Commentary

Another big night for Mets' Wright

The third baseman looks every bit a superstar, making Fred Wilpon look foolish

Updated: July 6, 2012, 10:12 AM ET
By Ian O'Connor | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- David Wright was done honoring the message on his orange T-shirt -- the one that said, "Wreak Havoc" -- when the subject turned to Fred Wilpon, the employer who so famously maintained last year that his superstar third baseman was not, you know, a superstar.

Wright was leaning against his locker, cradling a small bottle of water in his left hand, when told Terry Collins had just watched him make a mess out of the Philadelphia Phillies and declared the following:

[+] EnlargeDavid Wright
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesDavid Wright basks in the afterglow of the Mets' comeback win over the Phillies.

"David Wright's a star. David Wright's been a star. In my opinion, he's one of the top five players in this league."

Wright measured the thought. "It makes you feel great," he said.

And then he was reminded that Collins' evaluation stood in direct contrast to the one Wilpon offered to The New Yorker last year, one that didn't make Wright feel so great.

"Of course you don't want your owner to say negative things about you," Wright told ESPNNewYork.com. "But at the time, I wasn't playing very well, the team wasn't playing very well and it was just frustration. It's a natural reaction to become frustrated when things aren't going well."

Wright had just finished off a one-homer, three-hit, four-RBI night and had just finished off Jonathan Papelbon with a two-out, bases-loaded bloop in the ninth to give the New York Mets a 6-5 victory in July that felt like a 6-5 victory in October.

On a long day and night that revolved around Jason Kidd and Jeremy Lin and R.A. Dickey, Wright blew just about everyone out of the water. Funny how sports works out. "The storyline goes from Dickey stinks," said R.A., whose knuckler didn't knuckle, "to Wright's the best. ... He's an All-Star. It's a crime he's not starting the game."

Wright wasn't worried about the fan voting Thursday night. The Citi Field crowd had been chanting "M-V-P" for him, a sound Wright called "humbling." He finished the game with a .354 batting average, 11 homers and 59 RBIs. He finished the game with his first walk-off hit in four years, with all four of his RBIs coming after two outs were recorded, with his first three RBIs coming after two strikes were recorded by Cole Hamels, too.

So Wright was asked how it felt to prove his boss wrong, to show everyone that he is a star, even a superstar, who can carry a team on a night when R.A. Dickey suddenly turns up human.

"I've never been built for trying to prove people wrong," Wright said. "Some people might have that mentality of 'I told you so,' but that's not me. I wasn't trying to prove my owner or anyone else wrong."

The third baseman was told that many great athletes, from Michael Jordan to Tiger Woods, have admitted to being inspired by the slights of others. Wright nodded his head in agreement.

"But what drives me is, I don't want to fail," he said. "I want to succeed. Proving people wrong might get some guys going, but that's very far down the list for me.

"The biggest pain was that I had to talk about it all the time. It wasn't so much what [Wilpon] said, because I've talked to him about it since and everything's fine. What he said doesn't make you feel good, but it's just the distraction that came along with it that frustrated me most."

The conversation moved to Kidd and Lin. Wright's a big sports fan, and he wore a mask of concern when asking where Lin had signed. "Houston?" he said. "The Knicks can match that, right?"

Yes, they can. But the Mets won't have the contractual right to match an offer from Houston, or anyone else, if they let Wright get to free agency at the end of next season.

The third baseman has postponed all negotiations until the offseason but was asked how eager he was to get his own long-term deal done.

Wright pointed to his old locker nearby. "I sat right there last year and watched Jose [Reyes] go through it at least once a week," he said. "Talking about contracts, trade rumors and where he's going to play next year. I said, 'I don't want to be in that position.'

"When you talk about your contract, you have to be selfish. I didn't want to come to the ballpark every day thinking, 'What is their counteroffer going to be?' I didn't want to be caught up in me when we should be talking about we.

"But yeah, I want to be here for a long time. It seems we've taken the first steps in the right direction, so of course I want to be a part of that."

Thursday night, Wright was the biggest part of a big victory, one Collins had said in the afternoon his team absolutely needed. The Mets pieced together some remarkable at-bats against Papelbon in the ninth, from Ike Davis to Ruben Tejada to Daniel Murphy's shot off the closer's foot, a shot that ultimately left a hopeless Papelbon on his rump.

Wright had felt overmatched in his two career at-bats against Papelbon, striking out once, and so he applied a two-strike approach to the first pitch and sent what he called a half-wedge shot into right field for the win.

The hit nearly mirrored the one Wright beat Puerto Rico with three years ago in the World Baseball Classic. "No," he argued. "That one was more of a true hit."

His thumbs hurt from this jam shot against the Phillies, and his ribs and head hurt from the pounding his giddy teammates gave him behind second base.

But at his locker late Thursday night, David Wright wasn't feeling any pain. Validated superstars usually don't.

Ian O'Connor

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Ian O'Connor has won numerous national awards as a sports columnist and is the author of three books, including the bestseller, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." ESPN Radio broadcasts "The Ian O'Connor Show" every Sunday from 7 to 9 a.m. ET. Follow Ian on Twitter »

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