The moment DavidWright officially ascended to celebrity status in New York came last spring.The Mets third baseman received a phone call from Big Apple housewife JessicaSklar, asking if he wouldn't mind helping her husband work on his swing. Wrightsaid yes, and that's how he ended up giving batting tips to Jerry Seinfeld oneafternoon at Shea Stadium. Matthew Broderick, star of The Producers, taggedalong. "They were a lot better than I thought they'd be," Wright says."Both those guys were driving balls into the outfield. I was laughing sohard at the one-liners I couldn't concentrate."
Those aren't theonly celebs to make their way to Shea Stadium recently. Over the past two yearsthe Mets have reeled in marquee names at a rate once expected only of thecrosstown Yankees. Closer Billy Wagner, first baseman Carlos Delgado andcatcher Paul Lo Duca are this year's prize acquisitions, joining 2004 pickupsPedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. But even with all that star power, it'sWright, an affable 23-year-old, who has a chance to become Shea's answer toDerek Jeter.
In 2005,Wright's first full season in the majors, he led the club in batting average(.306) and RBIs (102) and hit 27 home runs. But his contributions went beyondthe stats. "What's special about him isn't just his bat," says generalmanager Omar Minaya. "It's the energy that he brings to the team, theyouth, the joy, the passion for the game. The team feeds off him and[shortstop] Jose Reyes." As part of his team initiation, Wright had tocarry luggage for veteran outfielder Cliff Floyd on road trips, and the twodeveloped a close relationship; Floyd repaid Wright's efforts by buying him acouple of suits. "His wardrobe was struggling," Floyd says. "I wasable to pimp him out a little bit." Floyd also owes Wright a dinner, thanksto a friendly bet the two made over who would finish with the most RBIs first."We battle," says Floyd, 33. "We fight like little brother and bigbrother. I enjoy it because it keeps me younger."
Though Wrighthas an apartment in Manhattan, he spent much of the off-season at his parents'house in his hometown of Chesapeake, Va. He enjoyed hanging out with his oldbuddies and watching his two younger brothers' high school games. (Wright isthe eldest of four brothers.) He owes much of his competitive drive to hissibling rivalries. At home a simple game of cards or pool can quickly devolveinto trash-talking. "My brothers are the first ones to call me if I have agood game," Wright says, "but if I drop a pop-up or make a stupiderror, they're the first ones to rib me about it. They keep megrounded."
Indeed, Wrightdoesn't put on a star's airs. He jokes as easily with the clubhouse workers ashe does with the team veterans, and he deflects praise onto teammates andcoaches. The Mets' acting player rep, Wright spent one morning in springtraining hitting up teammates for alumni association dues in the clubhouse.He's generous with the media--he took time out to talk to a reporter from ahigh school paper this spring--and accommodates autograph requests as often ashe can. "I remember as a kid going to see the Norfolk Tides [the Mets'Triple A team] and just screaming for autographs, screaming for anyone toacknowledge you," he says. "A majority of the players just walked by. Itold myself if I was ever in that position, anytime I had the available time,I'd stop and sign."
Asked to namethe most exciting moment of last season, Wright recalled a game against thePhillies on Aug. 30. He was on second base, and catcher Ramon Castro belted athree-run homer in the eighth inning, propelling the Mets to a come-from-behindwin and pulling the team within a half game in the wild-card race. (New Yorkfinished six games out.) "Feeling the electricity and emotion in SheaStadium, the way that place exploded--that for me was the highlight," hesays. "That's why I want to play playoff baseball in New York."
As loaded withtalent as the Mets are, it's a good bet the Big Apple's newest star will bedoing just that come October. --B.S.
With 60 stolen bases in 2005, shortstop Jose Reyes became the first Met to leadthe NL in that category. Roger Cede√±o (1999) and Lance Johnson ('96) hadfinished second.
a modest proposal
The Mets won'tget maximum benefit from power hitters Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, DavidWright and Cliff Floyd if they don't put runners on ahead of that quartet.Shortstop Jose Reyes (right) has to improve his OBP--.300 last season, .303career--or New York will have to move him to the bottom of the order and findanother leadoff man. Rookie second baseman Anderson Hernandez is the bestin-house choice. At 23 he's coming off a season in which he had a combined .357OBP at Double A and Triple A, and he has the kind of speed that manager WillieRandolph likes, with 35 steals in 132 minor league games last year.
projected roster with 2005 statistics
tied for third in NL East
second season with New York
C Lo Duca
XAVIER NADY [Newacquisition]
CARLOS DELGADO[New acquisition]
PAUL LO DUCA[New acquisition]
JOSE VALENTIN [New acquisition]
[This articlecontains tables. Please see hard copy or pdf.]
|LH||Billy Wagner [New acquisition]||14||4||3||38||0.84||1.51|
|RH||Duaner Sanchez [New acquisition]||161||4||7||8||1.35||3.73|
|RH||Chad Bradford [New acquisition]||253||2||1||0||1.41||3.86|
(R) Rookie B-T:
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
*Triple A stats
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 59)
coming to a ballpark near you this summer...
Like many highdraft picks represented by agent Scott Boras, 6'7" righty Mike Pelfreywaited to get his money. Taken at No. 9 by the Mets last June, the 22-year-oldWichita State fireballer didn't sign until January, getting a reported $3.5million bonus, but his trip to the majors might be quick. A strong springtraining (he didn't allow an earned run in outings against Puerto Rico and theCardinals) makes that look like a wise investment.