NEW YORK -- Far more than hitting prowess, Ed Kranepool made his name on longevity. Kranepool sat atop the Mets' all-time hits list for the past 36 years, in large part because he played in more games than anyone else to wear the orange and blue.
David Wright may challenge Kranepool's records of longevity some day, but right now, he is not even close -- which is what makes his most recent accomplishment all the more impressive. In roughly two-thirds the time it took Kranepool to set his franchise hits mark, Wright has broken it.
|Blue Jays||Tony Fernandez||1,583|
|Red Sox||Carl Yastrzemski||3,419|
|White Sox||Luke Appling||2,749|
The record-setting knock came in the third inning Wednesday, when Wright dribbled an infield single down the third-base line for his 1,419th career hit. With that, he snapped a tie with Kranepool to become the franchise's all-time hits leader in his ninth big league season. The Mets honored him with a brief video tribute on the center-field video board, as the Citi Field crowd saluted him with a standing ovation.
"I doubt it's going to register while I'm still playing," Wright said. "But to look back on this whenever I'm done, it will be special."
Wright, who added another single an inning later to move to 1,420, joined Derek Jeter of the Yankees, Todd Helton of the Rockies and Michael Young of the Rangers as the only active players to lead their franchise's all-time hits lists. He also leads the Mets in career doubles, extra-base hits, walks, RBIs and runs scored.
His teammates razzed him for the record-breaking hit, which came two innings after Wright narrowly fell short of a two-run home run. Joking that he "got a chance to show off my blazing speed," Wright hit the record-breaker in relatively anti-climactic fashion.
"I don't think he really wanted that particular hit to be the one that they play over and over again," joked starting pitcher Jeremy Hefner.
And yet Wright will take it, as the latest of his franchise feats. Should he stick around Flushing deep into this decade, Wright will undoubtedly pass Darryl Strawberry for the most home runs in team history, making him the most accomplished hitter the Mets have ever employed.
In a franchise known for its pitching -- Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, etc. -- Wright has raised the offensive benchmark.
"It's remarkable," manager Terry Collins said. "It's a testament to what a really, really good player he is. It's a testament to his work ethic. Even last year, he's never satisfied. All he wants to do is get better."
To date, it has been the type of fairytale career that so rarely unfolds in baseball. Wright grew up rooting for the Mets because their Triple-A team played close to his home in coastal Virginia. He became the organization's first-round Draft pick as a high school senior, worked his way up through the Minors and made the playoffs in his second full season.
Though he has never recorded 200 hits in a season -- Wright's career high of 196 came in 2007 -- he has hit at least 30 home runs twice, mashed at least 40 doubles four times and driven in at least 100 runs on five occasions. While he will never threaten the franchise records for batting average, on-base percentage or slugging, Wright ranks in the top four in all three categories.
"This organization means a lot to me," Wright said. "I wear the uniform with pride, and it's obviously a humbling moment."
But for all his statistical accomplishments, Wright lacks two things: a World Series title and a long-term contract. They are not mutually exclusive. How Wright gauges his prospects of becoming a long-term winner in Flushing could well determine whether he signs a new deal with the Mets this winter.
The Mets, too, must estimate what their all-time hits leader -- the face of their franchise -- is worth. A similar player, Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals, earned six years and $100 million on his contract extension earlier this year, setting the precedent for Wright.
But the Mets must weigh more than Wright's overall season and career statistics. They must look at how his first half this year differed from the last, with Wright hitting .353 with 14 home runs and 65 RBIs over his first 88 games, then .233 with four home runs over his next 58. Only recently has the third baseman caught fire again.
And they must look at his value to the franchise on an intrinsic level. Wright goes golfing with COO Jeff Wilpon. He makes sales pitches to free agents and calls Draft picks to congratulate them. He is, to paraphrase owner Fred Wilpon's words, classic marriage material.
It just remains to be seen whether he will marry himself to the Mets.
Before he decides, Wright will look to finish his season as strongly as possible. He now has six hits, six RBIs and five runs scored over his past four games, producing as proficiently in a small sample as he did on a large scale earlier this year.
"It's extremely difficult to hit .300 and it's near-impossible to hit .350," Wright said. "At some point, you know that some of those line drives aren't going to find holes and you're going to go into some little slumps, and I did that. I feel like I've had much better at-bats here as of late. But it's a results-oriented game, and obviously you'd like to see those results."
From now on, each positive result will only add to his record.