NEW YORK -- David Wright is Gen X’s Tom Seaver or Mike Piazza. He is Queens’ answer to Derek Jeter. So it pains New York Mets manager Terry Collins to watch Wright struggle while playing through chronic spinal stenosis in his lower back, and now be sidelined by a herniated disk in his neck.
“This guy has been a special player in baseball,” Collins said Tuesday afternoon. “Certainly being the captain and the face of this organization, a manager’s worst nightmare is to see a star start to fade. I think David’s got a lot of baseball left in him because of the way he prepares and the way he gets himself ready. But it’s hard to watch what he’s going through … as good as he was. I’ll tell you: There’s a lot of guys in this room that would not do what he does every day just to get ready to go play a baseball game.
“He’s still special. He’s still a great player. We just hope this neck thing goes away in a few days and he’s back in our lineup.”
Mets officials are giving Wright every opportunity to get past his neck issue without landing on the disabled list. Wright is unavailable for a fourth straight game Tuesday night as the Mets host the Chicago White Sox. He also will not be available Wednesday because the anti-inflammatory injection he just received requires 48 hours to take effect. Wright previously tried oral medication, but that did not sufficiently reduce the pain and allow for the neck mobility in order to return to the field.
The 33-year-old Wright deserves loyalty from the organization -- and from Mets fans. At a time when the Mets’ future was not so rosy, he committed to the team through 2020 rather than test free agency and get a massive payday.
He still is being handsomely paid. Wright will earn $20 million a season through 2018, then $15 million in 2019 and $12 million in 2020.
When Wright signed the extension in December 2012, Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon explained that Wright’s salary in the final two years of the contract would shrink as an acknowledgement that his skills would probably be diminished during his age 36 and 37 seasons.
Who knew then that Wright would be dealing with spinal stenosis? Now it seems hard to fathom that Wright will make it to the end of the deal still on the field.
Such things unfortunately happen. Marlins manager Don Mattingly dealt with a similar back issue during his playing career and has advised Wright about how to play through the issue. Mattingly was forced to retire from the Yankees after the 1995 season, when he was 34 years old. That’s the age Wright will turn in December.
Mets officials don’t believe the herniated disk in the neck is the kind of injury that will be the final blow and end Wright’s career. Yet Collins on Tuesday afternoon was mentioning how reliever Bobby Parnell dealt with a similar injury while with the club. Parnell ultimately needed surgery and his career never was the same.
This is unlikely to become a Michael Cuddyer-type situation. Cuddyer walked away last offseason despite $12.5 million owed in 2016. Cuddyer took only a $2 million buyout instead, to offset the fact that his original two-year contract with the Mets was backloaded.
The Mets have protection if Wright one day is unable to fulfill his contract because of the lower back and now neck issues. Last year, when the captain landed on the DL, the Mets began to recoup 75 percent of his salary after the absence passed 60 days. That would again be the case going forward.
No one is burying Wright now, but it seems unfathomable that he will get to 2020.
His issues remind those of a certain generation that we’re all getting older. The Yankees watched Jeter and Jorge Posada fade. The Mets are now experiencing something similar with Wright.