Mets Spring Training Question 4: Who Will Be the Leader?

With four days before pitchers and Molinas report to spring training, the #4 question to be answered in Port St. Lucie comes from my wife:

David Wright is supposed to be the “face of the franchise”, but he seems more of a figurehead than a team leader — and besides, we all know the Mets are going to deal him away by the trading deadline. So if not David, who will jockey for power and take over leadership of this club?

She raises interesting points. There’s no doubt that David Wright is the face of the franchise, so by default he is perceived as the “team leader”. But is he?

In Wright’s 8 years in the big leagues (yes, it’s been EIGHT years), the Mets have never been “his” team. The Mets had veterans such as Todd Zeile, Al Leiter, John Franco, Pedro Martinez, Cliff Floyd, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, and others who assumed leadership roles. Even last spring, it was difficult to identify Wright as the team leader with Beltran still around. Some would argue that the Mets have been “leaderless” for a long time. Still others believe a team doesn’t need a leader — that’s what the manager is for. As someone who has played baseball at a fairly high level and for 30+ years, I’ve never been on a team — from little league through college and semipro — that didn’t have at least one individual player (if not several) who the rest of the club looked to for guidance, and set an example that others followed. Maybe that changes in MLB, but I doubt it.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s pretend that my theory is correct: that MLB teams have players who either take over or find themselves in leadership roles. And let’s examine the New York Mets and try to figure out who will be their leader in 2012.

My vote would be for Wright, but can he be if others think he won’t be around by the end of July? More importantly, is he ready and equipped to take on a leadership role? If not David, then who? R.A. Dickey would seem to be a leader in terms of speaking with the media, but does that necessarily translate to leadership on the field? And can a pitcher truly be a leader, or does it have to be a position player? I think a pitcher can be ONE of the team’s leaders, but that at least one everyday player tends to separate himself as well. Jason Bay has the veteran experience to be a leader, but it’s difficult to be one when he’s struggling so much with his hitting; that said, I wonder if he’d become a leader if he returned to a feared slugger? Or do one of the youngsters — such as Ike Davis or Daniel Murphy — have the type of personality to “take over” the team?

What’s your thought? Will someone establish himself as a team leader this spring, and if so, who will it be? Answer in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Neil Peart February 16, 2012 at 10:38 am
    It’s easy to write off leadership as unnecessary psychobabble, but I think it is an important issue for a baseball team, given the marathon of a season and all the ups and downs, highs and lows entailed within…even more so for the Mets, with their young roster, off-field drama, and disappointing results in the past few years. I agree David Wright should be the first in line to take this role, for obvious reasons. But if he is unwilling to do so, my next choice would be Daniel Murphy. He is by all accounts a hard worker, has been vocal this offseason about the team’s expectations, and is a hard-nosed player…
  2. Joe February 16, 2012 at 11:01 am
    If a pitcher has leadership potential, what is Santana’s role? You know, if he is able to pitch this year. Also, I’m unsure why Wright would suddenly take a role he never had, especially if he’s deemed a short-timer. It would be logical, given he’s the remaining veteran, but the thing to look for would be who among the youngsters (like Davis or Murphy) who take the reins.
    • HobieLandrith February 16, 2012 at 11:12 am
      Santana is a BIG “if”
  3. mic February 16, 2012 at 12:15 pm
    In the early millenium the leaders were NOT mike piazza or Mike hampton. They were Franco (a reliver) and Joe Mcewing (a sub).

    Now Met coaches include platoon partners Backman and Teufel…and isnt Mookie still here somewhere?

  4. Stan February 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm
    “and besides, we all know the Mets are going to deal him away by the trading deadline.”

    I don’t know this. Was I left out of the loop? Wright brings in fans/ticket sales, but he’s not going to be the team Leader … just not in his personality to assume that role. I’d go for Dickey as more of a leadership figure.

