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Does Ike Davis Need to Turn It Around This Road Trip to Avoid a Demotion?

By Mike Silva ~ April 27th, 2012. Filed under: New York Mets.


That is the batting line for Mets first baseman Ike Davis going into tonight’s game.

It was Davis, along with Lucas DudaDaniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada, the Mets were relying on to emerge as part of the young positional core that will be on the field for years to come. Out of that foursome, Davis had the best resume as he finished 7th in voting for Rookie of the Year in 2010 (19, 71, .264) and was on pace for 30 home runs and over 100 RBI before an ankle injury ended his 2011 campaign. Thus far, Davis has produced more questions than answers as the Mets return to the scene of the crime in Colorado tonight.

Davis was hitting .302 with 7 HRs and 25 RBI when he collided with David Wright in a 4-3 Mets victory over these same Colorado Rockies. What initially was day-to-day turned into a DL stint that nearly led to microfracture surgery. The Mets medical staff misdiagnosed and bungled Davis’ injury, putting it in a protective boot that made it even worse. Davis elected to rehab the ankle and avoid the dreaded microfracture surgery, but was thrown a monkey wrench this spring when he was diagnosed with Valley Fever.

Valley Fever is a rare and deadly infection. Most people who contract the disease never have symptoms, but there are some cases where it spreads throughout the body and can make one very sick. Conor Jackson is one such example where Valley Fever weakened him to the point where he missed a large chunk of his season. His career has never been the same.

Davis has maintained his health since it was revealed in early March that he contracted the infection. Even though he didn’t tear up the Grapefruit League, he still hit 4 HRs, drove in 13 runs and maintained a decent .798 OPS; higher than what he produced his rookie campaign.

Those numbers would be a vast improvement over what we have seen from Davis through the first month of the season. He’s popped 3 mammoth home runs, but a majority of his at-bats have ended in a strikeout or weak groundout to second base. National League pitchers have served him a steady diet of breaking pitches that have made him look foolish. Even yesterday, his lone hit was a weak flair to the shortstop, a play that probably should have been made by Jose Reyes and possibly could have been scored an error.

Not all is lost. He did work out an important walk against Heath Bell during yesterday’s ninth inning rally. Still, his .456 OPS is the lowest in the National League now that Marlon Byrd has been sent to Boston. So what happens if this streak of futility lasts deep into May? Should the Mets consider demoting Davis to Triple-A where he can work out his issues?

Terry Collins already has shown that winning now is going to be part of the development of his homegrown Mets team. Davis started the year batting cleanup, but was hitting 7th by the end of the Miami series. On Tuesday night, Justin Turner pinch hit for him against lefty Randy Choate during a late game rally. Although Collins has remained publically supportive, he reminded reporters that he is responsible for 25 guys, not just Davis. This coaching staff has proved they will hold anyone and everyone accountable for producing.

If there is a road trip to break out it will be this one. Colorado, even with the humidor, is still a hitters-haven. Only Comerica Park in Detroit has yielded more runs this season. Minute Maid Field in Houston is also a bandbox and the Astros staff is near the bottom of the league. The one problem is that Davis will be facing a bunch of left handed pitching. Drew Pomeranz is scheduled to start tonight, Jamie Moyer on Sunday and J.A. Happ and Wandy Rodriguez in Houston. Davis is 3 for 20 against LHP so it’s possible that Turner could spell him in for one or more of those matchups.

If Davis continues to flail away during this road trip, does it become time to seriously consider a demotion? Is it something that will help or hurt him in the long run? We have all heard the old saying that if “Mickey Mantle was sent down, then why can’t [insert players name] be sent down?”

Back in 1989 the Mets decision to not demote Gregg Jefferies is sometimes pointed out as a major reason for the former top prospect’s struggles in New York. After bursting onto the scene late in 1988 when he hit .321 over the last two months, Jefferies struggled out of the gate in ’89 and hit under .200 into the middle of June. Then Mets manager Davey Johnson elected to stick with him every day and was eventually rewarded later in the year when Jefferies turned it around. His decision did divide the clubhouse and make an already unpopular rookie that much more hated. The Davis situation isn’t quite the same - he is very liked in the Mets clubhouse- but sending him down is something they may have to consider.

Playing in New York is very difficult. The fans, right or wrong, don’t have much patience when a player struggles. When it hits absurd points, as in the case of Davis, the boos become louder and the critics more vociferous. Working through both mental and physical struggles at the big league level is very tough; it’s even tougher under those circumstances. I suggested just two weeks ago that Jason Bay should consider an assignment to Buffalo. Davis still has options so sending him down wouldn’t require his permission.

The end goal is not to punish Davis but help him regain his stroke. The Mets need him on both sides of the ball if they are going to remain competitive for the rest of the season. None of the potential Triple-A replacements (Josh SatinVal PascucciZach Lutz) have the upside of Davis. They could, however, hit better than .132 and help the Mets win some games while Davis figures himself out. He also won’t have to worry about the Citi Field catcalls or media scrutiny while he plays first base in Upstate New York.

We may not be at the critical point where such a decision needs to be made. I do think this road trip will tell us if Davis is headed in the right direction. His approach and process at the plate must at least show improvement, even if the stat line doesn’t reflect it.

If it doesn’t than why not send him down for a couple of weeks? They did it to Mickey Mantle.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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