The best player who will never make it to Cooperstown

Think about the best baseball players who aren’t in the Hall of Fame. One is obviously Pete Rose, who remains banned because he bet on baseball. The rest are either well-known steroid users, like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, or world-class jerks, like Curt Schilling or well, Bonds again. Sadly, New York Mets captain David Wright feels destined to one day join that group as the best players who will never be enshrined in Cooperstown. But for Wright, it’ll be for all the wrong reasons.

Wright’s Hall of Fame candidacy isn’t going to be sunk by scandal, controversy, or cheating. In fact, according to almost most everyone who has encountered Wright during his career, teammates, fans, and media alike, the man nicknamed Captain America during the 2013 World Baseball Classic is a Hall of Fame person. No, it’s nothing personal; it’ll be injuries that prevent Wright from one day being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Wright is not a victim of injuries in the Mark Prior sense, in which the promise is there but never fulfilled. We’ve seen him perform at a high level for an extended period of time. From 2006 to 2013, Wright missed the All-Star team just once. He also took home two Gold Glove Awards and two Silver Sluggers in that span. If he had kept that pace up, where would he fit into the list of great hitters:

There’s little debate that he’s been one of the elite third basemen of the last decade, both offensively and defensively. If we rewind to his incredible World Baseball Classic performance in 2013, Wright not only carried the country on his back for a brief period but his stats as a big leaguer put him on the fast track to Cooperstown.

But then came a string of injuries that haven’t stopped and will forever alter how we see the Mets captain. A hamstring injury towards the end of the 2013 season deprived Wright of six weeks. Despite avoiding the DL in 2014, Wright battled a rotator cuff injury that affected him all season, leading to the worst season of his career.

In 2015, Wright was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a chronic back condition that he’ll have to manage the rest of his career and that limited him to just 38 games. Last season, Wright managed just 37 games last season before he was forced to undergo surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. Before the 2017 season could even begin, Wright has once again been struck down a shoulder injury that will keep him from playing a full season for the third consecutive year.

Honestly, it’s sad he’s had to go through all this and missed so much time. I have a lot of respect for David. The years I was with the Mets, he played hard, he played hurt. That work ethic, you can’t fake it.

I saw him go through treatment, but he knew that even if he was only 70 percent healthy, he would be better than whoever was on the bench. He cares so much. It’s unfortunate he’s been going through all these types of injuries that have limited him.

Carlos Beltran

With his recent slew of injuries, Wright’s career stats have stalled at 1,777 hits, 242 home runs, 970 RBIs, and 196 stolen bases. Those are strong stats, but they’re incomplete, and there’s little guarantee Wright will be able to add to them before his health forces him to walk away from the game.

Had Wright been able to play a full season each of the past four years and remain in good health today, there’s little doubt his numbers would eventually reach a Cooperstown-level. Moreover, his play on the field every day, the effort he puts forth and the leadership he shows, would remind us that he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Wright’s drive and determination will keep him fighting to play as much as he can despite his almost-crippling injuries, much like the way he fought to return for the Mets’ World Series run in 2015. But in the end, he’ll be forced into the same category as all the other greats who will never make it to Cooperstown, only in Wright’s case, it’ll be undeserved, unfair, and for all the wrong reasons.