By Ernie Palladino
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The Mets could send half their starting rotation and most of their lineup down to the minors and not even know they’re gone.
Things are so bad right now that on a team full of potential scapegoats, not one player truly deserves singling out as the root cause of this mess that stands a season-worst 10 games under .500 with streaking, first-place Atlanta headed to Citi Field Friday night.
Yes, Ike Davis is getting all sorts of heat for a 1-for-38 slump that has his batting average at .147 and has now affected his defense. All the talk about the organizational stupidity that keeps the first baseman in a big league lineup instead of offering the relief of a trip to Triple-A Las Vegas to straighten himself out has undoubtedly gotten to him.
Obviously, Davis should not be here. A couple of weeks in the minors might certainly allow him to straighten out the swing that has gone so horribly awry and get his scrambled mind straight. But really, would it make much difference if they did remove Davis from the lineup? Would the Mets suddenly go on a 10-game run because they excised the worst part of an unproductive lineup?
The answer, of course, is no. Though Davis certainly has earned himself a demotion, he hardly stands alone as a hopeless case. It’s been proven over and over again in these first two months that the Mets just don’t have a lot of talent. They don’t hit, as illustrated by their production of three runs or less in 12 of their last 18 games.
Be assured, the only fireworks that will come out of Citi Field tonight will be the ones Duane Reade and Ben and Jerry’s sponsor after the game. The Braves come in on a six-game winning streak. They pitch. They hit. And, oh, they get to go up against Jeremy Hefner, who hasn’t won in eight starts.
The Mets don’t pitch unless Matt Harvey and, now sporadically, Jon Niese is on the mound. And they don’t hit. They’re batting .248 with runners in scoring position, which on its face puts them around the middle of the league. It’s good enough for a team to win. The problem is, the Mets don’t get into scoring position enough to make it matter. Their 327 ABs in that situation rank 26th, with only the efficient Braves and Nationals, and disappointing Blue Jays and White Sox below them.
News flash: Davis doesn’t have all those at-bats. And his slump, though certainly not helpful, is not the sole impediment to the Mets putting up a couple of crooked numbers in the same game.
But he gets the heat. The track record so far puts the target squarely on his back, and it will stay there until Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins agree that they’ve seen the kid twist in the wind enough and ship him out, or until he figures things out and reverts to the 32-homer guy of last season.
You get the idea, though, that even that won’t help. Lucas Duda isn’t producing, either. John Buck has tailed off severely, and Ruben Tejada is all but worthless at the plate with four hits and zero RBI in his last 34 at-bats.
About the only guys who are producing offensively are David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Marlon Byrd, and Rick Ankiel — and Ankiel just got here.
The best thing Davis could possibly do for himself would be to request his own demotion. But nobody ever goes to the minors willingly unless it’s for a rehab assignment. While it can be argued that a little mental rehab would do Davis a world of good, that’s not what we’re talking about here.
And it wouldn’t make a difference, anyway. There are situations where one slumping player can drag down a whole lineup. This is not one of them. This one is a group effort. It’s just that Davis’ numbers are so ugly that he stands out.
Demoting him might or might not help the individual. But it won’t solve the Mets’ problems.
He’s just a convenient scapegoat.
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