David Wright found himself in an awkward spot earlier this week when Jeff Wilpon showed up in Port St. Lucie bearing "Underdog" t-shirts for all the players.
There weren't any players who actually got the reference to the old cartoon character and Wright was left to share the fact that the team didn't really feel that they were ready to accept a label put on them from outside the organization. It's not a new situation for Wright.
Over the last few years, Wright has had to step forward as the voice on the team about the departures of valuable teammates, managerial changes, playing in a stadium designed to minimize the effectiveness of the lineup and the financial issues that have been the overwhelming storyline of Mets baseball since we all learned the name Bernie Madoff.
While teammates are free to run around dressed like Hulk Hogan, Wright has to face the music on every single issue.
Wright is always gracious, always thoughtful and knows how to play the media game, but it isn't hard to see that the role is starting to grate on him a bit. It's impossible to be blind to the complete teardown of the roster or the fact that Citi Field isn't full of fans and Wright seems to be aware that the writing is on the wall for his own time with the Mets.
The Mets dropped $50 million from their payroll this offseason and there's no sign that they plan to spend money again anytime soon. Maybe that changes with a positive ruling in the Madoff suit, but it wouldn't make much sense to suddenly shift gears now that Sandy Alderson has started rebuilding the organization around their development system.
Alderson has no ties to Wright and it's hard to believe that the last three years haven't frayed Wright's ties to the Mets. While he might still like to stay here for his whole career, Wright's gotten plenty of doses of baseball reality while watching a good team disappear around him.
Good young pitchers are on their way, but they won't be here and ready to really challenge for a playoff spot until the team has to make a decision about keeping Wright beyond 2013. They have a $16 million option for next season that they are likely to pick up, if only because it will give them more time to showcase Wright in the cozier Citi Field and build up his trade value, but anything beyond that is up in the air.
Wright will have a say in that, too, and he's smart enough to know the decision that he'll have to make at that point. It will be his last huge contract, assuming he can stay healthy while rebounding at the plate, and the choice he makes will likely include an assessment of chances to win a World Series before he hangs up his cleats.
A good season for Wright would be a win-win for player and team because it will give them all options. Those options may all be for a departure, but, if handled correctly, it could be one that leaves both sides in better shape than they've been in for much of their recent relationship.
Maybe things can have a happier ending than that, but, for now, it's enough to cheer something that the Mets do that doesn't end in anger and tears.