For as long as he has played baseball and for as well as he has played it, All-Star third baseman David Wright candidly admits he has never quite figured it out.
07/19/2010 2:11 PM ET
David Wright is back on top
Mets third baseman was named NL Player of Month for June
By Hal Bock / MLBPLAYERS.com
On May 15, six weeks and 36 games into the season, Wright had 22 runs batted in. He was hitless in nine straight at-bats, leading the league in strikeouts, drifting along with a .272 batting average and far removed from the All-Star discussion.
Over the next 45 games, he drove in 42 runs to take over the National League lead in RBIs. For the month of June, Wright led the National League with a .404 batting average and 29 RBIs and was named the NL Player of the Month and the starting third baseman for the All-Star Game.
So how do you explain this? Did somebody throw a switch?
"That's baseball," Wright said. "There's good and there's bad. You go out week after week. Sometimes, you feel great. Sometimes, you don't. You can go out for a few weeks, and everything is clicking. Then you can go out for a couple of weeks and feel like you never played the game before. It can change in no time. One at-bat, one pitch can get you going and reverse things.
"That's what makes this game so great. You can never figure it out. You have to have a short memory. You can't dwell on games after they're over. It's a curse for a baseball player to live for yesterday. You can't get caught up in patting yourself on the back."
Still, Wright deserves a pat on the back for a terrific June. He became the first player in Mets history to hit .400 with 25 or more RBIs in a calendar month. He had a .683 slugging percentage and .447 on-base percentage with 11 doubles and six home runs.
The big month pushed Wright to his fifth consecutive All-Star berth and fourth in the starting lineup. Wright was humbled by the selection.
"It never gets old," he said. "Playing with the best players in the game, it's an incredible honor, and I'm excited for it. Five straight All-Star games ... you never expect that, you never imagine that. When you're a kid growing up, you think if you could get to one, it would be great. It's humbling and it's exciting."
In the five weeks when All-Star voting was heating up, Wright went on a tear to overtake the Phillies' Placido Polanco for the starting third-base post. After May 30 and into the first week of July, Wright was hitting .411 with 19 multihit games and scorching left-handed pitching for a league-leading .424 average.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of Wright's first half were his 14 home runs after he managed just 10 for all of 2009. And at the halfway point, he was closing in on last season's 72 RBIs, a total that was well under what the Mets were accustomed to getting from their third baseman.
Last season, Wright seemed a bit overwhelmed by Citi Field, the Mets new home, and a challenging ballpark for home runs. The falloff from four straight seasons of 25-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI years was startling. Then there was the frightening pitch by Matt Cain that hit Wright in the head on Aug. 15, 2009, an exclamation point to what was a lost season. Even though he batted .307, the drop in power numbers was alarming.
After a winter's worth of work with hitting coach Howard Johnson, Wright made a statement that things would be different this year when he tagged Florida ace Josh Johnson for a Citi Field home run on Opening Day.
His swing seemed more level, and he played Gold Glove defense, bidding again for an award he has won twice. He seemed like the old David Wright.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.