Michael Baron, ContributorAs many times as Chipper Jones dug the dagger in our hearts for the better part of the last 20 years, there’s no denying his greatness and what he’s meant to the Braves organization. Both Chipper and David Wright are very similar players in that both are iconic players for their respective teams and own their own places in the history of their organizations.
In watching and listening to Chipper on Friday night, it made me immediately think about Wright (and Jose Reyes for that matter) and his stamp on the organization to date. I couldn’t help but think about Wright during Friday night’s ceremony – I envisioned Wright in a similar setting ten or so years from now, standing at home plate at Citi Field, and celebrating his career with a sold out ballpark. Like Chipper, Wright’s value to the Mets goes beyond what he does on the field – as I said, he is an iconic player, but what he represents in terms of their brand and identity define who he is and who the Mets are. After all, anyone who thinks about the Mets thinks about David Wright. As Sandy (and most fans) would say, he is the ‘face of the franchise.’ That carries a definition which goes beyond the physical game of baseball. It’s important for every team to have a Chipper Jones, David Wright or a Derek Jeter to represent their identity and brand for not just the life of a single contract.
It’s so rare to see players stay with one organization for as long as Chipper has been with the Braves, especially with the advent of free agency and the extraordinarily large amount of money players make today. Chipper has been an element of consistency in a consistent and stable organization with a consistent direction and has become this generation’s Hank Aaron to the Braves as a result. For the most part, Wright has been that same element of consistency for the Mets (for half the time) since he first came up in 2004, although the organization around him has been in flux since his arrival: Wright has played under three General Managers and four field managers in the big leagues and the direction of the franchise has been in question at times.
Still, the Mets need to make Wright that generational player and their Chipper Jones – they need to maintain their brand, identity, and connection with their history. Yes, signing Wright would prove the Mets can invest in players, retain homegrown superstars, are dedicated to rebuilding a winning team and a winning philosophy, and the rest of those basics we talk about endlessly with this team. But in the case of Wright, the significance is so much greater than that. Retaining Wright would help rebuild a trust which is severely lacking among the fan base right now. It would restore faith in the organization’s willingness and ability to identify and connect with that base, and it would ensure a continuous relationship and legacy with one of the best players in franchise history for the rest of his career.
It’s important for both the team and the game’s history to be able to have ceremonies like the one put on for Chipper the other night, and the Mets are presented with an opportunity to maybe celebrate a player in similar fashion in the years to come. But it’s up to the Mets to step up, prove themselves to the player, and retain that same superstar icon, and embrace such an opportunity. And, that time is now…