Sarah Langs, Intern & Special Contributor
Ten years ago today, David Wright made his major league debut. He went 0 for 4, but his team eked out a 5-4 victory after blowing an early 3-0 lead. His first big-league hit, a double, came the next day >> Watch here. He has since become the organization’s all-time leader in a number of offensive categories, including hits, doubles and RBI.
“Coming into the clubhouse and seeing your jersey hanging for the first time, it was pretty surreal,” Wright said of his debut (New York Post, July 15). “I probably tried my jersey on and stood in front of the mirror for quite some time that day soaking it all in.”
In 2004, when Wright first stepped on the field at Shea Stadium, the baseball world was pretty different. The Red Sox were still “cursed,” as were the Chicago White Sox. Barry Bonds was the offensive ruler of the National League, if not all of baseball. Roger Clemens won the National League Cy Young Award. And the Florida – not Miami – Marlins were the reigning World Series champs.
The National League East landscape looked a bit different back then, too…
The Montreal Expos still existed. They drew only 749,550 fans to their home ballpark that year and in the subsequent offseason moved to Washington, D.C. But those Expos were the Mets’ opposition that Wednesday at Shea Stadium.
There were a few players on the visiting club that day who would eventually end up teammates with Wright at one point or another: the catcher, Brian Schneider, and the final Montreal reliever of the afternoon, Luis Ayala. The visiting centerfielder, too, worked his way into Mets lore, two years after Wright’s debut. It was Endy Chavez, who hit a home run on that July afternoon. He hit it to right-center, not yet interacting with that left field wall he’d make so famous in 2006.
The leadoff man for the Mets that afternoon was a young Jose Reyes, playing second base because Kaz Matsui was the shortstop in Flushing then. Reyes entered the day with a .241 batting average and seven stolen bases. His 2004 season, which he’d finish with a .255 average and 19 steals, was a far cry from the player he’d mature into later on, side-by-side with Wright on the left side of the infield.
The team took a 5-4 lead into the ninth. The closer was Braden Looper. Remember him?
The first time he took the field in Flushing, Wright was 21 years old. The oldest player in baseball that year was 45-year-old Julio Franco, who would retain his post as the sport’s eldest for the next 3 years, the final two in a Met uniform. The youngest, though he’d debut a few weeks after Wright, was Wright’s former AAU teammate B.J Upton, at age 19.
Some other notable 2004 debuts include a 20-year-old Scott Kazmir and Wright’s future teammate David Aardsma.
Another player who debuted on that exact day was Grady Sizemore, for the Cleveland Indians. Two days later, a pitcher named John Maine threw his first major league pitch for the Baltimore Orioles. He’d go on to play a key role in the Mets’ only playoff season Wright has been a part of in 2006.
The number two pick in the amateur baseball draft that year was a pitcher named Justin Verlander.
On the other end of the spectrum, the 2004 season marked the final season for some notable players. Barry Larkin and Edgar Martinez retired after that year. So, too, did former Mets Roberto Alomar, Robin Ventura, Rey Ordonez, Todd Zeile, and the memorable Turk Wendell. Zeile was the only one of that bunch to play his final game while in a Met uniform, though.
The only two managers still in their posts from that 2004 season are the Angels’ Mike Scoscia and the Twins’ Ron Gardenhire. That means 28 different clubs have changed leadership at least once, and many multiple times.
Enough about the lay of the land on July 21, 2004, what did Wright actually do, other than the hitless debut? Well, he went on to hit .293 that season, with 14 homers and 40 RBI in 69 games. Those stats set the foundation for the franchise records he has today.
In the 10 years since he was called up, he’s hit .300 for his career, second only to John Olerud in career average as a Met. He’s scored the most runs in Mets history, with 894. He is the Mets’ all time hits leader, as well as the club leader in doubles and RBI. He trails Darryl Strawberry for the club home run crown by only 22 dingers.
Wright is by far the longest-tenured Met on this current squad. The second-longest tenured member of the 40-man roster is Daniel Murphy, who debuted more than two years later, in August of 2008. On the franchise scale, Wright is second to only Ed Kranepool in games played in a NYM uniform, but has more at bats.
The Mets’ captain has the highest total WAR of any player to debut in 2004, at 49.3 for his career so far.
And he’s still under contract through 2020. He’s played ten years in a Mets uniform as of today, but still has six and a half seasons — at least — left to further entrench himself in Metropolitan lore. Barring an unforeseen trade or serious injury, he’ll pad those stats quite heftily before he leaves Flushing, making it no small task for the next big prospect to cement himself atop the leaderboards the way Wright has.
The goal each season is a playoff berth and a World Series victory, not individual player accomplishments. But as an individual, regardless of what’s gone on around him, Wright’s made quite a name for himself.
Sarah is an intern at SNY.