‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
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Maybe this Terry Collins guy knows what he’s doing after all, and we’re not just talking about his handling of a starting rotation that has exceeded all previous expectations by, oh, several light years.
Sure, it’s great to have guys like R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana, and last night Dillon Gee throwing tiny integers at opponents over many innings. That’s when managing gets easy, even if Collins decided to complicate things for himself when he briefly considered using the 37-year-old Dickey on three days rest a couple of weeks ago.
But luckily, Collins came to his senses and decided against thinking himself right out of pitching prosperity. As he recently told the media, better to have a healthy Dickey at season’s end than to blow him out early. So Dickey continues to dominate on four days rest.
If only all the manager’s decisions were as easy-peasy as that. They’re not. But it looks like Collins guessed right on a genuine coin-flip he encountered around the same time he initially contemplated using Dickey on short rest.
That one involved keeping Ike Davis in the majors.
The call took a little managerial courage, given that Davis holding a bat hardly evoked the picture of a major league ballplayer at the time. A trip to Triple-A Buffalo, or even a notch lower, to get Davis’ head squared away might have swayed another manager. But not Collins.
And now, Collins’ intestinal fortitude and intuition has begun to pay off.
Remember the situation. Davis had been hitting all of .164 on May 24, the day a carefully-considered Collins proclaimed that if Davis expected to continue as a major leaguer, he’d have to find his way out of slumps AS a major leaguer. Davis responded in that 11-5 loss to the Padres with a two-run, pinch-hit single.
“If he’s going to be an outstanding major league player,” Collins said before that game, “he’s going to have to fight through some tough times. We just can’t, every time somebody goes into a slump, just send him down.”
The single proved a mere respite from the first baseman’s troubles, however. Davis continued to struggle, and the batting average dipped to .153 after of the 9-1 loss to the Yanks on June 8.
The BA still sits below the Mendoza Line. Still ugly. But Davis’ season has certainly taken an upturn despite the current 0-for-7 relapse he’s in after the last two games. He’s at .190 after Wednesday night’s 0-for-4, one-RBI outing the Orioles. That represents a 37-point rise.
Before this hiccup, it appeared Davis had finally started to figure it out.
The 0-fers followed a 10-game hitting streak that saw him go 13-of-28 for a .464 average. It wasn’t the loudest of streaks, as he hit only two homers in it. But one was his first career grand slam in Monday’s series opener against Baltimore that gave him 11 RBIs during the run.
Providing the arrow continues to point upward, meaning more infrequent dips like the last two games, Davis’ resurgence could not have happened at a better time. The starting pitchers are doing more than their share, but it’s unlikely that such prosperity can last. Eventually this team is going to need Davis hitting consistently; if not homers, than the singles and doubles with men on.
It would be nice if Davis gave them the home run, especially with a lineup that resembles a Con Ed power outage far more than an electrical storm like the Yankees. But since the Mets seem content to have their reality seated in the manufacturing of runs, Davis must become a functional part of that, just like David Wright and Lucas Duda and the rest of them.
Davis appears to have turned up the temperature on his season, just in time to welcome the rising mercury in the real thermometer.
Now that spring is gone, he has to make summer his own and continue to prove that Collins’ decision a few days short of a month ago was not just smart, but downright brilliant.
Was keeping Ike up the right move? Be heard in the comments below…