Jose Reyes and cigar-chewing Wright arm in arm, getting doused with champagne.Elsa/Getty Images
Wright maintains his faith in the Mets will be rewarded, with Matt Harvey and prospects leading a revival.
“From that year there are just so many things,” Wright said. “Obviously you have the clinching game where we broke the Braves’ streak. The celebration on the field. The flight from L.A. after we swept L.A. (in the NLDS). And even the next series against the Cardinals, when we fell short. And, as much as it sucks in 2007 and 2008, being right in the thick of things down to the wire, it’s just tough to explain the feeling of coming to the ballpark every day knowing the importance of the game.”
Five straight losing seasons later -- with principal owner Fred Wilpon having said he is “not a superstar” in a magazine article, for good measure -- Wright has experienced his share of heartache. Yet he committed to an eight-year, $138 million extension that was officially announced during the winter meetings in Nashville in December 2012. It should allow him to finish his career as a Met.
The deal was consummated with a year remaining on an existing contract, so Wright never did shop his services. He suggested he would have been prepared to test free agency the following winter had the Mets not committed to a contract that keeps him under the organization’s control through 2020, with full no-trade protection.
“I’m not going to lie and say the contract wasn’t a big part of the decision. Of course it was,” Wright said. “But so was the loyalty factor. So was the direction where I think we’re headed. So was having friends not only as players, but within the organization. When I sat down -- and I talked to my parents about it, I talked to my brothers about it -- the pros far outweighed the cons.
“Could I have jumped ship when things weren’t going so good and maybe have gone to a situation that was more conducive to winning now? Yeah, I probably could have. I don’t know, because it never played out. Would that have meant nearly as much to me as putting in the time and the work and the effort that I’ve put in here to get this going in the direction I think we’re headed? That far outweighed jumping ship and being something that I don’t think I am.”
His agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, undoubtedly could have gotten him a bigger deal had Wright allowed the existing contract to play out. Last offseason, when Wright would have been eligible for free agency, Robinson Cano signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Mariners. How much would the Yankees -- who inked Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran for a combined $438 million -- have paid to have Wright succeed Alex Rodriguez?
The Levinsons did not try to push, though, once they knew Wright wanted to remain and the Mets were willing to negotiate.
“If they had it their way, I would have probably tested the market, no question, because their job is obviously the financial terms,” Wright said.
Wright now should be a lifelong Met, something no other superstar (or whatever he is) can claim. Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Mike Piazza all played elsewhere.
Wright can foresee being a club ambassador after his playing career. He cannot, though, envision a full-time commitment, as 1986 Mets such as Tim Teufel and Wally Backman have done through coaching and Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez have done via the broadcast booth.
“This is far, far down the road, but I enjoy baseball. So I’d like to be around,” Wright said. “Not necessarily being paid or coaching or doing any of that. But I think I’d like to make an annual visit down to spring training and hang out and come watch some games here, be able to sit in the stands and have a beer and enjoy a baseball game.
“First of all, I wouldn’t have the patience to coach somebody like me or [Daniel] Murphy or some of these guys. Secondly, if anything, hopefully I’ll be a Little League coach or something like that. I’d still like to be involved, because this is important to me, but as of this second not where it’s daily or even monthly.”
Will Wright’s faith in the Mets ultimately be rewarded? The Mets won eight of 10 games on their final homestand as young players such as Jacob deGrom, Travis d'Arnaud, Juan Lagares, Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia and Eric Campbell integrate. Still, the Amazin’s are 45-50 and seven games out of first place with 67 to go.
“We’ve dug ourselves this hole, and now it’s up to us to kind of get out of it,” Wright said. “But there’s a lot of promising things going on, and we’ve shown that this last homestand. When I signed here, I knew there’s no quick fix, there’s no snap your fingers and all of a sudden you’re playing for a World Series. That’s not realistic. It’s not being pessimistic. It’s just part of the process is getting these young players up, seeing what they’re capable of doing.
“When you get to the point you feel like you’re close, which I think we’re very close, then you go out and you add a piece here, you add a piece there, whether it’s through free agency, whether it’s through trades. And I think we are at the point.”