COMMENTARY | It was the worst kept secret of the spring.
The New York Mets' biggest star, the longest-tenured player on the club, and the one who happened to receive an eight-year contract extension worth $138 million this winter, was sure to be named the team's captain.
On Thursday, that became reality when David Wright was named the fourth captain in franchise history, joining Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, and John Franco on a very short list.
It becomes an even more exclusive club when you consider that there are now only three active players who are captains in Major League Baseball: Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees, Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox, and now Wright.
"To be on that short list of guys that have been considered captain of this franchise is, for me, a dream come true, to say the least, and something that I'm very, very, very proud about," Wright said according to a New York Times report.
With Wright, it's not just about the money. It's about the fact that he came up through the Mets' system and became their biggest star. He already holds many of the franchise's offensive records and is sure to accumulate more as his career progresses.
It's about how he is the model ballplayer, on the field and in the clubhouse. It's about the respect he shows and the respect he gets. Wright leads by example.
In a telling move, Wright has decided not to wear the captain's 'C' on his uniform. In a telling gesture that says everything you need to know about him both as a person and as a player, Wright sought out teammates to ask what they thought of him becoming captain.
Yesterday's announcement provided the answer. Wright not only has his teammates' support, he also has the support and respect of general manager Sandy Alderson, and ownership.
"This is probably one of the proudest days of my career so far," Wright said at yesterday's press conference. "I think to be viewed in this light both by ownership, by Sandy and the front office, by the coaching staff and probably most importantly by the players, is a great deal to me."
And it's a big deal for Mets fans as well. Over the past four years, they've had little to root for. Wright has been an exception. Assuming the Mets become a consistent winner again, Wright will be at the center of it all.
It's interesting to note that Hernandez and Carter became captains after the Mets won the World Series in 1986. They had come here to lead, and they did just that. By the time they became captains -- Hernandez in 1987, Carter in 1988 -- the Mets had already won, and were winning. Franco was named captain after the Mets got to the World Series in 2000. They started to slide after that.
Meanwhile, the greatest moment the Mets have had with Wright took place in the 2006 playoffs, which ended badly. So did the Mets' seasons in 2007 and 2008.
The Mets are now mired in a slump that's lasted for a few years. Wright will try to lead them to better days.
Charles Costello has followed the Mets closely since the rookie years of Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the Mets during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
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