TIDEWATER, VA - He grew up in the shadows of the Triple A affiliate down in Norfolk, Virginia dreaming of one day playing for the big club in the big city. He was a good kid from a good family. Preternaturally gifted athletically and physically with matinée idol good looks and an “aw shucks” demeanor that quickly endeared him to older teammates. His was the realized dream of millions of kids growing up in America. He moved and carried himself like a humble star and people gravitated to him, bestowing upon him the “easy life” enjoyed by the best and the handsomest.
When David Wright arrived mid season in 2004, he was instantly popular and immediately successful on the field and off. He became an all-star in just his second season. He had the Midas touch. When he was just 23 years old, a small beverage company named Vitamin Water signed Wright to be one of its pitch men. But rather than accepting a flat fee for endorsing Vitamin Water, he opted for equity in the small company instead. He was given 0.5% of the fledgling beverage company. Three years later, Coca-Cola acquired Vitamin Water and Wright’s equity stake of 0.5% was worth $20M. This was life for the kid for whom everything seemed easy, shattering virtually every Mets individual record in his path and earning more than $100M in his career and a shot at immortality too. Wright worked his tail off to get better every year.
Bernie Madoff, Fred and Jeffy Wilpon, Saul Katz. Wright’s father was the Police Chief down in Norfolk for many years, but he couldn’t have prepared his son for characters (criminals?) like these. Everything changed for Wright after having his fairy tale professional life blown to smithereens after the 2008 season-coinciding with the collapse of the owners’ “business model.” The constant losing-no playoffs going on 8 years. Zero winning seasons since 2008. A financially and morally bankrupt ownership enabled by a crooked commissioner named Bud Selig. All of these factors have contributed to the downfall of David. The gilded life of David Wright was tarnished. Tarnished by incompetence, greed, and criminality. Of those around him. But David was brought up better than that, and rather than voice his displeasure at being surrounded by such nefarious characters, he soldiered on. A smile rarely left his face, and he was consistently excellent on the field too, producing on a team that was being dismantled and mismanaged on a daily basis.
Something happened on the way to Cooperstown though. Maybe the stench of failure, of incompetence that permeates every corner of the Mets organization. It is unfortunately now fair to ask. Are Wright’s skills in decline? He’s only 31 now and should be smack in his prime right now. His bat however says otherwise. It has appeared slower all season, even if no one will discuss it. Wright is no longer producing at an elite level and he has settled in as complimentary type player. A nice player who gets hot in streaks from time to time, but not an impact All Star. Not anymore.
But most tragically, so has his passion waned. David Wright doesn’t smile much on the field anymore. He often looks like he’s just going through the motions-relying exclusively on muscle memory but otherwise playing and carrying himself without the fire, lacking the will to win-once so obvious during the early part of his career. Wright was disappointed that his team was one of the few that did nothing at this week’s trade deadline.
It’s gotten to him. His batting average, on base percentage and particularly his slugging percentage are well below his career norms this season. David has represented himself and his team with distinction and grace for a decade. The spotlight, the achievements, the fame and fortune that come from being a big star in New York have been life transforming, but they have come with a cost. He is in decline at 31. He shouldn’t be, but he is. He’s still good. But good in a Kansas City Royal kid of way. Not in a King of New York or even a King of Corona way. The collateral damage caused by the Wilpons’ insatiable greed sadly now includes the beloved Captain.
Opine below and come back tomorrow for our beloved Captain, Cheesy Bruin.