Friday, November 30, 2012
David Wright, Mets do the right thing
David Wright was meant to be a Met, meant to be the face of the Mets.
We'll never know for sure how close he came to taking a different road this winter. But it doesn't matter now. It doesn't matter, because very late on a Thursday-night-turned-Friday-morning, David Wright and the Mets got a deal done that enriches both of them -- in more than just the old bank account.
But recognize this: The biggest deal in Mets history -- eight years, $138 million -- didn't have to happen. By many accounts, it almost didn't, in fact.
It almost blew up about 138 million times in the last 72 hours, after leaks started flying all over the media world about what the Mets were willing to offer the centerpiece of their franchise.
And even as those reports were suggesting the two sides were getting closer, Wright and his agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, found those bulletins so infuriating that they sought out the folks at MLBTradeRumors.com and publicly refuted the accuracy of EVERYTHING that was being reported.
But somewhere in between the spin and the denials, you know what we had here? We had two sides that deep down wanted this to happen. We had a player, in Wright, whose personal icons -- in life and in baseball -- were Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones, men whose stories will include one very special line:
Played his entire career for the same team.
And we had a general manager, in Sandy Alderson, who has never been a big fan of eight-year, nine-figure contracts -- but a GM who nevertheless recognized that this one was too important to the well-being of his franchise not to get hammered out.
And because we had two men who were able to hose down their emotions and grasp the big picture, they were able to overcome what was clearly a much larger gulf -- both in dollars and philosophy -- than those reports earlier this week were suggesting.
In most negotiations, when the gap is large and tempers are spiking, the stories don't end happily ever after. Fortunately, this one was different.
From what we gather, Alderson pushed to adjust the Mets' offer to be more in line with what he knew it would take to get his most important player signed. Toward a figure that would make Wright the highest-paid player in Mets history, and the second-higest-paid third baseman (behind Alex Rodriguez) in any team's history. And with much less deferred money than the Mets' original offers had reportedly included.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the table, Wright and his agents were able to put aside their concerns and focus on what really mattered -- on loyalty to the only franchise Wright had ever played for, or ever truly wanted to play for.
Was it possible there would have been more money out there if Wright had walked away and explored free agency? Absolutely. Maybe even likely. Could he have found another team in a sport with very few star-caliber third basemen that would have put him in a better position to win soon? No doubt.
But David Wright can also add and subtract. He knows the Mets are a year away from subtracting the $41.5 million in salaries due Johan Santana and Jason Bay next season. Meanwhile, they'll also be adding the $25 million extra per year that each team will be raking in from the new national TV deal, starting in 2014.
So that's $66.5 million in Monopoly money that the Mets should have to spend on their roster a year from now that they don't have now. And if they don't spend most of it or all of it, their third baseman -- not to mention their paying customers -- will have every right to be very, very unhappy.
It's impossible to know yet what assurances the Mets gave Wright that they won't be using those dollars to pay off their lawyer fees, their stadium debt or their Wilpon family holiday-party bills. But they obviously had the right answers to the questions their third baseman was asking this week. Otherwise there's an excellent chance this deal never would have gone down.
We know how much winning matters to this man. He has told friends on other teams numerous times how much it matters. But what drove this deal toward the finish line is this: David Wright doesn't merely want to win. He wants to win as a Met.
So in the end, he passed his loyalty test. And the Mets passed their credibility test. Both of them are better off because they did.
Wright was meant to be a Met, meant to be the face of the Mets. So here's a tip of the hat to everyone who made sure that's how this turned out. To a player who wanted to say he'd played every game of his career for the team that signed him. To his agents, the Levinsons, who wouldn't let this be just about the bottom line. To an ownership -- and yes, that means Fred and Jeff Wilpon -- that stepped up when it most needed to step up. And to a general manager, Alderson, who wouldn't let this deal die when it easily could have blown apart.
There haven't been many happy, uplifting tales in the life of this franchise since NLCS Game 7 in 2006. But this was one of them. And boy, it's about time.