A bad back ended Don Mattingly’s career, one that could have landed him in the Hall of Fame had he not been injured and forced to retire at age 34. A bad back ended Larry Bird’s career. The Mets are facing the same prospect with David Wright.
Wright spent four months on the disabled list with spinal stenosis last season. He’s currently facing the prospect of the disabled list with a herniated disc in his neck. The Mets delayed the disabled list when they made room for James Loney by sending Eric Campbell to Triple-A Las Vegas.
When the Mets gave Wright a long-term contract in December of 2012, they pared down the amounts for the last two seasons in anticipation of his skills diminishing. Wright will get $20 million a season through 2018; $15 million in 2019 and $12 million in 2020.
With his recent injury history, manager Terry Collins told reporters he’s sensing those skills fading now.
“This guy has been a special player,” Collins said. “Certainly being the captain and the face of this organization, a manager’s worst nightmare is to see a star start to fade. I think David’s got a lot of baseball left in him because of the way he prepares and the way he gets himself ready. But it’s hard to watch what he’s going through.
“He’s still special. He’s still a great player. We just hope this neck thing goes away in a few days and he’s back in our lineup.”
Wright didn’t play in Tuesday’s 6-4 loss to Chicago to miss his fourth straight game, and the injection he received will take at least two more games before taking effect. That makes the disabled list a real possibility.
It won’t happen this season, but the Mets and Wright should be thinking about the next four years because it is fairly obvious he’s not going to make the end of his career at third.
There are several options:
FORCED RETIREMENT: They could buy him out, which is what they did with Jason Bay and Michael Cuddyer. Neither side wants this, but Wright’s pride probably will make him consider this option over time.
Wright, at 33, has seven homers, but only 14 RBI, He has a respectable .350 on-base percentage. What is not are his strikeouts, with 55 in 137 at-bats. Wright is batting .226 with 31 hits. If you flipped the strikeouts with hits, his average would be .401. That emphasizes the importance of the strikeouts.
There are a lot of reasons for the strikeouts, with his back one of them. I know Wright doesn’t like how he’s playing, but I also know he has too much pride and integrity to just take the money. He has to know something has to change.
POSITION CHANGE: Where would he go? First base and left field are the only possibilities.
I floated the idea of left field last summer because it would have the least amount of stress on his back. His throwing shouldn’t be a problem because he wouldn’t have to throw sidearm.
There’s less pounding on his back in the outfield because he won’t have the deep bending before every pitch. I know you’re thinking about Michael Conforto, but it wouldn’t hurt to try him at right field. As far as Curtis Granderson, he has one more year after 2016.
Yes, there’s crouching at first base, but it isn’t as intense as playing third base because a lot of time he’ll be holding runners which does not require as deep a crouch.
As a corner infielder, Wright should quickly pick up the nuances of the new position. As for Lucas Duda, the Mets don’t have to offer him arbitration and he can leave as a free agent.
METS GAME WRAP
May 31, 2016, @ Citi Field
Game: #51 Score: White Sox 6, Mets 4
Record: 29-22 Streak: L 1
Standings: Second, NL East, two games behind the Nationals. Playoffs: Tied with Pittsburgh for No. 1 WC.
Runs: 194 Average: 3.8 Times 3 or less: 24
SUMMARY: Steven Matz finally broke down by giving up three runs in the sixth inning, and the bullpen imploded by giving up three runs. The consensus was Matz was rushing his pitches. Matz worked 5.2 innings, but he was getting hit so I have no problem with pulling him at that time. I don’t think Collins had a quick hook.
Noah Syndergaard, who threw only 34 pitches Saturday before being ejected, worked the seventh and threw 17 pitches. If they were going to use Syndergaard in relief, why not let him work one more inning? It would be like his throw day between starts. Had Syndergaard worked the eighth, there wouldn’t have been the Hansel Robles meltdown.
Robles gave up three runs on one hit – Tyler Saradino’s two-run homer – and two walks.
Giving Syndergaard another inning would’ve been the way to go, especially since he said Jeurys Familia wasn’t available.
KEY MOMENT: Saradino’s two-run homer. … Matz was coasting before he gave up a two-run homer to Todd Frazier.
THUMBS UP: SNY had a good night with its feature on catching. Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling calling the game from the stands was a nice angle. By the way, a little ketchup on a hot dog isn’t such a bad thing. … Matz for five innings was pretty good. … The Mets manufactured a couple of runs on two sacrifice flies. … Neil Walker’s two-run homer was his 13th of the season. … Granderson had two hits. … Jim Henderson and Syndergaard in relief.
THUMBS DOWN: If Collins wasn’t going to use Syndergaard for more than an inning, then why not give Henderson a full inning? He only threw two pitches to get out of the sixth. Maybe using Syndergaard screwed up Collins’ bullpen rotation. If that is the case, then Syndergaard shouldn’t have been used. … Watching Saladino steal second and third uncontested in the sixth and score on a single is giving away a run. Overall, the White Sox stole four bases with ease. … Mets hitters struck out nine times, went 2-for-7 with RISP and stranded nine runners. … The idiot who called Collins “coach.’’
EXTRA INNINGS: James Loney started at first base and committed an error. He went 0-for-4. … Before Tuesday night, Matz had given up two runs or less in seven straight starts. … The Mets have homered in 11 straight games. … The Mets’ bullpen has given up 20 earned runs in its last 21 innings. … Overall it has given up 15 homers.
QUOTEBOOK: “He said he was rushing a bit and all the balls were over the middle of the plate.’’ – Collins on what catcher Kevin Plawecki said of Matz’s problem.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4: Number of walks and homers Robles has given up in his last 13 hitters.
NEXT FOR METS: Jacob deGrom will start Wednesday afternoon.