Show Back Pain Out The Door

For a class that’s changed how I see the Mets just as much as it’s changed the way I write about them, I’ve been working, recently, on an essay about David Wright.  Entitled “The Captain Gets His Due,” and of course inspired by Updike — my readers, I think, are the kind of people who get the reference and know who Updike is — it chronicles the tragedies and triumphs of his career, and ends with, nine years after Wright expected it, his first World Series home run.

It’s a helluva piece, if I do say so myself; maybe, at some point, I’ll publish it here.  I think — and I don’t say this lightly — that it’s some of the best stuff I’ve written.

That essay was turned in today.  So, of course, David proceeded to take the field in Philadelphia, the site of his emotional comeback last August, hammer two home runs, and just generally prove that far from being the zombie as which he’s now being referred to sarcastically, he’s still a ballplayer, and a good one at that.

If he’d just had this game a week ago, it could have figured prominently: David Wright, days after hearing murmurs that a sloppy Opening Day meant his playing career was nearing its end, proved beyond doubt that until he gives in and hangs ‘em up, he’s here to stay.

But it didn’t, so it couldn’t.  All I got for personal anecdotal material was a two hit game in a loss, which actually worked better than I thought it would: “David Wright does his job, but team loses, through no fault of his” is a pretty representative narrative of Wright’s twelve year career.

But hell, it’s worth it.  Anyone who chooses David Wright as the subject of a final paper is someone who likes seeing David Wright succeed — as you’ve no doubt already discerned, I’m no exception.  And watching the captain hammer two home runs against those loathsome Phillies, against whom we were due for some wins after two dreadfully unlucky losses at home…well, it doesn’t get better than that, even if it would have made great fodder for an essay but came one day late.

Wright homered in the first.  He bashed that one, to the back of the first level of outfield seats.  He flied to center his next at bat — “Missed it by that much,” I muttered.  He hit a bullet his next time around, that Maikel Franco somehow snagged on a dive and threw to first in time.  Then he struck out, and just when it seemed the day was lost, he reminded us that he’s our captain, and though he may be 33 years old, wracked with stenosis, and inexorably getting older, he’s not ready to quit being a hitter quite yet.  He flied a ball out to right, and it carried, and carried, until it landed in the outfield seats again.

It’s the kind of thing you have to think he deserves, after the rotten luck he’s run into over his entire career.  Seasons lost to injuries.  A career derailed by a move to a new stadium and subsequent adjustments to his swing that never seemed to take.  He’s been almost perpetually working to return from something or other, and somehow, he’s done it every time.

A successful return in 2010, with 29 home runs.  A successful return in 2012, with 21 homers, a .306 average, and a top 10 MVP finish.  A successful return in 2015, after a hamstring pull, back and shoulder injuries, and ultimately, spinal stenosis.  And finally, a successful return in 2016, after many had declared his season dead on arrival.

Some wonder how he keeps coming back.  I’ll respond, he’s David bleeping Wright.  He’s our captain.  Of course he’s going to keep coming back.

There were, if you’re picky about formalities like the score in games where David Wright is looking young and eager once again, other things going on.  Thor was on the mound, so you barely need ask; a near mirror image of his previous start, if you’re somehow unaware.  Seven innings, one run — that scored on just about the weakest line drive you’ve ever seen, which snuck through the infield because Asdrubal Cabrera, for some reason, was playing Odubel Herrera to pull against 100 MPH heat — and eight strikeouts.  2-0 on the season, E.R.A. of 0.90.

He’s Thor; what did you expect?  The best part, at least for me, was that he wasn’t even at his best today.  He was close, but his breaking pitches weren’t the absolute sharpest that I’ve seen them.  His command, at times, wasn’t perfect.  A performance like this, and still with relatively easily attainable room for improvement?  Sign me up for that, especially if it comes against a division rival on a night that the Nationals lose again, dropping two in a row after their hot start.  Not that I’m scoreboard watching in April, of cou—

No, I’m lying, of course.  Make of it what you will.  I won’t address it any further.

And the offense — how much fun is an offense like this, once it gets itself out of those brief and inexplicable funks?  Neil Walker pokes another homer, just for the hell of it.  Cespedes triples.  Duda doubles and homers, almost slamming the ball off the giant image of his face.  Maybe this will prove the start of one of his obscene, nine-homers-in-eight-games tears.  Maybe not, but we got this one nonetheless.

And can we talk, just briefly, about Asdrubal Cabrera?  Sure, the part of me that remembers the 2007 Mets can’t help but think that when his BABIP goes down, he’ll be right back to square one, namely a disappointment.  But the guy can hit; we saw it in the second half of last year, when he started driving the ball, and now we’re seeing it again, as pitch after pitch gets turned around and shot through the hole and before we know it we’ve got another runner on.  That’s not even to mention the solidness that GK&R keep referring to at shortstop, a refreshing upgrade over Wilmer, for whom every ground ball even slightly to either side would somehow come to necessitate a 540º spin, or some kind of ridiculous maneuver that, far too often, drew the same, predictable reaction:

“Hey, that was cool!  But I wish he’d gotten him.”

I like Cabrera, is all I’m saying.  It’s hard not to like a shortstop who’s batting .300 and making all the plays.  Of course, there will come a time, I’m sure, when I curse his name and bemoan ever having signed him — but for now, it’s nice to be surprised.

We’ve got Logan Verrett, who you just can’t help but feel good about, on the mound tomorrow, against Vince Velasquez, who is due for a reminder that even if you’ve got good stuff, every once in a while, you run headlong into a goddamn wall.  And with the offense we showed tonight, I don’t see any reason that we can’t be the ones to deliver it.

We’re right back where we wanted to be — from 2-5, we’re 6-6, and in the middle of the hunt once again.  And guess what — we’ll keep winning, the Nationals will keep losing, and before long, we’ll be right back where we belong in first place.  Right now, after such a quality win, we all, it seems, can’t help but believe that.

I’ve believed it from the start, at 2-5 every bit as much as 2-1.  But if it took Thor, Duda, Walker, and the captain to make you believe, that’s fine too.

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