Unlike Seaver and Gooden, Wright stays with Mets
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- David Wright wore a shirt with blue. His tie was bright orange.
While Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry left, Wright is following through on his goal of playing his entire career with the New York Mets.
"I've never pictured myself in a different uniform," he said Wednesday at a news conference to talk about his eight-year, $138 million contract, the largest in team history. "It wouldn't be as meaningful, I think, if I were to win somewhere else."
Playing In the shadow of the Yankees, the Mets have won just two World Series titles and none since 1986. Given the Mets' history, it seemed appropriate that Wright said "I've wanted to be here though the good times, through the bad times," echoing a line from the song "I'm Still Here" from the Stephen Sondheim musical "Follies."
Wright is a six-time All-Star who turns 30 on Dec. 20. He is the team's all-time hits leader and has a career .301 batting average.
The third baseman has never been to the World Series, falling one win short in 2006. He's seen Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Francisco Rodriguez depart as the Mets slashed payroll during the fallout from the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme that cost the Wilpon family, which owns the team, hundreds of millions of dollars.
"It just feels like there's so much unfinished business and I'd like to finish what I've started," Wright said. "Honestly. It wouldn't mean as much to me winning somewhere else as it would obviously winning here."
Talks began during the first week of October, when the Mets played a season-ending series at Miami.
"We went for a late bite to eat, couldn't find a place to eat, ended up at a burger joint, had a beer," said Jeff Wilpon, the owner's son and the team's chief operating officer. And I said, 'Listen, I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure this gets done.'"
Wright, like most everyone around the Mets, worried about the team's finances. He wanted assurances the Wilpons wouldn't sell the team.
After the season, Wright met with general manager Sandy Alderson for a round of golf and a late lunch-early dinner at the Bayville Golf Club in Virginia Beach, Va., near Wright's home.
"It was surprisingly close," Alderson said of the golf score.
The discussion was serious.
"I was as brutally honest with as I could be. And I think he was as brutally honest with me as he could be," Wright said.
Assured that the team had a commitment to winning and sufficient funds to follow through, Wright gave agents Sam and Seth Levinson the go-ahead. Wright said the deal came together during a 12-hour period last Thursday, starting when Seth Levinson had lunch with Alderson at the Loews Regency Hotel in Manhattan. Two conference calls followed the lunch, and the sides broke to go to a benefit for Mets employee Shannon Forde, who was diagnosed last summer with breast cancer.
Another conference call began at midnight, and the agreement came together. He gets $11 million next year, down from the $16 million he had been scheduled to make. His salaries will be $20 million in each of the following five seasons, $15 million in 2019 and $12 million in 2020. Some of the money will be deferred, and he gets full no-trade protection.
Wright looked to Cal Ripken Jr., Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter as his models, players spending their entire careers with one franchise. Growing up he had rooted for the Mets because their Triple-A farm team was in Norfolk, Va.
"I think there's something to be said for that, and I'm very proud of that," he said, "to be able to be able to be drafted at 18 by this organization, groomed, developed, make your big league debut with your favorite team growing up, having the opportunity for my family and friends to almost start bleeding blue and orange. So yeah, it was a no-brainer for me."
Quietly watching from the side of the podium with a proud smile were Wright's father, mother and girlfriend Molly Beers.
Rhon Wright said his son's talent and dedication were apparent as a boy back home in Virginia. He recalled David playing ball with a bunch of 6-year-olds on a neighborhood team assembled by his wife, Elisa.
"Even at that age, I'd say it was championship caliber," he said.
"Darn tootin'!" added his wife, Lisa.
Wright got past last year's criticism from Fred Wilpon, who in an interview with The New Yorker called him "a really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar."
"If we didn't have such a strong relationship, that would be something that would bother me," Wright said. "But at the time, we had lost however many in a row. We had gotten off to a terrible start and he's a competitor. It would have been more odd if he just sat back and took the losing and got used to the losing."
Wright is the leader of these Mets. Jeff Wilpon said he provides "leadership without having to have a `C' on his chest."
The next logical step is to make Wright captain. The only players to hold the title for the Mets were Keith Hernandez (1987-89), Gary Carter (co-captain 1988-89) and John Franco (2001-04). The decision rests with manager Terry Collins.
"If the players come in the spring and say, listen, we really want David to be the captain and be named the captain, then I'm sure Terry will bring that back and we'll do something like that," Jeff Wilpon said. "But for right now, to me David is the captain. He's the longest-tenured and he commands the respect in the clubhouse."