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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The Other Shoe Finally Drops On Ike Davis

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Amid the disappointment and embarrassment Ike Davis presumably feels following yesterday’s demotion from the Mets to Triple A Las Vegas is probably an unadmitted sense of relief that the Mets finally pulled the trigger and made good on the threats that have been issued multiple times for a year. Now there is no longer the looming prospect of it happening—it happened—and Davis can go to Triple A, clear his head and get himself straight.

It’s the epitome of arrogance for outsiders in the media, on social media and for laypeople of every ilk to diagnose what’s “wrong” with Davis. He’s changing his swing, stance and everything else based on the last bit of advice he received, the last time he hit the ball hard and felt comfortable at the plate. It’s made him into a toxic mess and a lefty bat who was once a feared power hitter has been regularly pinch hit for in key situations by journeymen like Justin Turner. Going to Triple A is the best thing for him and the club.

This is clearly a short-term move and Davis will be back as soon as he has a sustained run of success. By success I don’t necessarily mean a load of hits and home runs, but success can mean looking as if he has a clue at the plate, commanding the strike zone, playing defense as if he’s not thinking about his last at bat, and hitting the ball hard. If the Mets had any intention of leaving Davis in the minors longer than a few weeks, they wouldn’t have immediately put the kibosh on the most obvious personnel move in shifting Lucas Duda to first base. As it is, they’re apparently going to recall Josh Satin and give him a chance.

Satin, 28, has been a productive hitter in the minor leagues since being drafted by the Mets’ prior front office regime in the sixth round of the 2008 draft. He has a career minor league slash line of .303/.398/.465 and 10-15 home run pop. But is he a big league prospect or a 4-A player who’s interchangeable with the last guy on the roster? There are two ways to look at Satin: 1) he’s a borderline big leaguer who can hit Triple A pitching and be an extra bat off the bench; or 2) he’s a player who is in the Scott Hatteberg/Moneyball tradition of someone who has a good eye, some power and needs little more than a chance to play to prove himself.

Put it this way: if it were the latter, some other club would’ve picked him up or the Mets would’ve given him a shot to get some at bats as a utility player. He’s a stopgap whereas moving Duda to first and playing Jordany Valdespin/Kirk Nieuwenhuis/Juan Lagares in left and center field would imply permanence to the Davis demotion.

Davis’s popularity in the Mets clubhouse will certainly inspire sadness that he was demoted, but even the most ardent Davis supporter and friend can’t defend a .161 batting average, a .500 OPS and 5 homers with 1 since April. He’s been equally bad against righties and lefties and there’s no justification for keeping him in the majors if this is what he’s giving them.

Being well-liked is fine, but it must be remembered that this isn’t a popularity contest. The Giants players hated Barry Bonds with a passion…until he stepped into the batters box where, even in the days before he evidently touched a PED, he boasted an OPS of 1.000 and above on an annual basis. Keeping Davis in the big leagues through this struggle was no longer serving any purpose other than making it appear as if the inmates were running the asylum and with a team that’s playing as poorly as the Mets, that can’t continue. The first step toward real accountability is the long-overdue decision to demote Davis. If you don’t hit, you don’t play. Davis didn’t hit and he won’t play in the big leagues for awhile. It’s that simple.

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