By Jason Keidel
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David Wright — the avatar and emblem of all things Metropolitan — is coming back to a grateful, fawning fan base and potent baseball team.
The former is perfunctory. He’s been beloved since his young face and taut physique first appeared on Shea Stadium’s dusty diamond over a decade ago.
He was one side of the sword that included Jose Reyes. The two were to dominate the team, the city and the sport for 15 years. Best laid plans and such. Now Wright is suddenly the old-timer, the lone baseball elder left from the Minaya/Randolph regime.
But after toiling on terrible teams that tanked, and on good teams that tanked, he now returns to a club that’s coalesced in his absence, entered the portal of puberty and emerged as serious contenders.
Contending for what?
That’s the question. Are the Mets merely edging the plunging Nationals? Are they winning a division by default?
Or are they taking the NL East, wrenching it from the floundering Nats and serving notice as hard as a Harvey fastball?
The Mets’ most gifted pitching trinity, each seemingly younger and more potent than the prior, is blooming on the diamond like three roses in a recently scorched forest.
All agree that the Mets have the starting staff to make any NL team tremble in October. But what has Mets devotees quivering is the dearth of decent bullpen help and lumber in the lineup.
Enter Wright, who — though clearly not the same muscular menace at the plate he was five years ago — can still give the team a big bump in the batting order. He’s only 32, and hit .300 as recently as 2013. And he is, if nothing else, rested, tested and motivated.
And, frankly, who deserves a heralded return more than the Mets’ captain? No doubt he will walk onto the infield at Citi Field — or almost any field — to an ovation worthy of a Caesar. He’s earned that.
Wright has never griped about the galling failures the team has suffered since he became a lifelong Met. He’s handled Gotham like a champ, basking in Broadway’s glow without burning in its glare.
And now he walks into a team built for some serious baseball.
Even when the Mets mess up they still flourish. Benching Matt Harvey for a start was a dubious move, especially given the logic behind it. Harvey needed the rest, you see, despite his 0.43 ERA in August and his obvious, bulging dominance.
Yet the Mets still swept the Rockies, on the road, for the first time in franchise history. Yoenis Cespedes got his Mickey Mantle on Friday night, and the runs just rolled in the rest of the weekend.
They are playing the hapless Phillies this week, part of a pretty soft schedule the rest of the way. The only really serious series left are against the woeful Nats and the epic, three-game set against the Yankees. Quite amazingly, that series will likely be more important for the Bombers.
The Mets probably don’t have the bullpen or lineup depth to win the World Series this year. But they have a chance. And baseball, particularly in the wild-card era, loves to flip orthodoxy on its head. And all Wright has ever asked for was a chance.
We love when lifers, team monoliths, get a farewell ring for their troubles and struggles. And no one west of Don Mattingly deserves one more than David Wright.
Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonKeidel.