NEW YORK -- David Wright stood alone in the nearly empty Citi Field home clubhouse on Sunday morning. Wright was the first player in the door to play what essentially was another meaningless August game. This frustrates Wright to his core.
Wright hungers for the feeling of 2006, the intensity of New York playoff baseball. At this point, Wright would settle for having "meaningful games" -- as New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon once famously said -- in September, let alone October.
When Wright thinks about how the Mets can have those types of games 12 months from now, it begins with one thing and one thing only.
"I think that, especially in this ballpark with this team, it all starts with our starting pitching," Wright said a little more than three hours before the first pitch of the Mets' 5-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Sunday. "It would be nice to get those guys a few more runs, but it all starts with our starting pitching. With us, we go as far as our starting pitching will take us."
Wright then went down the Mets' roster of starters. Johan Santana is an automatic, he said. Mike Pelfrey and Jonathon Niese are working toward being consistent top-of-the-rotation type of guys. R.A. Dickey -- who threw another seven-inning gem on Sunday -- looks like a keeper.
Wright stopped there, and it is probably appropriate. Right now, the Mets might be pinning their pitching hopes and a lot of their 2011 season on top prospect Jenrry Mejia being ready. Mejia starts at Triple-A on Monday and very well could be the Mets' fifth starter in September and beyond.
Wright declined to play GM and didn't shirk responsibility, but he certainly would love to see the Mets go out and acquire a no-doubt-about-it top-level starter like Cliff Lee. All indications are that the Mets won't do that, even if that would be the best strategy to usher in a return to glory.
The Mets' history is this: They chase their own tails. They usually look at their previous season, decide where they were deficient, try to fix that area and hope they receive the exact same production from their strong areas. It usually doesn't work out well -- and they go tail-chasing in another area the next offseason.
This season, the Mets have pitched pretty well, while they haven't hit as much. With a frugal offseason expected, the Mets likely will hope Jose Reyes plays well in what could be a free-agent season, while Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay fully rebound.
But Wright is dead-on in saying that to win at Citi -- and really any place -- it comes down predominantly to starting pitching.
That is how Wright thinks the Mets will return to the postseason. It is not the only thing they need -- it is just the most important thing, Wright thinks, to have the experience of 2006 again.
"The '06 playoffs were the best time I've had playing baseball," said Wright, who is hitting .295 with 21 homers and 86 RBIs this season. "The energy and excitement of playing baseball here in New York kind of stands alone.
"It is tough to imagine that until you really experience it. You turn the intensity up 100 times. It seems like every pitch is do or die. It is true. Any one pitch can send you home pretty quickly, like we learned. I love the fact that everyone is hanging on every pitch. The fans are into it from, literally, hours before the game. You turn the intensity and the energy up 100 times for what it normally is."
"We haven't been able to consistently be that team," Wright said. "I thought we created a lot to build on in '06, but it seems like we have taken some steps back, off of that year. It is frustrating being able to experience that, but not being able to experience that on a consistent basis."