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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Our Captain Is Missing

What’s wrong with David Wright?

If you haven’t asked already, you had to ask after tonight’s debacle. Our captain grounded into a double play in the first, grounded out to open the fourth, grounded into a double play in the fifth, and struck out to end the game.

And that sad chronicle skipped over the seventh and what happened with two outs and the tying run at second. The Dodgers walked Daniel Murphy to get to Wright — and Zack Greinke fanned him.

Murph’s a terrific hitter, but he isn’t David Wright. That moment was embarrassing, and emblematic of just how woeful Wright’s year has become.

So what’s wrong with the captain?

I don’t know. Terry Collins doesn’t know. You don’t know either.

Does Wright himself know?

One desperately hopes he does. Because if so, the most likely answer is that Wright is hurt, and — in very David Wright fashion — isn’t telling anybody. Recall this is a guy who played an absurdly long time with a broken back because he thought it was his job.

It would be bad news if Wright is hurt. But it could be worse news if he isn’t.

If Wright isn’t hurt, what’s wrong? Take your pick of potential maladies.

Maybe it’s just a bad year. Let’s hope so. But there sure have been a number of underwhelming years, haven’t there?

Maybe it’s the after-effects of being beaned by Matt Cain — not every player who’s hit in the head suffers obviously, a la the tragic case of Tony Conigliaro. Baseball demands fearlessness and exquisite timing; the least hesitation in either case can undo a career a piece at a time.

Maybe it’s the effects of Citi Field, seemingly built to work against Wright’s strengths as a hitter. (Let’s blame Dave Howard.) The Wright we saw at Shea was the second coming of Edgardo Alfonzo, a shrewd hitter who was just getting started if the count got to 0-2 — he’d ignore balls and foul off strikes until he wrested control of the count back from the pitcher. That Wright hasn’t existed for years — the one we have now expands the zone when he’s in trouble and often looks frantic when behind in the count.

Maybe Wright’s just getting old. It happens to everybody, but it happens to baseball players early, and in a pitilessly public way. The eyes and hands aren’t as quick, the swing isn’t as powerful, the body is beaten down by so many seasons. There’s no specified age or date when a player begins to decline, and no blueprint for how steep the downward slope will be. Wright will be 32 this year, which is about when a player’s skills start to slip.

Assessing what’s wrong with Wright is a cottage industry these days. I’ve read pretty much every attempt to figure it out, hoping each new one will have the right diagnosis and suggest a cure. None of them does. Because none of us knows.

All I do know is this: Wright is the Mets, the one player a financially wounded team was willing to spend to keep. If his glory days are gone, our dreams of renewed glory will likely disappear with him.

20 comments to Our Captain Is Missing

  • Lenny65

    Great piece. It’s not an easy topic to ponder, that’s for sure. Sometimes you wonder if the last six seasons of totally meaningless baseball didn’t just suck the life out of him, a fine ballplayer wasting his career with a terrible franchise in a ballpark he hates. Year after year of August and September doldrums, playing out the string, it’s gotta be tough. It’s difficult enough just to watch, imagine having to participate in it?

  • meticated

    It’s a pitiful contemplation that our heroic favorite son is not immortal. Perhaps, we’re a bit premature in our eulogies of Davids departed skills. Maybe just perchance he’s injured in some less than obvious way, or as its been pointed out he’s diminished commensurate with the teams chronic demise. Projecting on what it must be like to endure the tragedy that has been the Mets since 2005, is too painful for me to empathetically relate to…I for one would have pleaded for a pardon and transfer to even the Astros or Friars. Why suffer for the team when the owners are diametrically opposed to a winning philosophy and are just using your contract for whatever ratings and attendance they can extract from the long suffering fan base. We should campaign to “free Wright”…allow him to ride into the sunset with some dignity and success. Trading him although nearly impossible would relieve me personally of the anxiety of wasting a rare talent. ..send him to the RedSox. ..they will embrace him…love him…inspire him…we can admire him from afar…he’s still got the mono, but citifield is kryptonite to his talent…let it be…free Wright now

  • meticated

    Scuse the error. ..mojo

  • BlackCountryMet

    I have found myself wondering the last month(and questioned my own potential heresy)…should we trade The Captain? Partially, selfishly, because he looks like the Ballpark has him beaten and we need someone(if they exist?) who can hit for power at Citi, but also because he IS a great ball player, by all accounts a stand up guy, and as a baseball fan, I would like him to have the opportunity to WIN, is this wrong?

  • lsmf

    I don’t think I’m in the minority here wishing for
    the same thing, Black.

  • I think it’s a combination of mental and physical with Wright. maybe there’s something lingering in his head from the Cain beaning. but that was 2009, right?? maybe there’s an issue with his shoulder. I’ve never seen good throwing mechanics from him. plus the recent injury. but I think Citi Field has gotten in his head from day 1 there. but I also wonder, even if all these years later, the 2 collapses which I still call him “face of” or “captain of” (2007 and 2008) are there in his head. and sadly, maybe his skills are going to decline soon too.

