By Jason Keidel
» More Columns
As I inched across a jammed George Washington Bridge Saturday morning, WFAN was clogged with callers griping about the Mets. You can visualize the fans gripping the phones like baby rattles, crying about Flushing’s Finest.
They have a right to be mad at the team, though David Wright has somehow become the face of their misguided frustration. No doubt Mets fans have one eye on Wright while the other gazes wistfully toward the Bronx. No, David Wright is not Derek Jeter. But who is?
What has Wright done so wrong? He doesn’t sign a $36 million contract and then loaf his way to the back of the bullpen. He doesn’t stomp his father-in-law in the family room in front of his employer and then spend a night in the Citi brig. He doesn’t mime his way through a season until it’s time to visit wounded soldiers (“Sometimes you see people with no legs, no arms. I don’t like to see that”). He doesn’t challenge an entire minor league team to a fistfight. Other Mets do that.
You want him to choke his bat and his lazy teammates with equal force, assuming that a squad’s best player is also their most vocal. There are at least 25 teams that would love him in their lineup, and moving Wright would make the Mets a decidedly worse baseball club.
Wright, 27, has played seven seasons and has been an All-Star in five of them. With seven games left, he could easily end this season hitting .290 with 28 homers and 100 R.B.I. – and that would be a bad year for him. (His career batting average is .305.) He has no posse or police jacket. And he has no demands. Yet fans regard Wright as though such men just pop off the vine.
There has been a widening call for the Mets to “shake things up” because their batting order is in disorder. So is their pitching staff. You want the Wilpons to take a broom to the roster. But the cleanup they need doesn’t begin with the cleanup hitter.
Start with the M&M Boys. Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel are decent men who were given ample time to fix the team and failed. Either Minaya doesn’t get the right players or Manuel can’t manage them. Either way, it’s time for another tandem.
Angry fans chide Minaya for his lack of linguistic elegance. It would be nice if he had a better grasp of English, but winning never needs translation. And Minaya has given you very little.
Perhaps the recovery starts with Wally Backman, who would certainly bring grit to a docile dugout. The book on the Mets is that they fold once they fall behind, and that begins with the manager. Quitting doesn’t seem to be in Backman’s vernacular.
And leave Wright alone. Sure, he looks odd as the team’s spokesman. He doesn’t exactly cower after his shower while the media prods him, but he looks almost embarrassed as The Guy. He speaks in a teen monotone, overtly polite, a kid who can’t master a New York cadence. He’s not the guy to grab the microphone and wax Patton on his brethren. So what? Get the man who can. Don’t trade one guy when you can just add the other guy.
David Wright’s crime is that he got the leadership job by default and that he plays in impossible contrast to the other set of pinstripes. He should have more years, hits, and homers left in his bat than A-Rod. The Mets and their fans are tired of being the little brother, but trading Wright in a tantrum only reinforces the family tree.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com