David Wright paused for a moment to wait for the umpire's call at first base, and when it came -- confirmation that he had been too slow in fielding the ball and throwing it -- he turned and looked into the distance. In the New York Mets' dugout, there was a scramble to check the replay, to see if Wright's throw had actually been on time. But Wright, always accountable, seemed to know before anybody else.
He has been the most stable figure in an organization that has gone through more than its share of upheaval since he first joined the big club in July 2004. Wright has been the best possible professional, in how he has played -- he's a seven-time All-Star and a .298 career hitter -- and in how he has helped teammates, from Noah Syndergaard to Matt Harvey. He has lived out the dreams of a lifetime, all the way to reaching the World Series for the first time in October.
Against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday night, Wright looked completely overwhelmed by the speed of the game he loves so much.
Royals starter Edinson Volquez kept challenging him with fastballs and Wright was slow to react, pulling his bat through the strike zone too late to catch up; all Wright could do against good fastballs in the first game of the 2016 season, it seemed, was to peel off foul balls at a 20-degree angle back to the screen. By the end of the game, there was no pretense about how the Royals were attacking Wright at the plate: When Salvador Perez set up for fastballs, he placed his target in the middle of the strike zone. Kansas City closer Wade Davis seemed to have no fear, no concern that Wright could respond.
The Royals took advantage of Wright on defense, too, with Omar Infante beating out that chopper to third base in the fifth inning and Eric Hosmer bunting with nobody out in the sixth. Hosmer's bunt was more of a response to the design of the Mets' infield defense in that moment, but it also could have been about how stiff Wright appears in his movement these days, as he copes with spinal stenosis.
Plenty of old players on the downslope of their careers have had games like Wright just had, and have reflexively dug in and fought back, working for solutions.