|ESPN.com: Spring 2013||[Print without images]|
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The lone two players locked up to long-term extensions by Sandy Alderson during his three-year tenure as New York Mets general manager each received honors Thursday.
The Mets officially tabbed David Wright the fourth captain in franchise history, joining Keith Hernandez (1987-89), Gary Carter (1988-89) and John Franco (2001-04).
|David Wright waited for his teammates' approval before accepting the Mets' captaincy.|
Manager Terry Collins also announced Jonathon Niese as his Opening Day starter, another acknowledgment that Johan Santana will open the season on the disabled list.
"This is probably one of the proudest days of my career so far," Wright said. "... To be on that short list of guys that have been considered captain of this franchise is, for me, a dream come true to say the least and something I'm very, very, very proud about."
The decision to award Wright the captaincy essentially was sealed when the six-time All-Star agreed to an eight-year, $138 million contract in early December, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said. The delay making it official came in part because Wright wanted to make sure the honor was not solely ownership-driven. Teammates gave their blessings in one-on-one conversations during spring training.
"I think the decision was made when we gave him the contract," Wilpon said. "Did we announce it then? No, we didn't announce it then. But I believe the decision was made at that point in time. When you commit that kind of money and resources that we have to a guy like this, you want to make sure he's the leader. And he's proven to be that."
Wright has a lifelong Mets attachment. He grew up rooting for the team's Triple-A affiliate in his native Norfolk, Va. He was drafted by the club in 2001 with the 38th overall pick, compensation for losing Mike Hampton to the Colorado Rockies.
He becomes the third active captain in the majors, joining the New York Yankees' Derek Jeter and the Chicago White Sox's Paul Konerko.
Like those other two players, Wright -- dubbed "Captain America" during the World Baseball Classic -- will not have a "C" on his jersey.
"Part of it, I think, is my personality, where I don't necessarily like to stick out too much," Wright said. "I think the uniform is uniform for a reason. So I think that everybody is kind of in agreement that we're going to do without."
Wright has been a strong advocate for the organization, even as the Mets potentially are headed for their fifth straight losing season. He said he signed long term with the organization because he was "crazy excited" about the hard-throwing young arms in the pipeline beyond Matt Harvey and top prospect Zack Wheeler.
"It's going to be something special," Wright said.
Alderson praised Wright's leadership. The GM cited the example of Wright sticking around late after a game last season when the Mets were contemplating demoting first baseman Ike Davis. Wright waited so a teammate would be around to console Davis if a demotion occurred.
Niese signed a five-year, $25.5 million extension last spring training and was the clear-cut choice for Opening Day once Collins decided he wanted to avoid placing Harvey in that spotlight in his first full major league season. Niese went 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA in 30 starts last season.
"This guy, as we move forward, is going to be the head of this staff," Collins said.
The Mets open the season April 1 against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field.
"It means a lot. I'm real excited, obviously, getting this opportunity," Niese said. "But I'm going to treat it as any other start, just like if I'm the fifth starter, if I'm the second, third, fourth. I'm going to prepare the same and just go out and compete."
Alderson all but acknowledged Santana would open the season on the DL but said he would not make any formal announcement until the transaction occurred. Santana, who has experienced shoulder fatigue during spring training, has not stepped on a mound since March 6.