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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What To Do With Ike Davis

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Mets first baseman Ike Davis is a guy who can hit 30 home runs; is a good defensive first baseman; is streaky; doesn’t hit lefties; tweaks his stance way too much; is a bit lackadaisical and comfortable in his position in the big leagues and takes his now annual slow starts with an attitude of “Oh, well. That’s just the way it is.”; is shielded by popularity in the clubhouse and media; and whines endlessly with the umpires to the point where he’s gotten a reputation as a relentless complainer.

Davis is getting more time in the Mets lineup because the other players and manager Terry Collins have lobbied to keep him there. If it were up to the front office last season, he would’ve been sent down a year ago almost to the day to get himself straightened out. Davis got more time, started hitting and hit 27 homers from June onward. The Mets seem to be losing patience with him again and again the talk centers around whether a trip to Triple A would do him some good.

There are benefits and negatives to all options the Mets have with Davis, and here they are:

Demote him

The Mets could easily shift Lucas Duda to first base—which is his natural position—and see if playing a more comfortable position for him defensively boosts his flagging batting average and give Davis a wakeup call by saying his position as a regular player since 2010 doesn’t give him the right to slump as David Wright would get. The last thing Davis needs is another voice in his head giving him hitting advice, but maybe the anger and embarrassment of a demotion will light a fire under him. The one thing the Mets can’t do is send him down for a week. If they do it, it has to be for at least 15-20 games and only bring him back based on merit and not clubhouse/fan/media demands.

Trade him

The Mets were rumored to be willing to listen on Davis after the 2011 season. Perhaps Sandy Alderson and his staff saw the holes in Davis’s game, realized what he was and wanted to get something substantial for him while his reputation as a top power prospect was still intact. For whatever reason—ownership involvement; factions in the front office debating whether they should pull the trigger; player support to keep him; fear; lack of a suitable offer for him—they kept him. Davis is only 26 and has time to fulfill his potential, but his ceiling as a Gold Glove winning future home run champion may not be as expectable as it once was. Once the ceiling is lowered and the performance is as odious as it’s been, his value is down as well.

What could the Mets get for him? I’m sure there are teams that think a friendlier home park and getting away from the word “Mets” not as a noun but as an adjective would greatly assist Davis, but they’re not surrendering a bounty of prospects to get him and simultaneously rehabilitate him. If the Mets do choose to trade Davis, they’ll either have to wait until he starts hitting and restart the circle that began in 2011 when they shied away from the instinct to move him or they’ll have to take another player who’s struggling. Would the Blue Jays consider Colby RasmusBrett Lawrie or Brandon Morrow in exchange for Davis? All are slumping just as badly as Davis is and are supremely talented. For teams like the Blue Jays and Mets, making a bold move becomes more palatable as the season enters its midpoint.

As of now, they’re not getting a sure thing for Davis, but they could get a change-of-scenery player that would help them.

Let him play and wait

Davis started hitting last June so there’s a precedent to say that he’ll start hitting again this June. A significant part of his struggles are in his head so perhaps the boost of confidence from what happened last year will wake him up. Davis may be tired of hearing that he might get demoted simply because he’s off to a slow start and has minor league options; he might think that he won’t figure anything out under Wally Backman in Las Vegas that he wouldn’t figure out under Collins in New York—and maybe he’s right—but that doesn’t mean the Mets have to just let him be a hole in the lineup and a distraction as to what they’re going to do with him on an annual basis. No matter what they do, they have to make it clear to Davis that this isn’t going to be accepted as if he’s an established star for whom the numbers will be there at the end of the season. There’s no guarantee that Davis will repeat last year’s hot second half any more than there’s a guarantee that he’s going to be a Met for the rest of his career, or the rest of the week for that matter.

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