11:30 am Apr. 13, 20123
Who says the New York Mets aren't consistent?
With David Wright dealing with a fractured pinky, the Mets have elected not to issue any obvious public statements about Wright that would be commonplace everywhere else in the sport. We want David back healthy, and that's what matters, or the like. In other words, a common sense approach to Wright's injury.
Instead, they issued a public statement that made it clear any absence by Wright is Wright's decision alone. He can, in their words, "return to baseball activity as tolerated."
Manager Terry Collins has reiterated that he hopes and expects Wright to play against the Phillies on Friday.
And the Mets followed that up with a leak to the Daily News letting everyone know that if they decide not to re-sign Wright, it's only because he's so injury-prone.
No pressure to come back or anything, David.
The script is so obvious now because it is so familiar.
The Mets once had a shortstop named Jose Reyes. The organization was so intent on getting Reyes back for the very end of a lost 2009 season—when rest would have been the most sensible course of action—that they built up a whispering campaign so intense, Reyes felt the need to address it at Citi Field.
"I hear it. People tell me, too," Reyes said, on the verge of tears, about the questions his toughness and desire. "I don't know why people say that. People know when I'm healthy, that's what I love to do—play on the field. I like to have fun on the field. That's what I do for a living—play baseball. I don't want to be sitting in my house watching TV and watching the team play. I'd like to be there every day. Baseball is fun to do."
Two weeks later, trying to run hard to prepare for a return to the Mets for the final weekend of games—the very definition of meaningless baseball in a 70-92 season—Reyes suffered a significant setback to the injury that required surgery.
They played similar games with Reyes in 2010—allowing him back on the field when he could only hit, pain-free, from one side, thus causing a recurrance on an oblique injury—and when Reyes suffered a hamstring injury in 2011, let it be known that Reyes's agents were seeking a second opinion, not the Mets.
And who can forget when the Mets held a conference call to discuss their legal options and anger with Carlos Beltran for having the knee surgery that has allowed him to resume his career as a productive player?
The point isn't that the Mets don't have the right to hope their players return to the field. But the organization continues to both feed the sympathetic members of the press internal doubts about their players, damaging reputations in the process, while failing to provide cover to their players so they can make intelligent decisions about returning.
Which, by the way, is not only in the interest of the player, but of the team as well.
Ultimately, this public pressure on two fronts with Wright could be about either of two goals. The Mets could be so intent on getting Wright back, along with the box office draw he represents, that they have prioritized this over making sure his pinky is healthy. Or they finally see an opening to go after the reputation of a player who is loved by the fans ahead of any decision to ultimately trade him or, more likely, simply fail to retain him once his contract is up.
The Mets hold a 2013 team option on him for $16 million. Damage Wright in the fans' eyes, and the decision to bring him back, or not, could result in less public backlash. Asking whether Wright is a good long-term investment, and using his injury history as part of that evaluation, is a perfectly legitimate question. Doing so publicly, while Wright decides how to go about his recovery, isn't that evaluation. It's disparagement, for one reason or another.
Of course, maybe that's giving the Mets too much credit. Maybe this attack on their best player and public face is nothing more than a simple failure to realize what a public questioning of Wright's toughness, a man who played through a broken back last year, would have on Wright.
And if you believe that, I have a story about how hard the Mets tried to sign Jose Reyes this winter to sell you.