Prince (no relation) once referred to an electric word, life — “it means forever, and that’s a mighty long time,” he said. True enough. In my nearly half-century life, just the last fifth of it, I’ve seen four-year (Bay) and six-year (Santana) and seven-year (Beltran and, come to think of it, Piazza) deals all careen toward their conclusion looking undeniably too long for anyone’s comfort, including the superstars on their respective receiving ends. Life goes on and, with it, uncertainty gathers. You start out thinking one thing, yet through the magic of ever-changing circumstances, you wind up thinking all sorts of things, not that many of them necessarily good.
But today, with definitive word that David Wright has agreed to a mighty long and mighty lucrative contract extension that projects to enshrine him as that rarest of breeds, a Met for life, it’s all good.
The Mets haven’t gotten better by maintaining Wright’s services at third base and within the middle of their lineup through 2020 for a total of approximately $138 million over the next eight seasons, but they’ve kept from tumbling ever further into their bottomless abyss, and that, brothers and sisters, is a victory unto itself. In a world in which musts must be doled out judiciously, this was something that just about had to be done.
I’ve been constructing rationalizations in my head for two years in case things went the other way, seeking the Wright-expunging deal that would have made sense in the long term and limited the post-apocalyptic damage in the short term. We could’ve moved Murph to third and imported a package of young stud outfielders and another big-time arm to grow alongside Harvey’s and Wheeler’s…but it never went anywhere, even in my theories. Because you couldn’t, at this stage of his career or this franchise’s development, separate David Wright from the New York Mets.
We needed a Met for life. We needed this Met for life. We need something to count on, something to rely on, somebody to believe in. We need to wake up day after day knowing one-ninth of what we’re about in practice and a whole lot more in spirit is solid. We needed David Wright to stay a Met, to keep being the first Met we think of when we think of our Mets, to be the Met who didn’t go away, who wasn’t sent away, who stayed and stayed until we can say he stayed his entire career.
We need a whole lot more than that, too, but one miracle at a time. A franchise that couldn’t have retained David Wright was the last franchise we could have trusted to have gathered the pieces to build a team after David Wright left. Franchises are in business, from their fans’ perspective, to win ballgames and compete for championships. The Mets haven’t done enough of either in the current era. The next level of their obligation is to give us somebody to root for. Not re-signing David Wright would have been the opposite. They would have been taking away somebody we rooted for — the Met we’ve rooted for longer than anybody still here, the Met we’ve rooted hardest for among all current Mets, someone who’s never given us cause to regret getting behind him.
Sans David Wright, the Mets would’ve been a four-letter word with a fancy plot of land. With him, at the very least, they are something approximating real. They are still very much capable of meandering in mediocrity in 2013 and 2014, but they didn’t challenge oblivion to another arm-wrestling match, at least. They will feature the same best player they’ve promoted since 2004, the same best player who has all too often personally prevented them from taking up permanent residence in the abyss. It’s been bad. It could have gotten a whole lot worse.
There’s more to do. There’s always more to do. But this has been taken care of. David Wright’s as Met for life as one can be a few week shy of thirty years old. Sometime between the celebratory sigh of relief that this news elicits and the final tip of his cap we all envision when this contract expires, not a few of us will mutter about this deal’s length and the burden it represents against the Mets’ ability to make other vital deals. That’s how these things go. But let’s not pretend we can control those circumstances. Let’s not pretend we know the details of the future, either. We can’t say for certain that the veteran Wright will be rewarded for his steadfast Metness by eventual success or whether we’ll all wonder what his career would have been like had he left Flushing for more competitive pastures that never blossomed around him in New York.
We don’t know. But we do know David, and we do like David, and we do have David. It’s a lot of money and it’s a lot of years, but it’s a lot of win.
Go crazy, Mets — punch a higher floor.
Sirius/XM subscribers: Listen tonight to Mad Dog Radio, 9 PM, as I join Dino Costa to discuss The Happiest Recap and other Met matters.