On the third day of the Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville, the dais in the mammoth press room of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center was finally populated by an elated owner, a relieved general manager and a grateful ball player announcing a contract of distinction. The Mets and David Wright officially confirmed the rumored eight year, $138 million contract that was widely reported by the media last week. Wright, the beloved cornerstone of the Mets, has all but secured a permanent home at Citi Field with a new contract that will take him through the 2020 season. By the end of his 17thseason in Flushing, Wright will be 37 years old and could quite possibly become one of the greatest offensive players to have ever donned the orange and blue of the Mets uniform.
As Wright was flanked by Jeff Wilpon, Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins for the obligatory photo opportunity, you couldn’t help but get a sense of achievement from everyone involved in the process. Wright was genuinely excited to know that he was going to remain a member of the New York Mets for several years to come and the executive leadership briefly displayed glimpses of confidence when conversations shifted towards the future of the franchise beyond the 2013 season. Besides being a fundamental building block for the Mets in their ascent towards respectability and a return to the postseason, Wright epitomizes an attitude and determination that will undoubtedly serve as an inspiration to Alderson as he continues to rebuild a franchise currently mired in mediocrity.
The Wright press conference wasn’t as ordinary as it might have seemed on television or online. Strategically, the Mets presented their third baseman with a jersey and a cap that is usually a symbolic gesture for a ball player who is officially joining a new ball club for the first time. However, the apparel presented to Wright wasn’t your run of the mill jersey and cap from the Mets clubhouse. It was the new alternate home jersey for the Mets with the 2013 All Star Game patch sewn on the left sleeve accompanied by a never before seen Mets hat with an orange brim. Prior to the press conference, the Mets tweeted a photo of the new apparel spread out on a bed with Wright’s name and number on the back. By mid-afternoon, the Mets’ Twitter account was asking fans if they liked the jersey that Wright had worn at the press conference and incorporated the hash tag #MetsHoliday into the tweet.
After Alderson and Wright quickly moved through the formalities and gestures of gratitude towards several people, the Mets third baseman shifted the attention towards the multitude of reasons as to why he wanted to continue his playing career with the Mets. Wright reminisced about how he grew up going to Norfolk Tides games and developed a genuine affinity for the Mets and its minor league affiliate. He expressed an appreciation for Alderson’s conviction and strategic plan going forward and wanted to finish what he had started with the Mets. Wright made it abundantly clear that he is proud to wear a Mets uniform and that he loves playing for the fans. He wants to be part of the solution and help turn the franchise around in the right direction. The humility and appreciation that Wright had expressed was genuine and the thought of wearing another franchise’s uniform never crossed his mind.
For a franchise that has experienced its fair share of criticism in recent years, Wilpon and Alderson were refreshingly forthright with information regarding the Wright contract and the future of the Mets. Wilpon proudly proclaimed that Wright was the undisputed captain of the Mets even if he hasn’t been officially named by Collins just yet. Wright eloquently diffused the potential controversy by saying that he was humbled by the kind sentiment, but that he doesn’t need the letter “C” embroidered on his jersey to be a team leader. The only thing that matters to him is how his teammates view him. Wilpon even shared with the media that he and Wright had lunch together at the end of the season in Miami to begin discussions on the parameters of what would become a long term relationship with the Mets.
- Wright and Alderson had an open and frank dialogue on several matters that concerned the Mets third baseman. During a golf outing and late lunch a few weeks ago in Norfolk, Wright peppered Alderson with a wide array of questions. Instead of focusing on signing bonuses, incentives and player options, Wright’s queries were directed towards the team dynamic. He wanted to receive an all encompassing view of the farm system and its direction, Alderson’s philosophies on building the franchise going forward, what to expect from free agency and the types of trades that he was considering that would help improve the overall quality of the ball club. Wright also made it abundantly clear that he didn’t want his contract negotiations to hurt the Mets and his teammates. He didn’t want any wedge to develop between him and the franchise and requested that all negotiations remain private.
Alderson addressed Wright’s questions and simply stated that the six-time All Star wants to be on a winning team. He also emphasized the importance of developing a relationship with Wright over the past two seasons. Alderson simply stated that the Mets are committed to a process and will eventually enjoy payroll flexibility in due time. However, he also reminded everyone that winning does expedite the process.
Ironically, money wasn’t the deciding factor for Wright when extending his tenure in Flushing as the third baseman for the Mets. His primary concern was the length of the contract and was always confident in the financial parameters of the deal. Also, Wright admitted that he did receive a full no trade protection from the Mets as well. In a matter of 12 hours on November 29th, the deal had come together and both sides appeared to have conducted the negotiations in a mature and respectful manner.
Conspicuously absent from Wednesday morning’s press conference was the franchise’s Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Fred Wilpon. However, Jeff Wilpon eloquently expressed his father’s genuine sentiments by telling the gathered audience that his father wanted to personally thank David Wright’s parents for raising the young man the way that they did. Clearly, Wright was humbled by the Mets’ generosity and their unrelenting faith in his abilities. As the cornerstone of the franchise is now firmly intact, it is now up to the Mets to build a ball club that can emulate Wright’s leadership, integrity, determination and character.