By Ernie Palladino
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While some Yankees fans engaged themselves in some minor hand-wringing over Masahiro Tanaka’s middle-distance running capabilities, just as many Mets fans wondered why on earth Ike Davis is still on the roster.
This goes down as Example No. 615 of how the world that revolves around the Yanks is so different from the Mets’. The Yanks spend $500 million plugging holes as they try to return to their 19th postseason in 20 years. The Mets can’t unload one of their great underachievers for a box of resin bags, so Davis will likely remain part of a team which must first prove itself respectable before it even dreams of a postseason berth.
Little problems versus big problems. Get it?
The fact that Tanaka finished Saturday’s one-mile conditioning run looking like someone in need of a good cardiologist should have little affect on what he does on the mound. The Yanks didn’t shell out $155 million for him to win the Wanamaker Mile. He’s here to go deep into games and win, hopefully as something more impacting than Brian Cashman’s vision of a third starter.
This Davis issue, though, is a real toughie. Terry Collins only wishes his first base problems began and ended with a conditioning run. In this competition between Davis and Lucas Duda, another Met who often arrived at Citi Field disguised as a Triple-A prospect, there remains a serious issue: Do the Mets have enough firepower?
They theoretically improved their pitching with the addition of Bartolo Colon, as ancient as he is. If 37-year-old Kyle Farnsworth has anything left in that right arm of his, he could add to an otherwise uncertain, young bullpen.
But that lineup. Aside from David Wright and Daniel Murphy, and now perhaps Curtis Granderson, there’s not a lot of power there. The potential between Davis and Duda is certainly there, as each has shown the ability to conquer the Citi Field confines. But they are both free swingers, too, striking out roughly one out of every three at-bats. Nearly a quarter of those came with runners in scoring position.
Still, Collins had little problem telling the Daily News that he expects the Mets to be in the hunt for a playoff spot this year. Perhaps he’s being a bit too optimistic. Better to shoot for .500 first, then elevate his dreams from there to the postseason. But the near-.500 mark (33-38) they compiled post-All-Star break obviously led Collins to believe there was foundation there to build upon.
Unfortunately for him, cinder blocks like Davis, Duda, and a mediocre-at-best shortstop in Ruben Tejada form part of that base. It appears the cavalry, aka free-agent Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew, is not on the way. So life with Tejada will continue for better or worse.
Whether Granderson provides the protection in the five spot for Wright, whether Juan Lagares learns how to hit consistently and add offense to his stellar defense in center, and whether a guy like Murphy can step up from good player to fellow leader with Wright remains to be seen.
For now, Collins is optimistic; probably overly so. That first base situation defines much of what the Mets have to iron out in spring training.
If only the Mets’ problems were as small as a guy looking bad in a lousy conditioning run, the outlook would be much brighter.
But they’re not.
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