Mets Fans’ Logic, Self-Loathing And Ike Davis

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Now Mets fans are having their newest irrational love affair with Josh Satin.

The response to last night’s news that the Mets had decided to recall regular first baseman Ike Davis was somewhere between a groan and outright rage that Satin’s “job” was being usurped by Davis. There’s a tendency in the Mets fanbase to turn their emotions to the underdog type player from whom nothing is expected vs. the former first round draft pick whose career has come undone to the degree that he needed to be sent to the minor leagues three months into the 2013 season after he’d hit 32 homers in 2012.

It’s happened before with an unsung player catching the fancy of the fans. Remember Jason Phillips? He had a surprisingly good rookie season in 2003 as a surprise starter in a position (ironically, first base) that was a switch from his normal one at catcher. Phillips posted a .298/.373/.442 slash line with 25 doubles and 11 homers. In the aftermath of the Moneyball “revolution” the Mets had a Scott Hatteberg of their very own. Except it didn’t last. In 2004, Phillips began the season as the starting first baseman and fell to earth with a thud batting .218. Right before the 2005 season he was traded to the Dodgers, then bounced around for a few more years with nary a flicker of the same success he’d enjoyed as a rookie. Eventually he regressed. While he was posting those numbers, no one wanted to hear that he had a hitch in his swing that was ripe for exploitation or that he had put up decent minor league numbers but nothing resembling what he did in the majors in 2003. He was a homegrown Met from whom nothing was expected, therefore, through some bizarre self-loathing cognitive association, Mets fans took to him. The difference between now and then is that the front office was willing to listen to the fans and media and do what the endlessly destructive “they” wanted. This front office doesn’t do that.

It must also be remembered that this from the same fanbase that booed Mike Piazza in 1998, almost causing him to leave as a free agent.

Why?

Is there an aversion to having stars or potential stars playing for the Mets? Does it suit the workmanlike, blue collar image that the Mets embody in comparison to the stuck-up, snotty, white collar fans and organization with the superiority complex from across town?

Satin has produced a few clutch hits in his brief opportunity to play and has a knowledge of the strike zone similar to what he’s shown in the minor leagues, but the same logic that has fans panicking over Zack Wheeler’s slow start is being exhibited on the opposite end with their newfound love for Satin. Wheeler’s been mediocre and inconsistent in his first few starts, the fans find him disappointing and want him traded for a bat; the media is scouring for analysis from anonymous scouts to validate their doomsaying columns with, “Yeah, he’s still talented but he’s either overrated or not ready for the majors.” Satin has a slash line of .353/.468/.549 slash line in 62 plate appearances. Why doesn’t the media ask a scout the odds of him maintaining that pace? Or is it too ludicrous to even consider that the 28-year-old career minor leaguer has suddenly found a method to post numbers nearly identical to those John Olerud did for the Mets in 1998 with the main difference being that Olerud did it in 160 games and Satin has done it in eighteen games.

For better or worse, Davis is currently the Mets’ best option at first base. He spent a month in the minor leagues and, for what it’s worth, hit 7 homers in 21 games with a .293 average, a .424 OBP. He hit like the player he was when he was recalled in 2010 and before he got injured in 2011. Those 32 homers last season came after a wretched start and threats to send him to the minors. The majority of his production came in the second half. The Mets were expecting him to pick up where he left off in 2013. Instead, he repeated the 2012 start only worse and they followed through on the threat to send him to the minors. All the objections from the players who love Davis and manager who believes in him couldn’t save him this time. It was the right thing to do. He’s back and he deserved to come back. The Mets intentionally brought him up as they embark on a nine game road trip so he won’t have to deal with the boos of the fans if he doesn’t hit a home run in his first at bat, but he still has to deal with an inexplicable vitriol back home from fans who acted disgusted at the mere mentioning of his name.

The Mets may be hoping that Davis hits enough to replenish his trade value to get rid of him and upgrade at first base with someone more consistent. They might still believe in Davis. Or they might feel that he’d been in Triple A long enough and there was nothing more to be gained from him staying there. One thing’s for certain: if the Mets eventually replace Davis, Satin will have to hit for a bit longer than two weeks before he’s anointed the job by the organization in the same manner as the fans have decided that he’s fit to replace a former first round draft pick who, as recently as this spring, was lauded as a possible home run champion.

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2 thoughts on “Mets Fans’ Logic, Self-Loathing And Ike Davis

  1. Well, if you want to ask a scout (15 years), I’m happy to oblige. First, most scouts are lemmings. They gather around the backstop and noodge each other basically agreeing about everything.

    But the worst part of baseball scouting is very simple. It has the worst success rate in all professional sports and yet no one ever dares to do anything different.

    And why? Because of the dreaded P or No P label. Satin for some reason got the no prospect label.

    Perhaps it had to do with his lack of a natural ML position, who knows, but there used to be a saying that if you hit we’ll find you a position.

    Remember Michael Young – for years he jumped all over the field, but 2000 hits later he’s still playing.

    Scouts seem to not be able to simply say at one point or another – well, it’s unconventional but it seems to work. When a guy just wins, or just hits, wherever you send him, at some point it would be wise to accept the success and not question it.

    Satin has hit EVERYWHERE. So, there is no reason at this point to believe he won’t hit in the majors.

    Now, here’s the particular scouting difference between Ike and Satin. While they both have busy pre swing movements, starting way too high with their hands and dropping them, Ike drops his BELOW the hitting zone and then brings his hands back up!! Since his swing is a natural uppercut, he then redrops them to take his homerun swing.

    Satin’s hand drop is simply a timing device and once his hands drop, they drop to the hitting zone and stay there. He is clean through the zone and maximizes the barrel time in the hitting zone.

    It’s not to say that Ike can’t have some success, but he will ALWAYS be a 150 K guy. Essentially Adam Dunn, with a bit better glove.

    Remember though that while Dunn was a strikeout machine, he also walked an ungodly amount. So, one of the areas Ike HAS to improve is his discipline. That will also end his absurd early starts. So far, in 2 games, it seems he has improved that.

    Satin will never have Davis sheer power, but his power NUMBERS, i.e. extra base hits, may well surpass Davis.

    He will never be Ike’s glove, but he could well be a Michael Young, filling in all over the field to still get 500 AB’s a year.

    1. You bring up some excellent points. Scouts are lemmings because they’re trained to be lemmings at the risk of their jobs. It’s easier to reference a player’s bat speed, foot speed, plus-plus fastball than it is to say, “I see something in this guy that tells me he can become a player,” when there aren’t any buzzworthy reasons to come to that conclusion other than intuition. Because the first round pick has a lot of money invested in him and the scouts’/front office’s reputations are on the line and hinging on the player’s success or failure, he’s going to get far more opportunities than the late-round pick will even if the late-round pick indicates he might be a better option.
      With Satin, I’ll quibble with one thing: the way he hit in the minors doesn’t hold much sway over how he’s hitting in the majors since he altered his batting style after coming to the realization that he had hit the ceiling at Triple A and if he didn’t make changes to adjust to the big leagues, he was never going to get there to stay. It’s only been a few weeks. I hesitate to think that Satin is the replacement for Ike Davis. For the record, I still believe that Lucas Duda is a better overall hitter than Davis, but his inconsistency is going to doom him as well. The Mets are in a bad spot. They can’t trade Davis because his value is so diminished, it’s not worth it; they have to keep playing him without knowing whether the first two months were real or if the second half of last season was real. I think he’s a 25-homer guy who will give great defense and a lot of strikeouts. He’s not a star player and his career is more likely to mirror that of a pretty good journeyman like Lyle Overbay than the home run champion the Mets were expecting.

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