Ty Wigginton played third base for the New York Mets the last time on July 20, 2004. He went 2 for 3, batting in a run in a 9-7 loss to the Florida (now Miami) Marlins. The next day, Ty moved across the diamond to first base. After 93 games the Mets were struggling to get to .500. On Wednesday, July 21, 2004, the Mets reached down to their triple A affiliate of the time, the Norfolk Tides, and called up prized prospect third baseman David Wright.
I remember my father complaining about the move, feeling strongly that Wigginton was getting the shaft. He liked Ty’s hustle and thought he was a productive little player. I told my father that although Wigginton was a hardnosed kid with good ability, Wright’s minor league stats were very impressive. I said he could be the best third baseman in Mets history or at the very least the best since Howard Johnson patrolled the hot corner during the late 80s and early 90s.
Wright was here to stay. Wigginton would be traded to Pittsburgh several days later with Jose Bautista and Matt Peterson for Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger. (Bautista had come to the Mets from Kansas City for Justin Huber then immediately shipped with Wigginton to Pittsburgh never playing a game for the Mets. A shame considering Bautista hits homeruns out of site in recent years with Toronto. Who knew?)
On July 21, 2004, a Wednesday evening, David Wright debuted for the Mets wearing number 5. Mets fans at Shea Stadium gave enthusiastic applause each time Wright came up, knowing full well that the rookie could be a difference maker for years to come. Batting seventh in the order, David went 0 for 4 in his inaugural, a game the Mets won by a score of 5-4.
The next day, July 22, 2004, I brought my son to his first Mets game. It was a blistering hot Thursday afternoon. We had seats on the third base side in the mezzanine reserved section, directly in the sun. We both needed lots of water as I recall.
David was in the lineup, again batting seventh. In fact the starting lineup that day included Jose Reyes leading off and playing second base. Yes, second base—a misguided move to defend the signing of Japanese shortstop import Kaz Matsu who followed Reyes in the lineup. Wigginton at 1B batted third followed by Cliff Floyd in left, Richard Hidalgo in right, Mark Cameron in center, Wright, Jason Phillips catching (ugh, I take my son to his first Mets game and Art Howe rests Mike Piazza). Tom Glavine started for the Mets.
The Mets ultimately lost the game by a score of 4-1. With the game tied at one, John Franco gave up a two run bomb to third baseman Tony Batista in the eighth to give Montreal the lead. What young Mets fan’s first game isn’t complete without experiencing a loss?
The highlight of the day came in the bottom of the fifth inning. With one out, David Wright hit a hot grounder down the left field line. He pulled into second with a double to thunderous applause. Wright had his first Major League hit and we were there to see it. Later in the inning, David scored as a result of a Reyes ground out giving the Mets their only run of the game but more importantly, David scored his first run, another first for us… and of course for him. Wright singled in the bottom of the ninth so we also go to witness David’s first multi hit game.
There were high hopes for this all American looking young man named David Wright but at the time no one could really know for sure how his future would play out. Looking back, we certainly knew how other young Mets’ futures were promised and what their reality held.
We saw the great Tom Seaver traded away in the prime of his career by an owner who had no understanding or compassion for the game, only hatred for athletes whom he felt were only out for money. M. Donald Grant should have looked in the mirror.
Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry flourished early in their careers, showing Hall of Fame potential then implode by excessive use of drugs and alcohol. We were promised pitching dominance in the 90’s with Generation K only to see Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen, and Paul Wilson succumb to injury. There is much promise in baseball but seldom do the supposed stars pan out. (In fairness, Seaver, Gooden, and Strawberry did have very productive years with the Mets and played huge roles in producing the only two world championships in franchise history.)
On Monday, July 26, 2004, the Mets were thoroughly destroyed in Montreal by a score of 19-10. But in that game, a game I’m sure I watched on TV but don’t remember, Wright killed two birds with one stone. He recorded his first RBI and did so by hitting his first Major League home run. That RBI was the first of what would become a franchise breaking record.
Last evening, almost nine years later, David Wright became the all time Mets leader in runs batted in. He surpassed Darryl Strawberry who held the record at 733 with a fifth inning two run blast to left center field. His first RBI came off a homerun. It stands to reason that his record breaking RBI was also produced with the long ball. The all time Mets record is now at 735 and counting.
The all time RBI record is the third for David to break. David is already the team’s all time doubles leader with 282 outdistancing Ed Kranepool who had 225 (Reyes had 222). Also, David is the team leader in total bases with 2,142.
As long as David stays healthy, there will be many other records he will break as well.
Next up will be runs scored. David needs to score 28 more runs to tie Jose Reyes’s all time record of 735 (weird, the same number of David’s current RBI total, cue the Theremin). Wright needs 150 hits to tie Kranepool, the all time Met leader. Reyes is the only other player ahead of Wright in this category with 1300. David needs a monster year to do it this season. Likely, he will surpass Reyes’s hit total in 2013.
With 17 triples, Wright has a very long way to go to reach the 99 triples held by Jose Reyes who now sits in the opposing dugout.
Strawberry still holds the all time Mets homerun total with 252. David needs to hit 67 more dingers to surpass Straw. Mike Piazza (220) and Howard Johnson (192) are the only other Mets ahead of Wright in this category.
In a dubious column, Wright will also become the all time Mets strikeout king. He is second on the list behind Strawberry who whiffed 960 times. Wright has done so 906 times. His strikeout total spiked over the last three seasons when he averaged 132 strikeouts per 134 games a season. This year, so far, David’s strikeout average is better, having worked all winter to correct mechanics in his swing.
Wright is fourth in walks, behind Strawberry, the club leader, Bud Harrelson and Howard Johnson.
Suffice it to say, David Wright, now in his tenth season with the Mets, the only organization he has ever known, is one of the greatest offensive players to ever come through the system. In addition to his offensive numbers, Wright has been a solid third baseman. Yes, his arm can be erratic at times but he has two Gold Gloves at the position and works tirelessly to improve his defense.
David has been voted to the National League All Star team five times and has an All Star average of .462 with a .500 on base percentage. He homered in his very first All Star at bat in Pittsburgh in 2006. That year he was runner up to Ryan Howard in the Home Run Derby contest. (Some think that contest hurt his swing as he homered far less the second half of that season.)
Wright was fourth in MVP voting in 2007 and in the top ten three other times. There is no question he has already become the best third baseman in Mets history. Historically, third base was a position that had become a joke at the Mets’ expense. That’s because they had gone through so many third baseman over the years. Prior to Wright, 147 other players manned the position in just 42 plus seasons.
Wright’s most productive years so far were between 2005 though 2008. Cavernous Citi Field and unfortunate injuries stalled Wright’s output over the last three seasons but he still managed to be a productive player. Now that he is healthy and Citi Field was altered to be a more Shea like, fair venue for hitting, Wright looks to be back on track as to where he was during the earlier part of his career. Make no mistake about it, Wright is the face of the Mets. Sandy Alderson simply cannot let David go to another team. The Mets have far too much bad history with their productive home grown players to let another one get away.
Unlike Reyes, whose Mets stats do warrant an argument from those who opposed letting him go, Wright has publicly stated many times that he wants to be a Met his entire career. By his own words he has stated he wants to be a part of the solution, to experience the winning like he had before in 2006. Yes, Alderson could bring back good, perhaps even a gem or two of a prospect for Wright but is it worth it when the one player that still keeps Mets fans interested is here producing now and continues to have a bright future.
I say no, it is not worth the risk. Alderson must do the right thing and start to negotiate a long term deal to keep David in the orange and blue, the only colors he was ever meant to wear.