The tale of three seasons for David Wright ended with the glory he hoped for
Its really been a tale of three seasons for the Mets captain.
Per usual, David Wright was an early arrival to Spring Training in Port St. Lucie, working on the field with team personnel from the moment the Super Bowl ended. He spent the next two months there gearing up for what he believed would be a meaningful season for the Mets, the first one in a long, long time.
But less than two weeks into his season, he was stopped in his tracks with a pulled hamstring, although he was only expected to miss time related to rest and rehabbing his leg.
But it turned out to be more.
Not too long after the initial injury on April 15, he was shutdown from his rehab with a back strain while working at the team’s minor league complex in Port St. Lucie, and that’s when some uncertainty began to set in not only for Wright’s season, but his career.
He was then diagnosed with spinal stenosis in his lumbar spine, which is a narrowing of the spinal column. Not only can it cause severe back pain, but it can and often causes severe nerve pain, and muscles to misfire because of pain and compression.
It’s not the news a professional athlete, let alone a team’s star player, wants to a needs to hear about his body and the threat it may have on his career.
He departed the Treasure Coast for Los Angeles to visit with renowned back surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins. It was there he took up residency for the next two months in a specialized rehab program designed to help him not only get back onto the baseball field, but help him learn about his newly discovered condition, how to manage and treat it not only so he can stay on the baseball field, but to live a normal life.
“We’re not just talking about playing baseball. We’re talking about walking and standing and being pain-free,” Wright said in early June.
It was there he would watch the team through it’s ups and downs at that time of the season, knowing his team had a legitimate chance if the chips fell the club’s way.
“I think it was nice, when you are going through that therapy, going through that treatment, thinking about the endgame, thinking about coming back and hopefully helping this team get to the postseason,” Wright explained on Sunday.
Wright visited with the club during it’s trips to southern California. Wright made his first appearance with the team in early June when the Mets were in San Diego, and things didn’t look good.
As he spoke with reporters, he would stand hunched over a chair in obvious discomfort from his condition.
But despite his obvious pain, he remained rather optimistic he would return to the Mets at some point in 2015.
“Sometime in June where he was scuffling with some things, I didn’t think we’d get him back,” manager Terry Collins said in early September. “But it’s a testimony to the way he works and the way he goes about things.”
Wright was unwilling to accept anything but what he has come to expect from himself throughout his career. He is a stubborn perfectionist at his craft where mediocrity for the sake of being on the baseball field will never be acceptable to him.
As such, he was unwilling to return to the Mets until he felt he could contribute at that level he expects from himself.
“Once I feel dangerous at the plate, I’ll be good to go,” he told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post in early August.
Given where he had been just a couple of weeks earlier – on a physical therapy table in Los Angeles – things seemed to come together rather quickly for Wright in August. He had a rather uneventful rehab assignment with Single-A St. Lucie, going 9-for-28 over a period of eight games with a designed number of play days and off-days to help manage his condition.
It was around August 19 Wright began to feel, “dangerous” at the plate when he had five hits in a span of two days.
Five days later, Wright was in Philadelphia, activated from a 4 1/2 month stint on the disabled list, and ready to be dangerous in the big leagues.
And in his first at-bat against the Phillies on August 24, he hit a long home run to the second deck in left field at Citizens Bank Park in one of the more dramatic and emotional home runs in his career, if for no other reason than it erasing any uncertainty he still had plenty of baseball left in his system.
“There were some times when I was very frustrated and there were some times I was angry and upset at what was transpiring,” Wright explained after that game. “But, you’ve got two options. You either hang your head and feel sorry about yourself and don’t get your work in or you go out and do everything you’re asked.”
Six weeks later, through a program designed to help manage his condition through the rigors of the daily grind of a baseball season, Wright has posted an .818 OPS with seven doubles and four home runs in 30 games.
One of those home runs capped the Mets division title on September 26 when he hit a three-run home run to seal the win and stamp the club’s envelope for the postseason.
“Obviously I would have liked to have been here and played more games,” Wright said on Sunday. “But you could either moan and whine about it and feel sorry for yourself, or go out there and do what you can do to get back as quickly as possible and I felt that was the option that we had and it feels good to celebrate.”
And now, Wright finds himself on his way back to Los Angeles, but not for more rest, rehab and uncertainty.
This time, it’s to put on the uniform and man the position he’s called his own for 11 years and hopefully come back to New York on Saturday night having helped position his team for a series win over the Dodgers.
But despite this long and uncertain road, Wright feels as though there was a missed opportunity down the stretch of the season.
“I wish we could have gotten them home-field advantage — that didn’t work out how we had planned,” Wright said. “I wish we could have clinched at home, to celebrate with [the fans].”
Nobody’s perfect, even though Wright accepts nothing less for himself, the team and the fans.