CHICAGO -- I first met David Wright on March 24, 2003. We were sitting on a concrete bench outside the minor league clubhouse in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He was 20 years old, having spent the previous season at low-A Capital City. He was one of three third-base prospects in the lower levels of the system, along with Shawn Bowman and Aarom Baldiris, and no one knew with any certainty which farmhand ultimately would blossom.
In the article -- which as of a few years ago was still in the front of a scrapbook spanning Wright's professional career -- Wright discusses growing up in Norfolk, Va., which also was the home of the Mets' Triple-A affiliate for four decades (until the Mets screwed up the relationship and got booted from town). Wright listed Rey Ordonez and Jorge Toca among his favorite Norfolk Tides, but named his all-time hero as Benny Agbayani.
"He was always a big fan favorite," Wright said then.
What must Wright be thinking now?
He may not be a superstar -- you're correct, Fred -- but he has bled orange and blue since his childhood. He has made every public appearance on behalf of your organization that you requested, so much so that team officials decided a couple of years ago to scale back to some degree how much they were asking of him because they thought they were detracting from his on-field performance.
Wright, the son of the assistant police chief in Norfolk, never has embarrassed the organization. Never has uttered a bad word (with the exception of once publicly saying it was unacceptable that Lastings Milledge arrived for a game in Philadelphia only an hour before the first pitch). Heck, Wright even PLAYED WITH A BROKEN BACK for a month this season before the Mets' crack staff detected it.
And this is the thanks he gets?
The best news about Fred Wilpon acknowledging to Sports Illustrated that he may reduce the payroll to less than $100 million next year is that perhaps Wright will get swept out in the salary purge. I say that for Wright's own sake. He doesn't deserve this.
It's one thing to mismanage an organization. It's another thing to destroy it. And Fred Wilpon is doing the latter.
Fans are left to root for Bud Selig to turn on his friend and force Wilpon out. Or root for Irving Picard to win his $1 billion lawsuit and for the Wilpons to be forced out entirely through that vehicle.
GM Sandy Alderson's leverage at the trading deadline has been obliterated by Wilpon. The GM no longer has the poker chip of threatening to simply hold onto Reyes. Now, the only strategy is to play teams off each other -- if multiple bidders exist -- with those teams knowing Reyes has to be dealt somewhere.
Meanwhile, can you fathom the depths to which this organization is going to descend in the next couple of years barring Selig- or Picard-induced intervention?
Even the Nationals will be reintroducing Stephen Strasburg and promoting phenom Bryce Harper.
If you subtract Jose Reyes ($11 million), Carlos Beltran ($18.5 million), Francisco Rodriguez ($15 million with the buyout, assuming his contract does not vest) and the $18 million still owed to Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, that's $62.5 million coming off of a payroll of about $140 million. Even if you omit built-in raises to existing players, that only allows for $20 million or so to replace the star shortstop, star right fielder, closer and whatever other pieces the team needs.
And if K-Rod vests at 55 games finished and earns $17.5 million next season, there's no wiggle room at all.
The Mets might as well trade Wright and free him while getting prospects back for the future.
Because wasting the remaining good years of the 28-year-old Wright's career isn't fair to him.