Found May 17, 2012 on Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest:

Even after last night’s disappointing lost to Cincinnati, the Mets are a surprising 20-17 on the season. Considering their lack of depth, the loss of Mike Pelfrey and the slow start by Ike Davis, this is a fantastic job by Terry Collins and company.

I have been saying since before the season the Mets have three areas of examination this year, but none involve a certain win-loss record.

1- The development of the young  players such as Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Kurt Nieuwenhuis, Josh Thole, Ruben Tejada, Jonathon Niese and Daniel Murphy.

2- The development of the young minor league arms.

3- David Wright

You would think the most tenured Met wouldn’t be considered a question mark after playing well over a thousand games in the uniform. Wright went from arguably the best third baseman in baseball and potential Hall of Famer, to lost and confused and many questioning how good he really is.

His leadership qualities were also questioned. It appeared he was at his best when part of a four-prong offensive attack that included Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. The move to Citi Field made him more of a focal point of the offense as the old guard was transitioned out. His results indicated that perhaps Wright was better when he was part of the gang versus leading the offensive attack.

His struggles since 2009 have been well documented. There were too many nights where he looked confused, struggled with his offensive personality and regressed severely on defense.  We saw a high average/low power player in the inaugural season at Citi Field. In 2010 he became a high-strikeout slugger. Last year he was a hybrid of both those versions. Everyone rightfully wondered if we would ever see the player of 2005-2008 that put up numbers at third base comparable to future Hall of Famers Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez. Off the field it seemed like the weight of the organization was wearing him down. Logic dictated he would either be traded or elect to sign elsewhere when becoming a free agent after 2013.

Something funny happened in 2012. The real David Wright returned and was a better version of his prior form.

Thus far we have seen a different player. Offensively he is as good as ever. Entering this afternoon’s action, he is hitting .402 with 4 HRs, 25 RBI and more walks than strikeouts.

Off the field he continues to be the team spokesman and provides great leadership by example. When he fractured his pinky in April he surprisingly returned just days later. His presence in the lineup helped fuel an important early season series win in Philadelphia. David has always said the right (no pun intended) thing, but you could tell he wanted everyone to know this was his team and he was going to play through pain for them. It was about action, not words.

Anyone who follows Wright knows how much he respects the manager and the organization. Even in the darkest days you would see Wright take the company line, sometimes looking ridiculous in the process. That is why it was so surprising to see him argue publically with Terry Collins on Tuesday night when the manager elected to remove him after D.J. Carrasco beaned Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun. Collins rightfully didn’t want his best player to be target practice in a potential retaliation during a blowout.

Wright and Collins had a “serious” conversation in the dugout for all to see. It was clear from his body language that Wright was upset with the verdict. He wanted to stay in, despite the score, and take the heat. Instead of one of his teammates going down he wanted Collins to know this was his team and he is fine with absorbing the consequences.

Collins made the proper move by protecting his star hitter. The Mets margin of error is so thin that any extended time missed by Wright could be disastrous. Despite that reality, it was important that Wright’s teammates saw he wasn’t about to back down. He sent a message to everyone that he understands his responsibility as the de facto captain of this club. It was an act that may be looked at as a turning point when he become the official captain one day, provided he signs a long-term extension in the next few months.

Neither side was wrong in this scenario. Collins did what he had to do, communicated it to Wright and handled the dialogue superbly. I can complain about a lot of Collins’ in-game management, but never the handling of player personalities and communication. Wright needed to show his teammates and the public what he was all about. It was out of character to air grievances in public, but if he didn’t you can bet the talk radio and media blowhards would be calling him cowardly, soft and once again questioning his leadership and value to the team.

There is a calmness and maturity to Wright’s game this season. He is playing like someone that wants to stay in New York and be part of the long-term solution. Perhaps it’s the energy and hunger of the young Mets who are not too far removed from minor leagues. Maybe Wright grew tired of the fans and media questioning his leadership and how important he was to the team. He even appears more relaxed and comfortable during his radio and television interviews. This was not always the case in the past.

Perhaps this was who David Wright has been all along. We forget- fans and media alike- that we only get a small sample of what goes on in that clubhouse. There is an iron curtain that separates the manager, coaches and 25 players. It creates illusions that may not always be an accurate picture of reality.

The Mets are going to have to make at least a $100 million dollar commitment to David Wright in the near future. There is no doubt they are getting a great offensive player, but perhaps they have the leader that is right for this group of players.

If and when the organization commits to such a deal, this will officially be Wright’s team. Any veteran import must follow his lead. The way he conducts himself on and off the field must be followed by the young players. It’s up to Wright to help Collins maintain a clean clubhouse. Wright will also continue to have the responsibility of being the face of the franchise for the public.

There isn’t a superstar that I would want to root for more. I have met David a few times and found him to be down to earth and humble. He never puts himself above the team or game, perhaps to a fault. Yes, he is hard on himself, but that is because he wants to succeed and win.

Maybe the Mets finally found their leader. Or perhaps he was there all along and we just didn’t know it.


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