WRIGHT WANTS MORE THAN ‘ROCK STAR’ IMAGE

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David Wright arrived in New York in July 2004 at the tender age of 21. Almost immediately he was the face – and the future – of the organization. Single women began showing up at the ballpark carrying marriage proposals written with a Sharpie, stenciled on cardboard signage. Young, passionate male Mets fans wear his jersey – home white, home pinstripe, black or road gray, you name it – and shout praises and encouragement from the box seats. Video games, endorsements, magazine covers, David Letterman … welcome to the Big Apple.

Wright offered hope when hope was lost and, through it all, Wright has remained humble and, at times, even a bit embarrassed by the attention.

But he’s changed, or should we say evolved, since 2004. The last four seasons have finally caught up to him. A heartbreaking loss in 2006 followed by September collapses in 2007 and 2008, then – 2009, a bewildering season filled with injuries, losses and personal underachievement.

The “rock star” label loses its value when you don’t have the hardware to back it up. Sure, the endorsements and media attention are still flattering, but “face time” becomes a novelty when no one is talking about October.

No one knows that more than Wright. In one of his rare winter appearances, the Mets third baseman hosted a tour of Citi Field for a youth group. The media tagged along and eventually got to the point: What about 2010?

Wright replied:

“It’s the expectation that we have for ourselves … playing here, playing for this organization, the expectations are not only to go to the playoffs, but to go deep into the playoffs and bring back a World Series.”

Last winter Wright quietly disappeared. He worked on his swing in December, but didn’t speak. The Mets signed high-profile free agent Jason Bay. The Mets All-Star third baseman was silent. WFAN? SNY? Absent. Voluntary mini-camp last month? No show.

Wright has hit .300 or better every season since 2005. He has compiled 983 career hits, won two Silver Slugger awards, two Gold Gloves and appeared in four All-Star Games. Wright is now a veteran at age 26.

The concern, if any, with Wright should be hitting with runners in scoring position. In 2008, Wright his 33 home runs. But, in 189 official at-bats with RISP, he batted .243 (.328 OBP). In 2007, Wright batted .325 with 30 home runs. In 158 at-bats with RISP, he batted .310 (.431 OBP). In 2006, he batted .311 in 154 games. With runners in scoring position, Wright batted .365 (.449 OBP) in 167 at-bats.

Mets hitting instructor Howard Johnson indicated Wright’s biggest challenge in 2010 will be mental. “He is going to be under somewhat of a microscope this spring and those things are a factor — you can’t ignore it,” said Johnson. “The goal for me is to keep him on a day-to-day thought process and not get ahead of himself and not try to put up numbers in spring training. That’s not the goal. The main thing is having him on track for Opening Day.”

Jason Bay should add more power to the middle of the lineup. His presence will directly benefit both Wright and Jeff Francoeur, who will both be looked to for additional power.

As a team, the New York Mets hit 95 home runs in 2009, fewer than any other team in Major League Baseball. As a team, the Mets hit less than 100 home runs in 1992 (93) and 1982 (97). From 1977-1982 the Mets never hit more than 100 home runs as a team. The team record for most home runs in a single season is 200 (set in 2006), the last year the Mets played in the post-season.

The 671 runs scored last year were fewer than anytime in the past six years. The last time the Mets scored fewer runs was 2003, when they plated 642 and won 66 games under Art Howe.

Johnson told the New York Post he believes that while injuries and Citi Field may have contributed to the Mets lack of offensive punch, the root of the problem goes back to last spring when manager Jerry Manuel put a heavy emphasis on hitting to the opposite field.

“As an organization, we wanted to be a good offensive team with runners in scoring position,” said Johnson. “We wanted to be a good offensive club when it comes to strikeouts. We wanted to walk a lot and have a high on-base percentage. We achieved those goals, but we dropped in power.”

Wright hit 10 home runs in 144 games last season, four less than he hit over 69 games his first season (2004). He shrugs off the numbers. Wright would be happy to count his home runs on one hand — a hand covered in championship rings.

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John Strubel

Hi. My name is John Strubel. Thanks for visiting my website. I write primarily about my passion: baseball. In addition, I occasionally publish posts and podcasts related to sports media, journalism and technology impacting the industry. You can also connect with me on social media @johnstrubel.

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