  • Steve D

    My 2 cents…I have been working on my own swing all summer, so I am in tune with mechanics. I have watched slo-mo swings of all the top hitters. One video had Wright in it from a few years back. He hit a HR, but the swing was awful compared to the others…his first move is to move his backside away from the pitcher. Last night, as he was flailing at a change-up, I noticed him closing his eyes…either in frustration or he just wasn’t seeing the ball. He has a rear-back that makes him late on pitches, then he tries to pull and hits weak grounders. When was the last time he stayed back on a ball or drove it the other way? You can see it all here: from last night

  • eric1973

    When does David Wright’s contract come off the books? This will be an albatross around the Mets’ necks for years to come. Between the beaning, broken back, and being as gentle as Mary’s little lamb, sad to say its over.

  • The pitcher will bust him inside a pitch or two and then, like clockwork, get him to miss an outside pitch

    • Kevin

      I watch just about all of the games and I rarely see White offer at the first pitch which is usually on the inside part of the plate. From that point it’s sliders away. You also see Wright frequently flinch at inside curveballs. He’s too young to be physically finished. He just needs to swing at that first pitch in the same way that elevated Lucas Duda to his current heights.

    • Dave

      I’d like to say on this point, that Matt Harvey was right. Opposing pitchers are a little too comfortable brushing David back, and our pitchers are a little too timid to take care of that. Some of this has to be on the pitching staff and Terry for letting it be known that we won’t protect our own Captain.

  • Harvey

    Exam his eyes. Or maybe, given the drop in power #s, the captain was a ‘roid guy!

  • Bryan

    Is it far fetched to think that Wright is injured but the higher ups are telling Terry to keep him in the line up based up the slight decrease in ticket sales if Wright is on the DL? I wouldn’t put it past this administration.

  • Dave

    I think the reasons for Wright’s performance (or lack thereof) this year could be a mixture of all of the above (except the beaning, as he has had productive seasons since then) but I think the biggest factor the pressure to carry the team a la Piazza. He’s not that guy. His best seasons were as part of a lineup that included Beltran, Reyes and Delgado all contributing to a pretty potent offense. So if we’re looking for someone to blame, once again it comes down to ownership’s inability to run a successful franchise and surround him with real talent.

    The contract is what it is. Like with any young star, the Mets got enormous bang for their buck when David wasn’t yet eligible for arbitration or free agency. Now he’s getting paid what he was worth then in place of the MLB minimums he was making while hitting .300 and driving in 100+ runs. Kick the can even farther down the road by trading him and watch attendance take an even bigger nosedive, in turn giving the Wilpons more excuses not to be competitive in the market.

    It’s been said here that the 2015 season has already started. Too bad, because it’s hard to imagine the Mets not sucking in 2015 too. Question now is whether 2016 will be any better.

    • Dennis

      “So if we’re looking for someone to blame, once again it comes down to ownership’s inability to run a successful franchise and surround him with real talent.”

      This to me seems like the most logical reason. My son and I talk about this all of the time……they are wasting his prime years with subpar talent around him.

  • open the gates

    I’m betting on it being an injury. As you pointed out, he’s always been a John Fogerty-type player (“Put me in, coach, I’m ready to play”). If the Mets had any clue about how to deal with injured players, I’d look for other explanations.

  • kd bart

    Unlike in his best years, pitchers don’t have to pitch him most of the time these days. So they’ve expanded the strike zone on him and David has gone right along with them. He now chases that pitch away off the plate in an attempt to pull it. In fact, he attempts to pull most everything these days. Wright, at his best, use to take the pitch on the outer part of the plate and drive it to right center.

  • James Preller

    The most troubling aspect about Wright’s decline has been that he’s become, well, a dumb hitter. I don’t know how else to say it. When he first arrived, the one constant was that he was a smart hitter. A good eye, great plate discipline, would go the other way, etc. Now he just looks . . . dumb. Like, Chris Young dumb. Like, Jay Payton dumb. His brain doesn’t seem to be functioning up there. It’s really strange to watch, this flailing after unhittable pitches, taking first-pitch fastballs, seemingly no longer able to think along with the opposing pitcher.

    Or is this just a product of a bat slowing down, the need to guess, the need to swing an extra-bit earlier? Like you said so well, none of us know. I suspect the answer is a combination of all these things. What I don’t expect is a full return to his former glory.

    • Steve D

      I think you are right…bat speed made up for poor mechanics in his earlier years and now it doesn’t.

      • Dennis

        Maybe you guys should contact Wright and give him some advice on what he’s doing wrong? I’m sure he would appreciate it.