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NEW YORK -- David Wright did not need Yogi Berra around Monday night to realize that it has gotten late early around here, that a dramatic victory over the New York Yankees did nothing to change the fact the winners could be in for a 90-loss season in Year 1 of Wright's master eight-year plan.
He signed up for those eight years for a fee of $138 million, gambling that the New York Mets would win their first World Series title since 1986 in that time. Only two months deep into his Met-for-life contract, Wright is likely suffering from a buyer's remorse he'd never reveal for public consumption.
So after his dramatic seventh-inning homer off Phil Hughes helped saved the Mets from themselves, Wright was asked by ESPNNewYork.com the following question:
|David Wright, who tripled earlier, hit a game-tying homer in the seventh inning.|
If you were guaranteed you would win only one championship in your career, win it at, say, age 36 after enduring a lot more pain and misery, would you sign up for that right now or take your chances of winning multiple titles (or none at all) for the Mets?
Wright laughed and said, "To win one World Series? Yeah, that sounds like a fair trade. I'm not sure if that's the politically correct answer, but yes, I would take that World Series ring."
And why not? Wright has made one playoff appearance since breaking into the majors in 2004, and his Subway Series rivals have made eight. In fact, Wright was 12 when the Yankees started their run of 17 postseason trips in 18 years, a run that made Derek Jeter everything the Mets' face of the franchise wishes he could be.
"Of course I'm envious of guys that win championships; that's why you play the game," Wright said at his locker after Mets 2, Yankees 1. "But it would be ultimately a lot more special for me -- having gone through what I've gone through -- to be part of the reason we turn things around and maybe get to a point where we're like the Yankees, a perennial playoff team."
Wright likes Jeter, likes the Yankees, likes all their guys he's played with at charity events and the World Baseball Classic. But yeah, it hurts some to watch your neighbors make postseason baseball as much a rite of October as Halloween.
"I have the utmost respect for what they do year in, year out," Wright said. "I guess I'm a little envious, to be completely honest."
He wouldn't be human if he wasn't. And he wouldn't be human if he didn't take some extra measure of satisfaction out of that 2-2 fastball he hit over the Citi Field wall in the seventh, winning a long and tense duel with Hughes, tying the game and refusing to let his dreadful team succumb to another deflating development.
Brett Gardner had just elevated high above the 385-foot sign in left center to rob Daniel Murphy of a two-run homer to end the sixth, an Endy Chavez-like catch that compelled Murphy to spike his helmet hard into the dirt separating first base from second.
Just as everyone at Shea figured the Mets would beat the Cardinals and advance to the 2006 World Series after the Chavez catch (they didn't), everyone at Citi figured the Yankees would beat the Mets after the Gardner catch (they didn't). After all, the Yanks are the Yanks. The entered the series with a 30-19 record and a hold on first place in their division despite playing a bunch of guys Joe Girardi had never heard of, never mind the fan base.
The Mets? They entered with an 18-29 record and dozens of reasons to believe they'd been elimination from wild-card contention before ever reaching this Memorial Day. The stunning Gardner catch surely would suck the life out of this lifeless team.
"It kind of took the air out of us for a second," Wright said. "I was on deck getting ready to walk up to the plate and I guess I was a little shell-shocked."
Wright had time to gather himself before leading off the bottom of the seventh, before fighting Hughes for control of the game. As much as the third baseman fought the temptation to swing for the fences, to try to do too much, he understood the magnitude of the moment. A strikeout of the captain there, right after the Murphy heist in the sixth, could've compelled the loserville Mets to hang-dog it and call it a night.
Wright didn't match his first-inning triple that sent Gardner crashing into the wall. He put this ball in a place where no Yankee could go, delivering his first Citi Field homer of the year.
"He's a superstar," Girardi said, "and he put a superstar at-bat on him."
Funny, but wasn't it Fred Wilpon who once said something about Wright not being a superstar?
"Big players make big plays, that's what he is," Terry Collins said. "That's why he's the captain. When you're down and you need something, he's the guy everybody turns to. It's amazing how many times those kinds of guys come through for you when you need them."
Collins said Wright is still the one who counsels the Ike Davises and Jordany Valdespins, helping them deal with their demons. "He's not going to get down," the manager said of his captain. "He loves to play. He loves to play in New York. ... When I got here I heard all about him, and this guy without question has lived up to everything everybody ever told me about him."
With Robinson Cano on and one out in the eighth, Wright made a brilliant stop on Vernon Wells to start a double play, setting up Murphy's winning single off David Robertson in a noisy bottom half of the same inning. When it was over, when Bobby Parnell was done looking like an actual big-league closer again, Wright wasn't feeling any pain from the curve Robertson bounced off his elbow.
He'd just hit his ninth homer against the Yanks, most ever for a Met, and Matt Harvey was booked for Tuesday night and a shot at a three-game winning streak. But only 32,911 had shown up for this opener, those empty seats representing an indictment of the home team (not to mention more evidence that New Yorkers prefer to see Jeter and A-Rod on the field). The crowd figure was a cruel reminder of what Wright had signed up for, and of what might await him across the balance of his prime.
"It's very frustrating," Wright admitted, "and the big question [about the contract] the last week or so I keep hearing is, 'Do you regret this, do you regret that?' And the answer is, 'Absolutely not.'
"It's been a tremendously disappointing start to this season, there's no question about that, and I'm as frustrated as anybody with how we started this season….But this wasn't a change-things-overnight-type process, and all of a sudden you're going to be a playoff contender. It takes work and time and some growing pains, and we're going through it right now."
David Wright is 30, so those growing pains hurt more and more. When he finally had some big-time players around him in the spring as a WBC centerpiece of Team USA, a rib injury sent him home, sent him back to the reality of a franchise devoid of high-end talent.
Monday night offered Wright a temporary reprieve, a triumph over the Yanks. He'll need a lot more than Matt Harvey over the final seven years of his contract, which is why he said he'd sign up for a one-and-done parade right now.