The end of David Wright‘s playing career was a celebration, a night of love, admiration, and satisfaction. Just as we expected it would be back when it started.
I’ve been thinking hard on what I want to write about David Wright for the entirety of the two-plus weeks between his retirement announcement and his last game.
The dreaded what-ifs linger around the David Wright era of New York Mets history. Backdoor curve in 2006, seven-in-17 in 2007, blowing two playoff spots the next year, the Madoff debacle, the frustrating use of Jeurys Familia in 2015. And, of course, Wright’s derailed career, where injuries took a lock Hall of Famer off the tracks. What if any of those things between 2004 and 2018 was different, and the Mets were fitted for jewelry under Wright’s watch?
But what-ifs are inherently sad, and I don’t feel that way about the end of Wright’s career. During the last weekend of his playing career, Wright’s been smiling from ear to ear, and then his two-year-old threw the first pitch to him as “I Got 5 On It” played throughout Citi Field. So when I teared up for the first of what would be many times throughout the night, I never felt close to melancholy. When Wright left the diamond for the last time, and I smiled wide enough to catch tears with the corners of my lips, I realized this is what satisfied feels like.
That Wright is a significant part of Mets history is obvious: he’s at or near the top of a slew of franchise records; he’s the best third basemen in franchise history; he’s the all-time greatest Met to spend his entire career in Flushing. His importance to Mets fans, despite missing large portions of three of the last four years, may not be as obvious.
I think David Wright means so much because he’s the coming-of-age, homegrown hero for the most socially-active subset of Mets fan today. He’s the guy that was the favorite player of adults that were kids when he was roping balls to right-center as a baby-faced prodigy. Not only is he a shared experience for a community that could find itself more easily with social media, but his career played out wire-to-wire adjacent to the most plugged-in years of so many young (and still young) lives. If the history of a ballclub is its lore, Wright is a real legend whose iconography could have hung in our rooms and then sat on our desks.
He represents a kind of carbon dating through a career that you probably only get once in a meaningful way. That is, the guy who spends his entire career in your jersey, during the time of your life that you and the people around you are closest to your team and tightest to your game. Not that we don’t remain fans forever, but you can only live and die on the roller coaster of fandom unequivocally for so long. Mind you, I don’t know that this is a universal truth, but I think it’s true for a lot of people. The cycle of your favorite sport is that it’s a game, then it’s everything under the sun, and then it’s a game again, albeit one that you appreciate differently. Less athletically, but maybe across a broader range of emotions, like the ones that you cycle through as your favorite players leave.
Everyone thinks baseball was best when it was played at a particular time in their lives, and when that specific time can be embodied by one player; well, it’s easy to see why Wright would be so significant to us.
Which is all to say, simply, that he means so much because he’s our guy from our time and that means everything, no matter how well or how poorly you think our time was spent.
I remember Mike Piazza’s last game as a Met, the ovation he drew when he was subbed out, even the Scott Stapp song [Editor’s note: Ew, really?] that played during his video tribute. I remember being thankful that he put the Mets on the map. And I remember being happy, even satisfied. Not necessarily because of his career, but because the Mets he was leaving behind were so promising, so exciting. You needed only to glance at the infield, where a 22-year-old shortstop just finished a 17 triples, 60 stolen bases season, and his partner on the left side of the diamond, a 22-year-old third baseman from Virginia, just wrapped up a .306-27-102 campaign.
I felt similarly happy with David’s last night. (Mets fans, by the way, are on a first-name basis with David Wright because our booth often referred to him that way, and since I’m going to be a fan here for a bit, I’m going to write about my captain by his first name, SEO be damned.) Not, perhaps, because of the promise he was leaving Mets fans with—I wonder if I’ll remember David’s last night on Michael Conforto’s last night a dozen or so years from now—but because, almost exactly 13 years after Piazza’s sendoff, David’s career feels fully realized. Maybe there’s a temptation to think about the big contract, or how the many missteps of the franchise during his time as its face turned gold to dust in our hands.
Maybe others are tempted to think about that. I’ve long since made peace with the what-ifs of David’s career, especially with anything involving him directly. His last game could just be a celebration, and it was.
To #5: I’m struck by how incredible you were at your best, and how incredibly human you were at all times. You spent a lot of your last weekend telling us, the fans, that you owed us thanks more than we owed you, but I’ll never agree to that. Thank you for all you’ve done for this team and all you’ve meant to us. We love you, we never stopped loving you, we’ll tell stories about you and bring ourselves into the narrative because we’re just that attached to you. Your story is in ours. That I can pinpoint so many meaningful, formative experiences in my life to your career, and that I’m certain I’m not alone in this proves how seminal, how singular, you are in Queens.
It’s not how you wanted it to go exactly, but I hope someday you’ll be as satisfied as we are.
To our captain: thank you.
Khurram Kalim is a senior writer for Bronx to Bushville.