By Matt Citak
In sports, there is no better narrative than a good comeback story.
In recent years, we’ve witnessed some amazing and inspirational accounts of athletes defying odds to return to the sport that they love.
There is no better example of this then NFL quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater was a first-round pick back in 2014 and put together two promising campaigns to begin his NFL career. But then the young QB sustained a horrific knee injury prior to the 2016 season and was forced to miss almost all of the next two years.
This season, Bridgewater has not only made his return to the field, but he has also looked impressive while doing so. No matter what team you root for, you can’t help but cheer Bridgewater on as he proves his critics wrong and solidifies his place in the NFL for years to come.
Attempting to make a comeback in professional sports after missing two full years because of an injury is by no means an easy feat.
Which is why David Wright’s efforts to make it back onto the baseball diamond should be both applauded and rewarded.
Wright is a 7-time All-Star, 2-time Gold Glove Award winner, and 2-time Silver Slugger recipient. He has been a member of the New York Mets since he entered the majors in 2004, where he currently holds numerous franchise records and has served as the team’s captain since 2013. He joined the 30-30 club with his impressive 2007 campaign that saw him finish fourth in the NL MVP vote, and was nicknamed Captain America after his strong performance in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
During New York’s surprising run to the World Series in 2015, Wright was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. This condition makes it incredibly difficult for an athlete to prepare his body for the rigors of playing professional sports on a daily basis. In fact, when Wright was with the team towards the beginning of the 2016 season (his last major league action), he would need 4-5 hours of physical therapy, exercise, and some minimal batting and fielding drills just to get his body ready for each game.
Despite all of his efforts to get on the field, the third baseman has been unable to appear in a major league game since May 27, 2016. For those keeping track, that’s over 27 months since he last played for the Mets. During that span, the 35-year-old has undergone three surgeries, all while he continues to manage the spinal stenosis.
While the road has been tough, Wright has refused to give up on continuing his MLB career. He has spent this entire summer working his way back into playing shape, and recently even began a minor-league rehab assignment.
Wright played 10 games with the St. Lucie Mets over a two-week span, going 6-for-32 (.188) with two RBIs. This week he was promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas to continue his rehab, and even went 1-for-4 with a run scored in his first game there.
Although he has struggled in this recent minor league action, just the fact that he has been able to return to the field on a somewhat regular basis is a tremendous sign for both Wright and Mets fans.
But as one will learn as a fan of New York’s “other” team, things are never as good as they seem.
Wright’s 20-day minor league rehab assignment concludes Friday. Earlier this week, assistant general manager John Ricco told reporters that despite his efforts to return to the majors, it is unlikely Wright will play with the team in 2018. While Ricco claimed it was because of Wright’s performance on the field, it is quite easy to read between the lines and see that the Mets are hesitant to let Wright return due to financial reasons.
After his 2015 diagnosis, the Mets took out an insurance policy in which the team would recover 75 percent of Wright’s yearly salary when he is unable to play. In 2018, New York is set to get $15 million back of the $20 million Wright earned. If the captain were to return and prove healthy enough to be on the roster next season, regardless of his performance level, the team would not collect on the insurance. He is due to make $27 million over the next two years, the final two seasons of his contract.
So despite Ricco telling us otherwise, the Mets are clearly worried about losing some money if they allow Wright to make his well-deserved return.
As a lifelong Mets fan, I couldn’t be more disappointed with this thought process.
In a season in which New York saw itself rise to the top of MLB within the first two weeks of the season, just to plummet all the way down to the bottom of the league within two months, we could use just a tiny bit of good news.
The team already announced it would not be promoting its top position prospect in Peter Alonso when rosters expand in September. Tim Tebow’s shot at a late-season promotion was crushed when he broke his hand earlier this summer. Management continues to dump as much salary as possible by trading its veteran players for almost nothing. Besides Jacob deGrom’s run at the Cy Young, there is honestly nothing to root for during this lost season.
Enter Captain America.
At 58-73, what is there to lose by promoting one of the greatest players to ever don a Mets jersey for what could be his final few games in professional baseball? A couple of bucks?
If the Mets were to announce Wright’s return in September, I can guarantee you they would see an uptick in ticket sales for the final few home games. I know I would buy tickets to go see Wright play, and I haven’t been to Citi Field since May.
For a team that seems to make every single one of its decisions based on money, the Mets need to do the right thing for once and let its fans see their captain play for one final stretch. Would it cost the team a little bit of money? No doubt. But at the same time, it would provide both Mets fans and baseball fans around the country with one of the better feel-good moments of the season.
Considering how the 2018 season has gone in Queens, one would think that management would jump at this opportunity.
For those of you new to the party, welcome to life as a Mets fan, where up is down, left is right, and the obvious is ignored.
Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.