The 4th Captain of the New York Mets

Last year I wrote that Wright was, and should be, the captain of the New York Mets. I still believe this, and maybe now more than ever.  In a way the Mets have put all their cards on the table here; they’ve hired some of the brightest people to reboot most of the management team.  Sandy Alderson has talked about having limited flexibility this offseason, but if the current crop of talent can’t show us some success, he’ll have no qualms about using the flexibility of 2012 to find players who can.  It’s imperative that the players work together to the best of their abilities.

Being a leader is more than being the best player on the team, or the “face of the franchise.”  None of us will ever truly know how Wright acts when it’s just players with no media or fans around.  What we do know is that he’s always willing to own up to mistakes, always willing to answer a hard question.  He’s fiercely competitive, and doesn’t accept anything less than total effort.  He openly cheers and roots for his teammates, and is always looking for ways to get better.  He’ll wait on the field to reward a good fielding play by an outfielder, or he’ll go to the mound if he feels the pitcher needs a moment.  If he gets picked off, he doesn’t sulk but opens a dialogue about what prompted him to take the big lead, and what he’s going to do next time.

Naming Wright captain would have other benefits as well.  If some are worried that Terry Collins may be too fiery, installing the calmer Wright as an intermediary would help buffer some of that fire.  Wright would have the authority to direct his players.  If he feels they should come early to take extra batting practice, guys are going to show up for him.  He’s already shown his ability at team-bonding; he orchestrated team haircuts, and the attempted no-shave until .500 quest of 2009.  This is mostly silliness and might not mean anything at all, but Wright’s clearly at the core of this team.

Even if it doesn’t mean anything, Wright as captain would also be beneficial from a marketing stand point.  The vast majority of Mets fans love David Wright, and naming him officially captain would only heighten the lore.  You could sell more gear with a big ‘C’ on it. Newspaper writers would have a field day with dueling images of Wright and Jeter during Subway Series weeks.  Clearly his team likes and supports him, so I see no downside to this title. You don’t name a leader AFTER you win a war, you name him to lead you to victory.  The Mets would benefit from  a unified core with a strong leader as they march into the fierce battle that is the 2011 season.

Read/listen to On The Black’s  take on the subject.

Baseball Equinox

As Faith and Fear in Flushing points out, yesterday was the (Mets) Baseball Equinox. That magical time of year when the start of the baseball season is closer than the end of the last season.  It’s time to look forward.  It’s only 42 (ish, no official date yet) days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on February 13th.

It’s unlikely the entire roster will be clear when that day arrives, or even set in stone on Opening Day.  The Mets aren’t likely to be revealed as a powerhouse out of camp, or be picked by many to even mak

e the playoffs.  Like many teams that go into the season with players with potential, players with talent, and players that need to stay healthy, it’s a fresh start and a fresh chance to change the narrative.

This isn’t a franchise that’s praying and hoping it’s latest batch of draft picks turns out to be superstars that they can control for years and actually compete.  The Mets are an under-performing team that finished around .500 last year. They’ve been cast as injury-prone, washed-up, creaky, soft, or just simply not that good.  As Sandy Alderson fills out the roster, and the Mets report for Spring Training and start showing us what they can do, they’ll have a chance to start changing what they’ve been type-cast as.

Carlos Beltran can hit the season healthy, and prove that a combination of time and his knee-brace can keep him on the field and performing all year long.  David Wright can take the mantle of captain, whether officially or unofficially, and lead this team.  Ike Davis and Jon Niese, among other 2010 rookies, can take that next step forward and become better major league baseball players. R.A. Dickey can assert that he’s a burgeoning knucklerballer, not a one-year wonder. The Mets can start rewriting their story as a well-run, hard-working team of talent rather than the usual mess they’re portrayed as.  It’ll take some effort and success and maybe even luck to start getting the reporters and fans to see this cast of characters as a new team.  Still, the foundation is there.  The Mets have a new general manager and manager that the media would love to cast as saviors.   They’ll be falling over themselves to to explain how Collin’s fiery leadership is leading to wins and success on the field.  They’ll praise Alderson’s construction of the bench, or the bullpen, or his choice at 2B as brilliant.

It’s 2011 and we’re closer to the new season than the old one.  Baseball is around the corner and the Mets have nowhere to go but up.  There are still acquisitions to happen, and jobs to be won, but when the season starts we’ll have a lot to cheer about.