  5. Steven February 16, 2012 at 1:06 pm
    I predict the next leader will be Rodriguez the new center fielder, All reports are that he was a leader in SF
  6. Steven February 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm
    Sorry I meant Torres
  7. Mike B February 16, 2012 at 4:08 pm
    I think Kieth Hernandez will continue to be the leader. Wasnt he the only one that had the @#$# to confront Reyes on his play a couple years ago on the airplane?
    • derek February 17, 2012 at 11:43 am
      HAHA, Mike b……hernandez is def our best candidiate
    • derek February 17, 2012 at 11:47 am
      I dont buy wright being a leader…i think he is a good player and does alot of things well but wilpon was kinda “wright” about him. He def wants to lead and do great things in ny, but he doesnt stand up to his teamates and call people out…

      its a dirty job being a leader but someone has to do it. like mike b said hernandez called out a player and he is a broadcaster….wright should have been the guy to do it. he seems like a nice guy and a great teamate but lacking a lil grit in that dept….

      your leaders get into fights with teamates…that is why they r leaders….they dont conform to everything to make everyone happy…

  8. marathonmet February 16, 2012 at 5:28 pm
    Wright is the natural leader of this team. Bay has the experience and will back him and Dickey brings to the table a broader vision but he will also back him. Santana is a competidor, so if he regains health, he´ll be a factor.

    The Mets have a very young team that has a lot to prove, so I expect them to grind their teeth and play hard.
    It will be interesting to see how they face up to the situation if they go south really early, but on the other hand, if they hold their ground, I would expect to see an intense group, playing by the day with a common mission.

    • Marathon Met February 16, 2012 at 9:08 pm
      Let me rephrase previous Post.

      It looks to me like the Mets have a really quiet group of position players where Wright stands out as natural leader, Bay will back, Dickey will give perspective, and Santana might excel.

      It will be interesting to see how they deal with failure or success.

  9. Howard from Mezz 21 February 16, 2012 at 5:33 pm
    Sad to look at the roster and NOT have someone jump out at you, isn’t it? I agree with mic’s comment that it could be a sub…Maybe Hairston has a bit of Joe McEwing in him? I agree about Ike or Murph–IF they stay healthy (especially Murph). And Murph, of course has to settle into a regular position, doesn’t he?
    • Joe Janish February 16, 2012 at 10:07 pm
      I think it’s really sad. At first I thought maybe I’m an old fogey, and the lack of leadership was a cultural / generational thing. But I look at other MLB teams and there are definitely individuals who “jump out” as team leaders. It seems like the Mets haven’t had a guy like that since Cliff Floyd left, and even Floyd didn’t appear to be all that strong a personality. I don’t think they’ve had any true, strong leaders since Todd Zeile and Robin Ventura.
  10. Izzy February 16, 2012 at 6:00 pm
    Why does Wright have to be the leader? Because he’s been around a while? Because he says all the politically correct things 162 nites a year to the press? If he had leadership in him it would have shown up already. Leave him alone and let him play ball for a little while. If somebody steps up and take charge in the clubhouse, he’s the leader. It has nothing to do with playing time, seniority, or he may be traded someday. The players will find their leader, not us, not the op, not Terry collins…..
    • DaveSchneck February 16, 2012 at 10:18 pm
      Agreed. Regardless of what we think or our perceptions are, a leader or leaders will emerge within the ballclub.
      • HobieLandrith February 17, 2012 at 9:58 am
        I don’t know about that. Who emerged as the leader last year? In any of the past five years? The Mets have been a rudderless ship for a long time.

        Speaking of ships … what if a leader emerges and he’s no better than the captain of the Costa Concordia?

    • jerseymet February 17, 2012 at 1:45 am
  11. argonbunnies February 16, 2012 at 9:45 pm
    Plenty of folks can do the “lead by example” thing. As for a true leader, Wright doesn’t seem built for it, and the only person on the roster with the credibility to take over is Bay. But he needs to perform. No one else is going to stand up and tell Wright and Bay what to do.

    Santana has the best attitude to model a team after, and Dickey’s the smartest and most mature, but pitchers almost never seem to wind up as team leaders.

    If Wright is traded and Bay plays his way out of a job, then I’d say Davis, Thole and Murphy all have a chance to lead, depending on how good they turn out to be. Ike has a little swagger, Murph plays full-out, and Thole is a loud and energetic talker.

    But assuming Bay stays bad and in the lineup, there will be no team leader in 2012.

    • Joe Janish February 16, 2012 at 10:11 pm
      I don’t know about Thole; he seems kind of meek — especially after the 9/11 “capgate” thing. Murphy seems to be too confused and self-centered to be a leader. Ike appears to have potential in the leadership department. Of course, this is all coming from the perspective of someone speaking from the comfort of a living room chair, watching the games on TV. What happens behind the scenes could be completely different.
      • derek February 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm
        sign manny and make him capt…really only thing to do….