What began as a kitschy nickname during the World Baseball Classic is on the verge of becoming a permanent rank for slugger David Wright.
Reporter Andy Martino of the New York Daily News has learned that the New York Mets want to make Wright the fourth captain in team history, following Keith Hernandez, Hall of Famer Gary Carter and John Franco. A few details are to be worked out — for example, Wright humbly wants to check with his teammates first, and he might want to heal from his ribcage injury before it becomes official — but if all goes as planned, Wright will get the designation sometime during the 2013 season.
Even though it sounds like a demotion — going from "Captain America" at the WBC to just "Captain of the Mets" — it's really a much more meaningful distinction.
Football uses multiple captains as a matter of course and practicality, and it's considered quite an honor in hockey to be named a captain — even though most, if not all NHL teams have them — but baseball has been a little different. It's much less common throughout the sport's history, and most contemporary teams don't name official captains. Notable exception include Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees and Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox. They might be the only captains in all of MLB.
Wright is definitely the face of the Mets franchise for the foreseeable future, having signed a $138 million contract extension that takes him to age 37. And it won't work to call him "Mr. Met," because they already got one of those. So captain it is. But what exactly does a captain do for a baseball team? It's not like there are coin tosses with the umpires, and labor isn't divided up into offense, defense and special teams.
Perhaps one who has been captain, Konerko (since 2006, when manager Ozzie Guillen named him), can explain. Via MLB.com:
"Ultimately, it has made me better — to how I prepare and go about my business and try to be an example, I guess, or whatever," Konerko said. "You don't always do it right, and I don't care who you are in baseball, you are going to have bad days and you don't go about it the right way. For the most part, I've limited those and tried to limit those to be better, and some of that comes because of that labeling of captain.
"I try not to put too much stock in it. A clubhouse with the best teams I've been on were always ones where everyone in there had an equal voice. Nobody was above anyone else. You want to be one of the guys and not have anybody labeled different than anyone else, and it's kind of weird in that sense.
"So with the captain thing, I've always felt a little bit odd with that. Like I said then and I'll say now, there are a bunch of teams in baseball that don't denote someone captain. At the same time, I've always been flattered and still am that [Guillen] said that and did that."
There are pros and cons. Wright seems like a Konerko or Jeter type, in that the honor won't go to his head in the clubhouse. One lingering question: If he accepts, will Wright have the Mets sew a "C" on the front of his jersey, like the Red Sox did with Jason Varitek?
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