Business and pleasure at Wright's gala
At 'Do the Wright Thing' event, Mets star mindful of Hot Stove
"Not only am I lucky I get to go out there and play a game for a living," Wright said, "but I don't have to make those kinds of decisions."
So two days before Major League teams can begin to negotiate with free agents, and less than a month before the Winter Meetings play host to their typical sort of frenzy, Wright continued to concentrate on his own affairs.
Wednesday brought his "Do the Wright Thing" gala back to Times Square, where Wright played host to reigning American Idol David Cook, along with hundreds of guests who paid their way into the annual event. One of the primary fundraisers for the David Wright Foundation, the gala has helped Wright gain a reputation as one of the game's foremost philanthropists -- he was the Mets' most recent nominee for baseball's Roberto Clemente Award.
His foundation, which he founded in 2005 at the age of 22, provides aid and assistance toward the health, emotional development, and education for children in need. Through programs and annual events, the DWF strives to enhance the quality of life for children of the New York, Tri-State, and Norfolk, VA metro areas.
It is here, in New York, where Wright now spends most of his offseason time, foregoing trips home to focus both on his foundation and the lingering sting of September. Though Wright insists on absorbing as much blame as he can for his team's inability to make the playoffs for a second straight year, he admitted on Wednesday that the Mets do need a bit of a "facelift."
"Being in a big market, you always expect that," Wright said. "And the way the season's ended the last couple years, you expect that."
And so Wright, ever the fan, has kept up as best he can with the Hot Stove rumblings of Major League Baseball.
The Mets, he knows, need at least one starting pitcher, and an answer at the back of their bullpen. Many of the Hot Stove's early rumors have centered around the latter, and the Mets have shown a corresponding interest in free-agent closers Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels and Brian Fuentes of the Rockies.
Rodriguez, baseball's new single-season saves king, would come with a higher price tag and higher expectations -- Wright acknowledged that much, calling him "one of the most dominant closers in the game." And it was with that in mind that he discussed Fuentes, hardly a consolation prize in the free-agent sweepstakes.
"I think Fuentes is right up there in the same caliber," Wright said.
What's clear is that the Mets will be making changes, and the bulk of that work will fall to general manager Omar Minaya. Working the phones while Wright finds sponsors and beneficiaries for his foundation, Minaya only recently landed a contract extension -- an approving nod, if nothing else, to the aggressive nature that has seen him import Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner and Johan Santana in recent years.
Despite questions over how Minaya has constructed his roster -- and more specifically his bullpen -- Wright on Wednesday called him one of the "hardest-working GMs in baseball."
"And I can vouch for that," Wright said. "Because I'm at dinner with him sometimes and his phone's ringing off the hook."
Though he, too, has something of a busy winter schedule, Wright didn't shy away from the notion that he might help attract a few free agents to New York. Signed with the Mets through at least 2012, Wright has a stake in ensuring that the team remains competitive for years to come. And so he said he is willing to call free agents, to talk with them -- to do anything to lure the best of them to the Mets.
"I live here most of the offseason," Wright said, "so if the organization wants me to be a tour guide or make a phone call, I'll be more than happy to."
He hasn't done anything of that ilk just yet, but the Mets aren't allowed to talk money with free agents until Friday. Then the rumors will intensify, the lines between fact and fiction will blur, and the Mets will officially begin the process of restocking their team. And Wright won't be able to resist keeping track.