By Brad Kallet, WFAN.com
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I’ve officially had it with Ike Davis.
Yes, I said that last year after the first baseman’s miserable first half of the season, but I can’t bear to watch this horror show much longer. He’s simply a detriment to the Mets’ offense, and I’m tired of waiting for him to break out, as manager Terry Collins would like us all to do.
He was just abysmal in the first half of 2012, hovering above the Mendoza line for months, entering the All-Star break batting .201 with 12 home runs and a putrid .271 on-base percentage.
This coming from your first baseman, no less.
He redeemed himself in the second half, batting .255 (not exactly Ted Williams-esque) with 20 home runs and a much more respectable .346 OBP.
I wanted him called down to the minors in the worst way last season, but I was encouraged — as all Mets fans were — with his productive second half.
And then came 2013. He couldn’t possibly start out that slow again, could he? In fact, forget about starting slow. He was going to come out and prove that he’s one of the elite first basemen in the National League, right?
Oh, so very wrong.
We’re over a month into the season now, and the fourth-year player is up to his old tricks. Following Sunday’s loss to the Braves at Turner Field, Davis is batting .172 with four home runs and a .271 on-base percentage. Maybe the most disturbing part of his stat line is his K/BB ratio. The former first-round pick has drawn 12 walks and struck out 31 times in 90 at-bats.
What’s more discouraging than his numbers, however, has been his demeanor at the plate. When he has two strikes on him you can forget about it. He’s more than likely striking out, and he knows it. And after going down on strikes, he tends to give the umpire a look as if to say, “Really, you’re doing that to me again?”
Yes, it’s the ump’s fault that you’re hitting under .200 and can’t touch a ball on the outer part of the plate.
Then, Davis walks back to the dugout a defeated man, as if to say, “Here we go again.”
The self-confidence and belief is clearly not there. Davis’ physical struggles obviously hurt the team on the field, but you can’t tell me that his consistent look of, “Oh, poor me,” also doesn’t affect the club negatively. It can’t be good for the squad’s morale, and it’s very unbecoming to watch. It’s not easy to root for someone who displays himself in that manner.
I’m not saying that Davis isn’t busting his butt to try to straighten himself out and get in a groove — I have no question that he’s working diligently with batting coach Dave Hudgens and putting due time in the cage — but he needs to stop worrying about the umpires and feeling sorry for himself, and instead walk the walk of a young power hitter who believes he can beat the pitcher each time he grabs a bat.
Davis could learn a thing or two from the team’s captain about how to handle himself appropriately. When David Wright makes an out, you can see the frustration on his face, which is perfectly natural of any competitor. But rarely, if ever, does he look defeated. And the next time he walks into the batter’s box he looks like a new man, rejuvenated and determined.
Collins has moved Davis further down the lineup and even put him into a semi-platoon with Justin Turner, who happens to be having a significantly better season than the former. So what happens next? Does Davis get sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas? Don’t count on it. If it didn’t happen last year, it’s doubtful that it would happen this year.
Last season, and even in the beginning of this season, some fellow Mets fans (and I) decided outfielder Lucas Duda was the second coming of ex-Met Mike Jacobs — a strong, tall power hitter who hits for a low average, strikes out a lot and is ultimately a liability in the lineup.
I’ve finally changed my tune. Now I’m of the opinion that Davis is more akin to Jacobs. While Davis plays a very good first base, he’s become far more similar to Jacobs than Duda. Though it’s an early sample size, Duda has appeared to mature greatly this season with his approach. He’s taking a ton of pitches and, unlike Davis, he makes life very difficult for pitchers. You could argue that he has every bit as much power as Davis does, and he puts the ball in play on a consistent basis — often hitting it hard.
But then, of course, is Duda’s deficiency in the outfield. There’s the rub. While Duda is providing the Mets with some punch offensively, he’s costing the team runs in left field. And with his body type, inexperience at the position and lack of speed, it’s doubtful that he’ll ever improve substantially and become an adequate outfielder.
And that’s why general manager Sandy Alderson should consider jettisoning Davis in the offseason — or before.
Duda is simply not good enough to play left field regularly, but his bat should be in the lineup every day. So what do you do? You look to trade Davis. Despite all of his imperfections, Davis has proven that he can hit 30-plus home runs, so he still has value. If Alderson deals Davis, the Mets can shift Duda to first base, where he will be far less damaging with his glove.
With plenty of money coming off the books this offseason, Alderson can trade for or sign a legitimate left fielder to plug in the middle of the lineup. Such moves would improve both the team’s offense and defense considerably.
I sincerely hope that Davis proves me wrong and suddenly finds his stroke. I hope that his hard work and dedication pay off. I hope that he can develop into the .270, 40-homer guy that we all envisioned him being.
As Morgan Freeman so beautifully said as Red in The Shawshank Redemption, “I hope.”
But I just don’t see that ever coming to fruition. And sooner or later, the Mets will have to make a decision about their first baseman.
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