So Wright left more than games with the Mets on the table when his body began to betray him. When trying to identify Players A, B and C, Wright asked if any were still active. I told him one, and when he ultimately learned it was him, Wright said with ...
PORT ST. LUCIE — So here is the game. Identify these three:
Player A — .316/.370/.503, 141 OPS-plus, 150 homers/797 RBIs.
Player B — .301/.382/.506, 137 OPS-plus, 222 homers/876 RBIs.
Player C — .284/.375/.515, 129 OPS-plus, 231 homers/859 RBIs.
Your clues? Over the past two days I had learned Scott Rolen is Jay Bruce’s mentor and role model based on their time together in Cincinnati from 2009-12, Rolen’s final four as a major leaguer.
No surprise, Bruce believes Rolen is a Hall of Famer. At some point, David Wright — Bruce’s locker neighbor — joined in, which led to me pointing out that Wright was on a Hall of Fame trajectory through age 30, but like Rolen, durability has cost him.
I saw doubt in the faces of Bruce and Wright, so I came up with a chart that I showed them Tuesday. You have seen the chart now. It is three guys through age 30. George Brett is Player A, Wright B and Rolen C. Wright’s OPS-plus is the fifth best in major league history for a third baseman through age 30 (minimum 5,000 plate appearances), behind Eddie Mathews, Mike Schmidt, Chipper Jones and Brett, who are all Hall of Famers. As is No. 6, Ron Santo. Rolen was seventh.
WrightAnthony J. CausiSo Wright left more than games with the Mets on the table when his body began to betray him. When trying to identify Players A, B and C, Wright asked if any were still active. I told him one, and when he ultimately learned it was him, Wright said with a grin: “I’m just glad you called me a current player.”
He has played just 75 games the past three seasons, none last year. He has endured surgeries in that timeframe to his neck, shoulder and back — the one to his back last October to fix two bulging discs and remove bone spurs and a ligament in attempts to alleviate pain associated with his spinal stenosis. Wright had hoped to put off that procedure until after this career, but realized his last, best chance to play meant enduring it now. He has to allocate rehab time each day for both back and shoulder, and has yet to participate in any on-field activities.
“I come in here and my uniform is completely brand new,” Wright said, literally touching the No. 5 in his locker. “You see everyone else putting on a uniform and playing. There is excitement in their voices. I go and do rehab to try to put myself in the best position to play. The mental part of coming in and knowing you bring nothing to the table as far as helping the team get ready for the season and helping the team win, for me, is the hardest part; as hard as physical part of the rehab process.”
He says he continues the joyless work so that “my head can hit the pillow and I know I made every effort to play.” But the reality is Jose Reyes has outlasted him as a playing Met and Tim Tebow is more probable to take a 2018 major league at-bat than Wright, who is both present and absent daily from Met camp. He has morphed from Captain America to Captain Emeritus.
“As time passes and you spend all this time rehabbing, you sit and think what if I had done this or that,” Wright said. “What if when I originally fractured my back [in 2011], I had just come out of that game and not played for the next month? But then you think it wasn’t a fault of mine or anybody. You just do things. I was lucky to play as long as I did as healthy as I did.”
Not long enough, though. These days teams think about depth of 25- and 40-man rosters plus rests for players much more so than in the past. Players like Rolen were expected to play 150-plus games annually to keep inadequate backups off the field. Rolen never did that after his age-28 season, getting over 140 just once in his 30s.
Adrian Beltre essentially has been the healthy version of Rolen, averaging 148 games in his age 31-37 seasons (2010-16), which has helped him get to 3,000 hits, in the range of 500 homers and almost certain Hall access. Wright, meanwhile, has just 209 games and 20 homers in the four seasons since turning 31, and it does not appear likely that he will even get a 210th game.
“It will drive you crazy if you play the ‘what if’ game,” Wright said. But he thanked me for showing him Players A, B and C. “You don’t realize it going through it, but this makes you feel good about the kind of player I was.”
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