What, exactly, makes David Wright a key Met?
Through his first 4 full seasons in the Major Leagues, David Wright was simply a picture of consistency. You could pretty much lock him in for a .310 batting average, 27-30 HRs and about 110 RBIs. And nowhere did he ever deviate from these figures.
Then came last season.
I don't know if Wright's struggles necessarily came from the lack of protection around him in the lineup, or because he was pressing within the spacious new confines of his home ballpark. In reality, it shouldn't have made much of a difference. Shea Stadium wasn't much of a hitters park either, and boasted swirling winds that bordered madness. That didn't seem to bother Wright all that much.
I think it started somewhere down the stretch in 2008. In the midst of a stretch drive where Wright's numbers wouldn't have necessarily revealed his struggles, Wright somehow got away from the natural opposite-field stroke that he made his name on over his first few seasons. I've made mention of his screwed-up swing on more than one occasion, but at some point late in 2008, it must have gotten in his head, because he started pressing, and failing in some pretty major situations, and in the end it cost the Mets some precious games that would have made a difference in the outcome of the season. Despite the fact that these late and close situations were spots he once thrived in, Wright got saddled with the "unclutch" label.
But sometimes, it's not so much if you fail, it's how you react to failing, and I get the impression that Wright's struggles may be happening because of how he reacted to failing, and the effect his failures had on the team.
It's magnified even more when you consider Wright's role on the team as the de facto Captain, a tag he's been given whether he wants it or not. For better or worse, he's the face of the franchise and has been so for several years now. He's the guy everyone looks to, win or lose. And as such, he is constantly judged on a far steeper curve than anyone else on the team.
It's not as though he doesn't care. If anything, Wright cares too much about the performance of the team and the performance of himself. You can tell that he wears the failures of '07 and '08, and the misery of last year on his sleeve. He wants to do better. But part of the problem he ran into last year is that since everyone fell around him, Wright somehow felt that it was his duty to shoulder the load all on his own, and he simply can't do that. He has to trust that the guys around him can get the job done, no matter who they may be. Yesterday, in my NL Preview, I said that Wright was the kind of player who can, on occasion, will his team to victory. And he is. But he can't be expected to do that game after game after game. It's not logical, and it makes him crazy.
It's not enough to just say that Wright's simply going to bounce back and have a great, typical David Wright season. The guys around him have to perform as well, but that's not the point. Wright has to realize that not only can he not do it all himself, but he also has to accept the fact that he's given a harsher grade, and to be perfect all the time is impossible. Failures will happen. How he reacts will go a long way to telling us what kind of season he's going to have. If he strikes out with the bases loaded and then goes on WFAN after the game and sounds like he's about to burst into tears, it's not encouraging. If he says, "We'll get 'em tomorrow" and then goes back out and gets 3 hits and 3 RBIs, then you know he'll be OK.
It's all right for him to wear his emotions on his sleeve. That's just how he is. But he can't let them consume him all the time. It's at the point where it has too much of a negative effect on his overall performance. Relax!