LONG BEACH, N.Y. -- Two months ago, David Wright leaned over the railing of Turner Field's visiting dugout as the Braves honored Chipper Jones before his final home game. When he spoke later that afternoon, Wright insisted against drawing parallels between his own career as a lifetime Met and that of Jones, a lifetime Brave.
But his teammates see it differently. Just as R.A. Dickey did a day earlier in Harlem, Jon Niese invoked the Chipper Jones comparison Wednesday in saying he would be "surprised" if Wright does not sign a long-term contract extension with the Mets.
"I know he wants to be what Chipper was in Atlanta," Niese said after helping cleanup efforts in Long Beach, as part of his team's month-long efforts to aid with Hurricane Sandy relief. "He is the face of the franchise and he wants to be a part of it throughout his whole career. You've got to respect a guy like that."
More than any Mets player, Niese has reason to watch Wright's negotiations closely, given that the left-hander is under team control through 2018 -- at least as long as anyone else on the big league roster. Though Niese waded through some trade rumors of his own earlier this offseason, general manager Sandy Alderson has been clear about his hesitancy to dip into the team's starting pitching depth.
That means that five or six years from now, Niese is as good a bet as anyone to remain Wright's teammate -- should the third baseman re-sign, that is.
"It would surprise me [if he did not sign an extension], just because I know the love he has for the city and how he wants to be with the Mets organization his whole career," Niese said. "I would definitely be surprised if he wasn't."
Niese demonstrated some of his own love for the New York City area on Wednesday, attending cleanup efforts at a local ice arena and a church during his stay in Long Beach. The left-hander joined the growing list of Mets who have helped out with Hurricane Sandy recovery, including Johan Santana, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee and Matt Harvey.
"It means a lot," Niese said. "Coming from a small town in Ohio, you appreciate what you have. Especially when a disaster like this happens, it kind of makes everybody step back and makes them appreciate what they have, and how valuable and important their lives are and their valuables are. It's just great to be here to help support them in a troubled time. I'm just glad to be here."
The rest of Niese's offseason promises to be eventful as well. The left-hander plans to undergo a minor heart ablation procedure before Christmas, which should finally rid him of the cardiac arrhythmias that have dogged him throughout his career. A month later, Niese will marry his fiancée, Leah Eckman, who accompanied him to Long Beach on Wednesday.
Then it will be off to Spring Training, where Niese hopes to join Wright and Dickey once again in Florida.
"I guess that's up to the Mets to decide and for David and R.A. to decide," Niese said. "I certainly would love to have them back on the team. Obviously they're two great talents. But I guess we'll just have to wait and see."