Tracking The Affiliation Shuffle
The affiliation shuffle kicks off Sept. 16 and begins a two-week period when clubs can negotiate agreements with unattached affiliates. Consider it free agency for minor league teams. Teams had […]
Meet the Mets dynamic duo
by Alan Schwarz
All last winter, New York buzzed about the new Mets--Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran and more. But now they're talking more and more about the young Mets, namely David Wright and Jose Reyes. Discerning eyes are recognizing that it's Wright and Reyes, both 22, who are the foundation of this rapidly improving franchise. In his first full season, Wright was hitting .305-10-34, with power and discipline. And Reyes, after a year of persistent injuries, was batting .270 out of the leadoff spot while setting basepaths ablaze with seven triples and 16 steals. All this while forming one of the youngest left sides of the infield in major league history. Wright and Reyes sat down together at Shea Stadium to talk about growing up in the spotlight, following the Mets' draft and being all-star luggage-carriers.
ALAN SCHWARZ: What is it like being so young on a veteran team that's expected to contend?
DAVID WRIGHT: Both of us came up through the system. We have a certain pride in this organization--not too many young players get to play like we are with the team they came up with. We're learning from Mike Piazza, Pedro, Carlos, so that when we get a chance to be leaders on this team, we can portray some of the leadership qualities they have to us.
Cliff Floyd makes me carry his luggage. You have to carry stuff for Pedro, right?
JOSE REYES: Yeah, yeah. But Cliff is harder on him.
DW: It's two ways. The veterans are hard on us, but it's almost like we weren't doing something right if they didn't joke around with us.
AS: Is it less pressure on you to have the veterans in the spotlight?
JR: It doesn't matter for us. We just go to the field and try to have fun and play the game as hard as we can. We don't worry about that kind of thing.
Nobody's pressuring us here. We're playing the game the way we're supposed to. We're in New York. Everybody's watching. What can I say, man? Sometimes it's tough. You just try to keep your mind clear and play baseball.
AS: You guys have had some great moments and some not-so-great moments -- some big hits and some big errors, too. What kind of growing pains are you going through? People often forget you're still only 22.
DW: We understand that we're still developing. If we can learn from our mistakes, try not to make them again, that's a crucial part of it. There was an incident in the Yankee game where both of us made an error. There's 55,000 people here. Instead of just relaxing and going out and playing the game, you get a little too tense. You don't let your reactions take over. For a big game like that you get the butterflies going a little bit. That's something we're going to have to get used to if you want to take that next step.
AS: Jose, I hear as a manager Willie Randolph likes to be very hard on you.
JR: When he sees something wrong, he's going to tell you right away, in your face. When you've got a manager like that, it's good. He's going to tell you everything right in your face. It makes me want to play hard for him.
DW: When you get on the field it doesn't matter if you're 22 or 42--you still have to make the plays. You still have to go out there and have good at-bats. As Jose said, Willie's been great with us. It almost feels like we're developing along with Willie.
AS: Jose, you had a stretch when you hit seven triples in 10 games, something no one's ever done before. What's more exciting to you, a triple or a home run?
JR: Maybe triples, because I hit more of them. When you've got speed, you like running.
AS: Another part of your game that people talk about a lot is walking--taking pitches--because you didn't draw one walk in your first 119 plate appearances this year. Are you working on that part of the game or do you try not to think about it?
JR: I just let it happen. I don't think about that. If you go to the plate thinking about walks you're going to get a lot of strikeouts. I just want to stay aggressive, and the walks are going to come. I told people all the time, "I'm not going to go the whole season without a walk."
AS: It's not as much taking walks, but working the count so you get better pitches to hit, right?
JR: Now I'm starting to feel more comfortable at the plate. I'm starting to pick up the ball better. At the beginning of the season the pitches they were throwing in the dirt I was swinging at. Sometimes that's going to happen, but I'm working a lot with the hitting coach early. I'm feeling better.
AS: Was it weird when the fans cheered at your first walk?
JR: When it happened, I knew I didn't have to worry about it anymore. People weren't going to ask me about it anymore.
AS: David, plate discipline is a big part of your game--it might be the most advanced part of your game. What's your approach to it?
DW: Last year, I felt like I got myself out a lot, especially early in the count. A smart pitcher will try to throw a borderline pitch that you can't hit hard, that little cutter away or the two-seamer in that might be a strike, and you kind of get yourself out. This year I'm starting to look for certain pitches and locations early in the count, and feeling a lot more comfortable hitting with two strikes. When you work the count, you see all the pitcher's pitches, and he can't surprise you with anything with two strikes.
AS: David, on Draft Day, you spent some time in the Mets' draft room. What was it like when they took Mike Pelfrey at No. 9?
DW: It was great. You see the way Jose plays and the emotion he has, the scouts and the front office have an emotion for what they do. After they picked Pelfrey, you had some handshakes and high-fives. It was awesome. It sends chills down your spine that maybe you can be there for a process that picks maybe a future teammate.
AS: And speaking of the draft, the most important question I can ask is, given how you grew up with B.J. Upton and remain tight with him, who would you take right now, B.J. or Justin?
DW: Oooh. I called B.J. right after the draft. I told him, "Look, I know you and me are tight and everything, but I think I'm going to have to start hanging around your brother. He's the latest and greatest. You're old news." Instead of Justin being B.J.'s brother it's now B.J. being Justin's brother.
AS: So now it's really just you and Jose, I guess. Three years from now, when you're old men of 25, will you be batting third and fourth for a playoff team? Do you ever think about when this might be your team, when you're the stars?
JR: I don't think about that. We have to work for the future. We don't know what's going to happen.
DW: We still have a lot of growing up and maturing to do, but I think we're headed on the right track. We just have to stick to it, keep enjoying it, and getting better. That's the goal for both of us. We want to experience what it's like to win in New York. Hopefully we're here for a long, long time.
You can reach Alan Schwarz by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.