FOX Sports Exclusive
Mets need to make it right with Wright
Haven’t the Wilpons learned their lesson from the Jose Reyes fiasco? Haven’t they figured out that Wright, even more so than his former wingman, is essential to the franchise’s legitimacy?
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that a contract is indeed in the formative stages — that Wright will have a commitment by the offseason, possibly by summer’s end. That sounds about right, since Fred Wilpon was calling Wright a “superstar” at the press conference to announce the Mets’ hosting of the 2013 All-Star Game.
Still, you have to wonder why the process has taken even this long. Wright has satisfied every criteria for the security he deserves, including a bang-up performance so far in 2012, the year the Mets are supposed to be fighting for relevancy. They emerged from the Madoff scandal as no one’s idea of a contender, not even for the second wild-card spot, yet here they are, six weeks into the season with a better record than the Yankees.
Wright? All he’s done in his age-29 season is lead the majors with a .411 average, showing signs of finally cracking the code on plate discipline. Wright’s strikeouts are down by a third from last season, as his walk ratio has increased by nearly 50 percent. The rest of the Mets are following Wright’s lead, with the team now tops in the majors with 3.98 pitches per plate appearance.
That’s not to say the Mets are ready for a sustained run at the Nationals or Braves, and the recent blowups by the bullpen — notably the disaster in Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to the Reds, when a 3-2 lead with nine outs to go went up in flames — suggests this is still a work in progress.
But part of rehabilitating the Mets is convincing the ticket-buying public there’s a financial after-life beyond Madoff. If the Wilpon family wants fans to have faith — and to keep spending money — there’s iron-clad logic that says make the first move. Give Wright a deal.
Unlike Reyes, who was looking for a $100 million payday wherever it came from, Wright is likely to give the Mets a hometown discount if they start negotiating now, before he’s eligible for free agency after 2013. The Mets hold a $16 million option for next season, but assuming there’s money in the team’s coffers, it’d be prudent to extend Wright for at least five more years in the $110 million range.
It would help, of course, if the Mets had a dependable revenue stream after losing an estimated $70 million last year. Despite a respectable start, attendance is still down 10 percent from last year and the question remains how ownership will pay off some $500 million in outstanding loans to the banks. The Wilpon could be waiting on Wright for the most obvious reason of all — they need better cash flow before writing their superstar a big check.
But the good news is, no one disputes his worth, least of all Fred Wilpon, who told reporters on Tuesday, “I love David Wright. He’s one of the great people, not only in baseball. He’s a great young man … and proving himself to be a great baseball player. Not just a good baseball player, but a great baseball player. So of course we really want him.”
For now, Wilpon is deferring to Sandy Alderson, insisting it’ll be the GM’s decision what to do about Wright’s future. Those pronouncements are just so much hot air: This is ownership’s call, not the front office. It’s an easy one, too. Wright has earned his pay day and shouldn’t have to wait any longer.
It’s far too early for the Yankees to second-guess the decisions they made this winter, notably the $10 million investment in Hiroki Kuroda. But no one would say they’re pleased with the way the 37-year-old veteran has performed thus far, especially after allowing three home runs (in five innings) in an 8-1 flogging by the Blue Jays Wednesday night.
Kuroda was supposed to be a billboard of professionalism, mature enough to figure out the transition from the light-hitting NL West, where he’d spent four successful seasons with the Dodgers, to the monstrous AL East. But so far, Kuroda hasn’t shown enough velocity to generate swings-and-misses in the strike zone, instead relying on expanding the zone and getting hitters to chase sliders off the plate.
So far, it hasn't worked, as AL hitters are swinging at 41.4 percent of Kuroda's pitches this year, or 5.8 percent less than in 2011. Kuroda is fooling hitters at a diminished rate, as well:, getting 30.9 percent of swings out of the strike zone last year, but only 26.1 this year
“That (philosophy) might work in the other league, but hitters will make you work here (in the AL),” said one American League talent evaluator. “You have to show them you have at least one pitch you can beat them with in the strike zone. I haven’t seen that from Kuroda on a consistent basis yet.”
The Yankees are monitoring Pettitte just as closely following a lackluster effort against the Mariners last Sunday. Everything was in place for a resounding homecoming, but Pettitte, who hadn’t pitched since Game 3 of the 2010 Championship Series, simply couldn’t generate enough spin on his signature pitch, the cut fastball, to fool Seattle’s hitters.
Of the 32 cutters he threw, Pettitte couldn’t get a single swing and miss, which left the Yankees wondering what’s in store. Was Pettitte, who allowed four runs (and two HRs) in 6.1 innings, rusty because of a 16-month layoff? Or is this all he’s got as a pitcher about to turn 40?
The Yankees won’t deny their premise of superiority is pegged to their veterans. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are both under-performing, but if Kuroda and Pettitte can’t stabilize the rotation, getting to the postseason will be problematic.
More Stories From Bob Klapisch