The ninth inning of Tuesday night's loss to the Braves isn't one that David Wright is going to look back on fondly when he reaches the end of his career. He struck out with a runner on third against old teammate Billy Wagner in the top of the frame and he threw away a routine grounder in the other half to give Atlanta a 3-2 win and a series split.
The strikeout was the third of the night and 55th of the young season for Wright, numbers that have brought the knives out once again. Wright is getting ripped in all corners on Wednesday, with Mike Vaccaro's work in the Post representing the general voices of displeasure about the best player on the Mets. Vaccaro poses the following question:
What do you do when the cornerstone of your baseball team becomes a millstone around its neck?
It must be nice to watch baseball games played by one player. They're faster, for one thing, and it makes it much easier to come up with a scapegoat for the problems of a team that most people would acknowledge has flaws coming out of their ears.
Wright has struggled this season, especially defensively. He's also struck out in each of the last 15 games and, as mentioned above, is on pace for a ridiculous number this season. Coming off of a poor 2009, it's reasonable to ask if Wright's development as a player has taken a turn that's left him as less than everyone imagined he'd be after the 2008 season came to an end.
But a millstone around the neck of the franchise? That's mighty simplistic and simply doesn't hold up to even a minimum of scrutiny. Wright has been, by a wide margin, the best offensive player on the Mets this season. The only two guys who come close are Rod Barajas and Ike Davis, neither of whom have been asked to carry anything close to the load that Wright has been tasked with carrying for this team.
Why isn't Jason Bay, the $55 million man on pace for a home run total that makes the Wright of 2009 look like Barry Bonds, the millstone for this franchise? Why isn't it Jeff Francoeur or Jose Reyes or any of the other empty uniforms who failed to put up any runs against a guy making his sixth career start? Better yet, why isn't it Howard Johnson, the hitting coach who hasn't found a way to get any of these guys going or a way to help Wright come up with an approach that doesn't lead to quite so many strikeouts?
Those are millstones. The starting pitchers are millstones. The general manager is a millstone. The only people who think otherwise are the ones who have deluded themselves into thinking Wright is the guy holding this team back from greatness.
Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.