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Keidel: Let Wright Go Out On His Own Terms

Jason Keidel
August 31, 2018 - 2:06 pm

We may need both hands, at most, to count to number of iconic athletes who leave their respective sports on top, on their terms. 

Rocky Marciano, Sandy Koufax, Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and Floyd Mayweather Jr come to mind. In the Big Apple, Mariano Rivera blew out his knee shagging fly balls yet insisted he would still give us one more sublime season before he retired -- and he did, closing the book on the best career ever for a closer. (Forgive any omissions, the above names are for reference, not ranking.)

David Wright doesn't quite reach their historical orbit, but he is arguably the most beloved player in Mets history -- team captain, and emblem of everything we ask of our superstars. 

Yet Wright has accidentally become part of the parody that we call the New York Mets, a walking billboard for the Mets' uncanny plague of injuries and mishandled maladies. Wright is a medical intern's dream, with so many body parts gone awry that it feels like he fled Gotham with Jose Reyes after the shortstop won the batting title in 2011. 

And why not? Wright hasn't played at least 150 games since 2012, and hasn't played a single game of consequence since May 27, 2016. He hasn't hit at least 20 homers in six years. He hasn't had 100 RBI in eight years. And while he was voted to the NL All-Star team in 2013 -- a season he finished with 132 hits and 58 RBIs -- the last season in which he was, well, David Wright, was in 2012. 

No one doubts David Wright's bona fides as a baseball player, his talent, temerity or place in Mets history. If you know anyone with spinal stenosis -- one of Wright's main maladies -- it's hard to function in a cubicle, much less a baseball diamond. All of his work to get to this point (a few inches from returning to the majors) speaks to his character, dedication and passion. 

The Mets ended Wright's rehab assignment Thursdsay, with the third baseman playing two games for Triple-A Las Vegas. The Mets, like all MLB clubs, get to expand their rosters in September. And there's no one more passionate or popular than Wright who is pining for playing time at Citi Field. So the real question is, has Wright earned the right to play or retire on his terms? Or is this more the Mets' domain? 

This isn't 2016, when Yoenis Cespedes -- another star with bewildering bones, limbs and ligaments -- literally hurled the Mets into October with a sizzling bat and a second-half of the summer that was so scalding he earned MVP consideration. Wright's appearance would be largely symbolic. But he's earned the right to be here. 

Wright wants to finish his fine career on the diamond, not in a doctor's office. He will join the club in San Francisco Friday night as the Mets play the Giants, but will still be on the DL, burdened by back, neck and shoulder woes. He completed his minor league journey going 7-for-41 after starting his stint at 0-for-14. There are no more rehab assignments left for Wright, as the minor league season ends Monday. 

The Mets brought back the infinitely more valuable Noah Syndergaard for one, cosmetic start last year. They can't let the best third baseman in team history -- who made his first plate appearance at Shea Stadium in 2001 -- finish with the dignity he deserves? At 35, Wright won't likely look as diminished as Willie Mays, who stumbled and staggered across the outfield in one of the most painful endings to one of the five-greatest careers in the history of our pastime. 

Though Wright isn't Mays, he is a career Met, giving his soul to this team and our town since the Twin Towers still soared from our skyline. And talk about a team with nothing to lose. Ever since the Mets lunged out to that 11-1 start, they've been an eyesore, losing their grip on the sports page, once again surrendering our city's soul to the Yankees. Wright has two more years left on the misguided contract the Mets handed him, owing him $27 million until the end of the 2020 season. Maybe they can come to some agreement over the rest. Lord knows, we won't begrudge him for the money like that other former third baseman, Bobby Bonilla, who's being paid $1.2 million a year by the Mets until he turns 72. 

Let David Wright stroll into the batter's box a few final times. Let him swat a single, or even belt a homer. Let him make one more laser throw that blows the dust off the first baseman's glove and beats the runner by a nanosecond. Let him succeed, or fail, one more time, on his terms. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel