Wright likes long-term vision of Mets organization
In Q&A, the Mets captain also recalls his World Baseball Classic experience
NEW YORK -- As captain and face of the New York Mets franchise, David Wright would like nothing better than to represent the city, the club and the fans when the All-Star Game comes to Citi Field on July 16.
When asked if he expected to be voted to play in the game, the always humble third baseman laughed and said, "I don't think that's a fair assumption quite at this point."
So far this season, he's batting .279 with eight homers and 34 RBIs and the fourth-place Mets are 23-35 through 58 games. In the most recent fan voting, Wright is trailing Pablo Sandoval of the Giants at his position by a scant 200,776 votes.
Wright told MLB.com last week that he would be overwhelmed if he was selected in some way or form to the team.
"I've been fortunate. I've been to six All-Star Games," Wright said. "But nothing would mean more to me than being able to represent this team in front of those fans at home. Obviously, it goes without saying, that it would be a tremendous honor."
The last time Wright and I crossed paths, Wright was yanked from the lineup 20 minutes before Team USA's most important game of the World Baseball Classic on March 14 against the Dominican Republic because of a strained intercostal muscle. The Mets found out he was being treated for the injury and told him he couldn't play.
Wright was clearly USA's top offensive star, hitting .438 (7-for-16) with a go-ahead grand slam, two doubles, 10 RBIs, four runs scored and 12 total bases. The performance had earned him the whimsical nickname "Captain America." Without Wright, the U.S. lost its final two games to the eventual Classic-winning Dominican Republic and runner-up Puerto Rico.
We talked about his World Baseball Classic experience, the future of the tournament, plus the direction of the Mets.
MLB.com: Getting pulled out of the lineup just before that big game -- It must have been strange.
Wright: It was. It was. It was disappointing. I'm glad I was able to get healthy for the season. In the heat of the moment, especially when you're representing your country, you want to make sure you're there for your teammates, for the fans, for USA Baseball. It was an unbelievable experience, an experience that will stick with me. Although you feel like you let those teammates down, you feel like you let USA baseball fans down, you have an obligation and a responsibility to the New York Mets.
MLB.com: It was taken out of your hands. You would have played. How can you feel like you let anybody down?
Wright: Of course, but you still feel like it even though you don't know whether the results would have been anything different. You still feel like there's something you could have done. You still feel like you let some of those guys down even though, as you said, it was taken out of your hands. Full uniform was on. Spikes were on. Then you get the phone call saying that you're being pulled. Although being frustrated and disappointed, I completely understand the decision.
MLB.com: How long did it take you to recover from the injury?
Wright: Right to the last minute. I got a couple of games in right near the end of Spring Training. The World Baseball Classic helped me tremendously to get ready for the season. Without having that kind of game experience, there's no way I would have been ready. Say I would've sustained that same injury during a regular Spring Training game, I wouldn't have been quite as ready as I was. You get put in those types of situations, and it helps you for the regular season. It was unfortunate that I suffered the injury, but I got some high-pressure at-bats in high-pressure situations. You can't replicate that early in regular spring games. So it really helps you out.
MLB.com: Did you watch the rest of it?
Wright: I did. I was at the game I got pulled, obviously. Then I flew up to New York to get checked out by our doctors and watched the game against Puerto Rico on TV. Once we were eliminated, I watched a little of the semifinals and finals in San Francisco. I wasn't as focused on it as I was on the USA games, obviously. But I did get a chance to follow it. Especially, there are so many former teammates that I'm still pretty close to who were playing in those games.
MLB.com: What adjustments need to be made so the U.S. has a better chance to win?
Wright: It's going to come off as excuses, but it would be nice to start up as a team a little earlier. I know you're talking about starting up earlier for a season that's already long. I'm not sure there's a perfect time to play or a perfect plan or perfect situation to get ready. It obviously would mean showing up to Spring Training earlier, which I'm not sure a lot of guys are going to be overly thrilled about.
I'm not sure what the consensus would be about making a season longer that's already long unless you just take two weeks off during the middle of the season like the NHL does for the Winter Olympics. I'm not sure certain team owners are going to be on board with that.
MLB.com: Team USA needs its own training camp, doesn't it? It's impossible to work out one day, play a couple of exhibition games and then start the tournament.
Wright: Japan starts preparing for this on Jan. 1. The Latin players are playing all winter. I think that kind of thing would be beneficial for Team USA. I'm not sure how the Major League clubs are going to view that. I'm trying to play devil's advocate here where I'm trying to see both sides of it. I have a tremendous amount of loyalty to Team USA and the New York Mets. I'm not sure what the impact would be to spend that much time away from Spring Training. I'm open for suggestions, I guess.
MLB.com: So, you'll play again in four years?
Wright: If I'm invited, I'd love to. To me, it's a tremendous idea and it's a phenomenal tournament. I'd sign up in a heartbeat to do it again.
MLB.com: What do you think about the situation on the Mets?
Wright: It's a lot more fun when you're winning, that's for sure. But you make the bed that you sleep in. We've been terribly inconsistent, and for the most part pretty bad this last five or six weeks. We have some ground to make up. The recipe is good starting pitching. Our defense has been pretty solid. We've had some pretty decent, at times, situational hitting. I think our bullpen is better obviously than our starting pitching. We have to put it all together with some regularity.
MLB.com: You just started an eight-year, $138 million contract that's going to take you through the 2020 season, when you're almost 38. When you signed the deal it was with the idea that they'd build a winning club around you?
Wright: I didn't sign up thinking we were never going to the playoffs. The plan that we have in place, the plan that [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] and I discussed before we even started talking about a long-term deal included a handful of guys who are at the highest levels of our Minor Leagues right now. I think it's unfair to base Sandy's long-term plan on the first two months of a season when you have to see how it plays out.
MLB.com: In your understanding of the plan, there has to be some patience.
Wright: Of course everybody wants to win now, but Sandy doesn't want to trade off some of these Minor League pieces to try and win right this second. I think it's more important to me and it's more important to Sandy to build something that will last, that is a perennial-type playoff team much like the Yankees. There are some core pieces that you have. You supplement them with some of the guys coming up from the Minor League system. You sprinkle in a few free agents here and there and make some trades when necessary. You build from within. That's the plan Sandy has in place.
There are going to be some growing pains, and we've had quite a bit of growing pains over the first two months of the season. But you have to understand that there is a plan in place. It might not now be the most popular decision, but Sandy sticks to his guns, and that's the type of leader you want: a guy who isn't persuaded by public opinion at times.
MLB.com: So you're optimistic all this is going to play out the way you envision it?
Wright: Oh, yeah. Like I said, before even signing -- and granted, that's a lot of money to turn down -- but we wouldn't have even started negotiations if I wasn't on board or I didn't agree with the plan that Sandy had and laid out for me. He came down and visited me in Virginia, laid out the plan, we played some golf. We sat down for lunch, and we talked about this. We were pretty openly blunt about some different things. I appreciated his honesty about the plan moving forward, and here we are today.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.