The One Who Stayed

Coming home. - Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

To be a Mets fan was to know your home grown stars would never stay. Until today.

Before today, no one stayed.

For people who aren't Mets fans, you have to understand that this fact weighed on us just as heavily as NO NO HITTERS once did. To be a Mets fan was to know that you could not, and you would not, hold on to players you saw crawl into the majors in a Mets uniform.

Jose Reyes is a crushing example of this, but only the most recent. Before him, no effort was made to re-sign Edgardo Alfonzo, a man who so wanted to stay a Met he bought thank-you ads on the tops of cabs on his way out of town. Before that, Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden left under their own clouds, only to resurface as hired guns for That Other Team in Town. Jerry Koosman ended his career drifting from Minnesota to Chicago to Philadelphia. Tug McGraw was able to tell a whole other fanbase Ya gotta believe!, a phrase so integral to Mets fans' identities that losing it was almost as tragic as losing him.

The man they actually called The Franchise was kicked to the curb by his franchise. Twice.

There were plenty of lesser lights who made their debuts with the Mets but not their exits: Lenny Dykstra. Todd Hundley. Jon Matlack. Then there were the players who were sent off too soon and found their stardom elsewhere. Nolan Ryan. Mike Scott. Kevin Mitchell. Scott Kazmir.

David Wright is one of those players who looked like a Met lifer from day one. But we felt the same way about nearly everyone named above. We once imagined Doc and Straw entering the Hall of Fame as Mets. We once dreamed of Alfonzo in our infield forever, manning second or third or wherever he was told to play because that's what he did. We once thought Tom Seaver would hang up his spikes at Shea. Then we were silly enough to think it again.

The rumors that swirled about Wright's contract negotiations in the last week or so were irrelevant to anyone with this history in mind. How close he appeared to re-upping at any given point was no salve to Mets fans' wounds. To think David Wright might actually become a Met For Life, you had to employ superhuman powers of self-delusion (a useful skill for any Mets fan). This could not happen because it never happened before. Ever. For anyone.

A Met For Life resided in the same category as Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster. To even consider the existence of such a thing was to signal to the world you were a little bit off.

Now, there is such a thing as a Met For Life, and his name is David Wright. There's no point in calculating what value he will provide over the length of his contract or dissecting the brief war in the press over which leaked details were inaccurate. These details pale in comparison to the fact that Mets fans finally have something they were told for decades they could not possess.

Perhaps someone will finally snap a picture of Nessie tomorrow. I wouldn't rule anything out now.

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