This Date In Mets History: December 20 — David Wright Is Born To Be A Met

USA TODAY Sports

Third baseman is still counting his early birthday gift from Papa Fred and Uncle Sandy.

Happy, happy, happy birthday to David Wright. The triple “happys” express thanks for the three times the Mets failed to lose the man who is arguably the greatest position player in the team’s history. His saga goes something like this:

Bad News: Having won the 2000 NL pennant, the Mets weren't going to pick any higher than 26th — and we lost that slot to the A’s for signing Kevin Appier.

Good News: The loss of free agent Mike Hampton to the Rockies afforded the Mets two supplemental picks.

Bad News: With their first pick (No. 18 overall) the Mets selected Aaron Heilman.

Good News: Amazingly, after 19 more players were drafted — today a Who’s NOT Who of failed prospects and marginal major leaguers — Wright was still available and Mets snapped him up.

Bad News: In July of 2002, Steve Phillips wanted to swap 19-year-old A-ball player Wright for 32-year-old outfielder Jose Cruz Jr., who was already showing signs of decline.

Good News: Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi (perhaps knowing he would someday be working for the Mets?) turned the deal down!

Wright quickly climbed the ladder, played his first game as a Met on July 21, 2004, and never looked back. Two years later, Omar Minaya, when he was still a genius, locked him up for six years for a mere $55 million. Flash forward to December 2011…

Bad News: Amid the post-Madoff maelstrom, the Mets let Jose Reyes walk, raising concerns that Wright, eligible for free agency after the 2013 season, would be next, and spurring a year’s worth of disturbing trade rumors.

GREAT News: On Nov. 30, 2012, the Mets ponied up $138 million for an eight-year contract extension, making David Wright, for all intents and purposes, a Met for life.

Birthdays

Belated happy birthday to catcher Tom Wilson, who turned 42 yesterday. Sorry, Tom, but I must have confused you with fellow 2004 backstop Vance Wilson. It’s hard to see faces behind those masks.

Transactions

On December 20, 1996, GM Joe McIlvaine pulled off the biggest coup of his Mets career, getting first baseman John Olerud from Toronto for marginally talented, generically named pitcher Robert Person. The kicker is that “Trader Joe” got the Blue Jays to pay $5 million of Olerud’s $6,500,000 salary for 1997.

McIlvaine’s immediate successor, Steve Phillips, made his last good move as GM on this date in 2002, signing outfielder Cliff Floyd to a $26 million, four-year contract with the Mets.

Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection

Branch Rickey was born on this date in 1881. He is most fondly remembered as the man who brought Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers, breaking Major League Baseball’s racial barrier. Most fans entering Citi Field pass through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, where a huge, Dodger-blue number 42 and several video displays pay tribute to the pioneering Hall of Fame second baseman. In 1959, Rickey was named president of the proposed Continental League, enhancing its legitimacy and moving MLB owners to thwart the new enterprise by agreeing to expand both the AL and NL by two teams each, one of which would become the New York Mets.

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