David Wright set a historic team record last night when he homered off Mark Buehrle to give the Mets a 2-1 lead, a game they ultimately would win 5-1. Those two RBI were the 734th and 735th of his career, setting the Mets record that was previously held by Darryl Strawberry. It’s amazing that he’s in his 9th season with the Mets. Even if he only finishes out his current contract, Wright will also set team records in hits, runs, walks, doubles and a very outside shot at home runs. If he re-ups with the club, Wright will undoubtedly make his mark as the best offensive player in team history. After the last three uneven seasons, many forget how good he’s been for this franchise.
You never would think of putting Strawberry and Wright in the same category. They are vastly different offensive sluggers. Strawberry was all about power and speed, while Wright has been more about average and doubles. Strawberry stirred the pot- both positively and negatively- on and off-the-field. Wright has been nothing but a model citizen during his tenure, but his value to the team has widely been debated. Both have been polarizing topics with the fan base, albeit in vastly different fashions. It’s amazing how on the night that Wright passed Strawberry for the team RBI record there are still legitimate questions about his future in New York. The same questions that Strawberry faced at a similar point in his Mets career.
Wright and Strawberry may be different offensive players, but there are some similarities between them. When Wright is on, it’s nearly impossible to get him out. You saw that earlier this year when he went 17-34 out of the gate. Wright, quite literally, was carrying the Mets offense. He’s been asked to do this since 2009. Strawberry did the same, at times, especially in his final season in New York. The Mets dynasty of the 80s would crumble in 1991, but it appeared on the way out a year earlier. The Mets were 20-23 at the end of May, which cost Davey Johnson his job. Strawberry was hitting .247 with 7 home runs. All he would do during the month of June is hit .376 with 10 HRs and 27 RBI. Although they would fall short – the Pirates won the first of three-straight division titles- it was Strawberry’s bat the breathed the last bit of life into the 80s Mets. He nearly carried them to the finish line one last time.
Strawberry would leave for Los Angeles after that season. Both he and the Mets would never be the same for quite some time. Years later he would win three World Series titles wearing Yankees pinstripes; his performance in the ’96 ALCS being a big reason for the first one. You always wondered “what if” when it came to the rest of Straw’s career. He has gone on record saying leaving New York was the worst mistake of his career. Could Strawberry have stayed clean and sober with the team he grew up with? Who knows, but if he did there is a strong chance there would have been another pennant race or two at Shea in the early 90s.
Wright has gone through similar question, but for his on-the-field performance. He clearly isn’t the lineup presence of Strawberry, but can carry a team in a different way. In some ways you wonder if Wright, unlike Strawberry, would be better off in another uniform. Imagine if he could go to St. Louis, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or even across town with the Yankees. He could fit into the lineup and not worry about taking on the pressure of the entire organization.
Strawberry lived for the spotlight. He wanted to be the focal part of the offense. He didn’t mind the home fans razzing him. The more attention he drew, the better. He lost all that when he arrived at Chavez Ravine. New York was built for him. I am not so sure that Wright yearns for that type of spotlight. Unless Lucas Duda or Ike Davis develop into a star of Strawberry proportions (unlikely) or the Mets import a big in-prime star (even more unlikely) this will continue to be his team into the future. Their success will be defined by his success. If they lose, right (no pun intended) or wrong, he will be blamed. Wright was at his best when he was part of an offense the featured Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and an emerging Jose Reyes.
We know now that leaving New York wasn’t a good idea for Darryl Strawberry. I still wonder if it’s not the best thing that could happen to David Wright.