Manuel speaks to Mets through Wright
Skipper's conference with infielder carries message for team
MIAMI -- In the Mets' altered state, the distinction between acceptable and unacceptable occasionally defies detection. So much has gone wrong this season that the negative has bled into the positive. But for the latest misstep -- David Wright not scoring when he should have on Saturday night -- to be seen in a positive light is not a case of marking on a curve.
The ripple effect of Wright's basepath misdemeanor, if not the incident itself, is almost purely positive. Jerry Manuel said as much Sunday afternoon. The manager called Wright into his office in the visiting clubhouse of Land Shark Stadium following the Mets' unsightly 9-6 loss to the Marlins to reinforce what Wright already had acknowledged: That can't happen.
"I brought him in and laid down the law," said Manuel.
But by Sunday morning, Manuel had found a silver lining in Wright's transgression.
"As difficult as it was to have that experience," said the skipper, "it's the best time for us as an organization."
The mistake, and Manuel's measured reaction to it, allowed him to address the topic that he intends to emphasize from the first bead of sweat come Spring Training: that the careless, fundamentally flawed baseball the Mets have played for months will not be tolerated in 2010.
Wright failed to score from second base on a base hit by Jeff Francoeur with two outs in the fifth inning. Francoeur sprinted toward second base, hoping to get in scoring position, but the relay from center fielder Cameron Maybin to second baseman Dan Uggla beat Francoeur to second base. Problem was, Wright, who had downshifted during his trip from second base, didn't reach home plate before Francoeur was called out.
That Wright was the perpetrator in this scenario added some juice to it for all concerned. He is the Met with the highest profile, the team's de facto captain. He plays the game properly and with energy. Other lesser and lower-profile players witnessed the manager's call to the carpet. And it had to have greater impact than Manuel summoning Tobi Stoner to his office.
"Absolutely," Manuel said. "It's part of the process of becoming a leader."
In a way, Manuel used Wright to make his point -- not that Wright didn't deserve the carpet call. But the more players who noticed Wright's walk to the principal's office, the better for Manuel and the "no mas" message he needs to deliver to all.
"You challenge the big guy," Manuel said. But at the same time, the manager was careful not to harp. "Because David always plays hard."
The manager readily acknowledged Wright didn't need a reminder. Wright's contrition was expressed in the dugout apology he offered moments after his faux pas. And Wright's posture during the postgame meeting, Manuel said, was all about contrition.
"I haven't seen [Wright] like that in all the years I've been here," said Manuel.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.