This is as good a moment as any to note that none of this matters much in the context of a lost Mets season that has been overtly dreamlike for months now—games played in swirling mists in the dead of night, grim processions of fungible and anonymous relievers trudging from the bullpen and allowing consecutive doubles for the better part of an hour, the jacknifing cadaver of José Reyes hotly disputing called third strikes, the nightmare gravity with which deGrom’s brilliant starts are reliably fumbled away and ruined. When it became clear that Wright intended to return this year, team officials pumped the brakes as only they could or would. There was some obfuscatory shit from upstairs about different medical standards for the minors and the majors, some strained language about wanting Wright back but only as “a contributor” who presumably might help the team win its 75th game at some point. There was that insurance money at stake, but also a familiar rancid principle specific to this team’s risibly petty owners. The Wilpons wanted to be seen as being in charge of whatever wound up happening. Given how strangely and how poorly it was all handled, how long it all took, and how circuitous and arbitrary and strewn with three-point turns the route to Thursday wound up being, it was clear that they were.


What is infuriating about the Mets is not that they don’t win, but that they don’t change. The team’s starting pitching has mostly been excellent and some young hitters appear to have taken some important steps forward of late; the team has probably played well enough since the All-Star break that ownership will be able to justify doing what it does every offseason and presume that things will just be different next year. The team will add two or three of the types of veterans that ownership prefers—a Proven Closer, a clean-shaven man who hit 28 homers three or four years ago, a 31-year-old reliever on a two-year deal—and then gesture heatedly at those signings for months, through a local tabloid, as proof that the owners aren’t as cheap or backwards or venal or overmatched as basically everyone believes them to be. In time the team will retire Wright’s jersey and give him some sort of ceremonial or instructional job; even they can’t fuck that up. But Wright is at least nearly free of all this. He will get to play, and then he will get to leave.

Wright gave the Mets much more than he got. He did that when he played like a Hall of Famer through the first half of his career, when he signed a discounted extension during a superheated offseason, when he broke his body trying to carry a series of hopeless and haphazard teams and when he defied that to help the team make a giddy World Series run. He did it again, on his own in empty minor league stadiums six hours or seven hours before game time. “When I really started ramping up baseball stuff,” Wright said on Thursday, and then stopped for a moment. “For me ... waking up in the morning, something is always a concern. Whether it’s my back, my neck, my shoulder. Some days the pain in those areas, or all three of the areas, can be moderate and manageable. And sometimes it was too painful to think about baseball.”


And yet it was clearly more painful to stop thinking about it. Wright did not push himself through years of pain just for the greater glory of his stupid, stupid team; he is a competitor and he found in his hardship something to push against even when the sport that’s given structure and shape to his life seemed far away. He said Thursday and many times before that he wants his two young daughters, both born after his last big-league game, to see him play. They’re very little—Madison, his youngest, was born in May—and might not remember much of it. But there is also the matter of how Wright wants to remember his career, what he did and what he made and finally what he overcame—“For your mind and your heart to say ‘go go go’,” he said on Thursday, “and your body to say ‘not today’”—to make it back even for one day. It is clearly important to the memory he wants to make that his children be there for it. It was the only moment on Thursday when he was obviously crying.

A friend of mine paid one single American dollar for club seats at a Mets game earlier this week; standing room seats for Wright’s last start currently start at $115 on StubHub. The David Wright who’ll take the field will be not be the same as the one who dignified and illuminated this dim and undignified team for so long. It is difficult to know what to expect, and probably unwise to expect too much. “I’d like to make the plays,” Wright said when asked. “And I’d like to get a hit or two.” Whatever happens in those moments will matter less to the people paying to say goodbye and I’d wager to Wright himself than everything that led to them. Not the grifty pettifoggery from management that deferred and confused it at the end; those stains just keep coming out, somehow. It’s the untouchable rest—what he gave and what he got, how he won what he won and how he finally lets it go.