10:30 am May. 18, 2012
Thursday afternoon, the Mets trailed Cincinnati 4-0 in the sixth inning. Then they produced a string of surprises.
They scored nine runs against a dominant Reds bullpen, including a pair of pitchers who hadn't allowed a run all season. The go-ahead run reached base on a bunt single from the third-string catcher, Rob Johnson. The game-sealing home run came from the backup middle infielder, Ronny Cedeno, who had two home runs in 454 plate appearances last season.
But the double that scored Johnson, and put the Mets ahead for good, came from David Wright. And that was no surprise to anyone at all.
After the game, Wright was repeatedly asked if this is the best he's ever played. He has a .411 average so far, an unheard-of 218 OPS+, and has played remarkable defense at third base.
Wright's response, characteristically, was "I don't know," before he went on to praise his teammates.
But it is hardly as if Wright is some kind of potential star who is finally coming into his own. Wright has been performing like a Hall of Fame-calber third baseman since the day he came up to the major leagues midway through the 2004 season.
In fact, Wright once had a two-month stretch with roughly the same OPS as he's put up so far in 2012. He put up consecutive OPS months of 1.172 and 1.034, every bit as impressive as his 2012 OPS of 1.134.
Those two months were August and September 2007. And the stories were very different, with the Mets completing an absolutely awful collapse.
The reality is that even when he's struggled, it's usually been in the context of his own lofty standards. Wright's worst seasons—his 124 OPS+ in 2009, for instance, or even his 117 in 2011 which suffered because he played with a fracture in his back for nearly a month—still fit comfortably among the top seasons at his position. And when he plays like he has so far in 2012, he reminds everyone that as long as he stays healthy, Wright is on a Hall of Fame track.
It is, instead, the context that has changed. That 2007 team had not only Wright, but Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, and the expectations that come with a team defending a National League East title.
This 2012 team is Wright and ... no one comparable. By raw OPS, the 2012 Mets have only one player among their top 13 in plate appearances above the relatively modest .800 level. Their 21-17 record constitutes a significant outperformance of expectations.
It just happens to be more obvious than ever how crucial Wright has been to their success.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Toronto's 4-1 win over New York dropped the Yankees to fourth and Boston to last, the first time the two powerhouse teams occupied the bottom two slots in their division since October 1, 1992, back when the AL East included the Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, let alone the Tampa Bay Rays, didn't exist. Phil Hughes pitched well again, this time in defeat. And it appears Ivan Nova will start Saturday.
As the Rangers prepare for Game 3, John Tortorella is receiving press for how uncooperative he is with the press. Because, you know, hockey gets so much press coverage, it behooves the coach not to maximize the boost the Rangers and the N.H.L. can get from this run.
Santonio Holmes is earning raves from the new wide-receivers coach for not fighting with his teammates or quitting in nearly a week of minicamp. And you thought expectations for the Mets were low!