The Convoluted Ike Davis Situation


As I was on the way to work this morning, a story from Adam Rubin at ESPN caught my eye.  According to Rubin, a “baseball source” had intimated that the Mets might look to deal Ike Davis during the offseason in order to address other areas of concern and to open up a spot for Lucas Duda at his natural position.  Now, no player should ever be off limits.  For instance, if the Mariners called and offered to trade Felix Hernandez to the Mets for Matt Harvey, Alderson would pull the trigger (extreme, won’t ever happen).  In addition, discussions (for anyone on the roster) should always be welcomed.

We’ll get to the idea of potentially trading Davis in a bit.  First, the remaining meat of Rubin’s piece must be discussed.  As was mentioned above, no player should ever be out of discussion, which is why the following quote was the eye-popping one:

"The Mets are disappointed with Davis’ unwillingness to make changes based on coaching advice. Although he is personable and by no means a troublemaker, they also worry — fairly or unfairly — he is out too late after games, and that could influence other young players."

Everything about that quote is ridiculous.  As Matthew Cerrone pointed out on Metsblog this afternoon, Rubin’s source can be anyone – so the damaging accusations like the ones above could be coming from someone with little to no decision making power.  It also seems there’s a strong chance that the source isn’t even affiliated with the Mets, since Rubin termed he/she a “baseball source.”  Davis’ accused “unwillingness to make changes based on coaching advice” was debunked hours later by Terry Collins.  During the same time period, Davis defended the accusations that he’s out too late after games by stating the following:

"“I don’t know what ‘late’ is, because when you leave the ballpark at 12 [midnight] and you get back to your place at 12:30, if you watch a movie it’s 2:30. Is that late? It’s up to everyone to decide what late is. If I had a job where I had to wake up at 6 in the morning, it would probably be late. But it’s not. Our lifestyle is a little different."

Davis is 100% correct.  Most players go out after the game, especially when they’re on the road.  In Davis’ case, there hasn’t been one known instance where he hasn’t been able to play because he’s been hung over (which wasn’t the case with other players such as Mickey Mantle, Darryl Strawberry, Todd Hundley, and countless others).  Where he goes and what he does should be of no concern to the Mets, as long as it has zero effect on Davis being able to do his job.  And it certainly appears it hasn’t hampered his ability to play.  I’m hoping Rubin’s source either has incorrect information or is intentionally misleading him, because it would be the height of stupidity to deal a player in part because he goes out after games.

Aug 18, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis (29) is congratulated by third base coach Tim Teufel (18) after hitting a two run home run against the Washington Nationals during the seventh inning at Nationals Park. The Mets defeated the Nationals 2 – 0. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE

The source went as far as to say that the Mets are worried that Davis’ “behavior” might negatively influence the younger players.  Is this the third grade, where one kid firing spitballs entices others to follow?  Or are these grown men?  I’ll reiterate that I hope like hell that this source is off the money.  If he/she is not, and the Mets are prepared to make a personnel move partly because a guy likes to have a few drinks after a game, and they’re fearful he’s going to bring the rest of the guys down with him, this team has more than a cash flow problem – they have a front office run by imbeciles.  It was idiotic decision making like the possibility framed out above, that led to the slow dismantling of the 1986 team.  Clearly, the 2012 Mets aren’t the 1986 Mets.  However, talent is talent.  And if that talent is contributing, they shouldn’t be dealt because they like to enjoy themselves, or because they’re incorrectly viewed as some kind of negative influence.  The “negative influence” myth was the reason why Kevin Mitchell was dealt after the 1986 season.  Frank Cashen and others thought Mitchell was a bad influence, but it was Gooden and Strawberry who were blowing coke on the team plane.  Personnel moves should be based on talent, unless said player’s personality is getting in the way of his performance or becoming a distraction to the team.  In Davis’ case, neither of those scenario’s seem to be occurring.

So, what exactly is going on here?  Are the Mets misleading the media on purpose in order to light a fire under Ike Davis?  Are they putting Davis’ name out there as trade bait when Lucas Duda is the one they’re actually showcasing?   We won’t know until the offseason concludes.  For now, let’s assume that the main information the source had is correct: The Mets are open to trading Ike Davis in order to improve the roster in other areas and to open up a spot for Lucas Duda.  Let’s address that idea:

In my opinion, it would be foolish to trade Ike Davis after the season.  Regardless of his second half surge, he had one of the worst first three months of a season anyone has ever witnessed, and barely avoided getting sent down to AAA.  Despite his power numbers, his average and OBP remain putrid, and the Mets would be selling low.  For those reasons alone, it makes no sense to deal him.  When you realize that trading Davis would turn first base over to Lucas Duda, dealing him makes even less sense.  You’d be selling low on a player who’s proven he can be a solid power bat, while playing above average defense at first base.  Then, you’d be replacing him with a player who hasn’t proven he can succeed at the Major League level, who will most likely be a sub-par defender at his natural position of first base, and who actually did get sent down to AAA this year (while some in the organization whispered that he displayed a sense of “entitlement”).

So, the Mets would be selling low on Davis, while at the same time significantly weakening themselves defensively.  Perhaps Lucas Duda can be adequate at first base.  Perhaps he can develop into what Davis has already shown he can be.  You know what? The Mets shouldn’t be shooting for adequate.  They should be shooting for, and hanging onto players who have a chance to excel.  Ike Davis is one of those players.

In the Metsblog article linked above, Matthew Cerrone opined that perhaps the Mets plan to package Ike Davis and Jonathon Niese for an outfield bat.  That wouldn’t be terrible.  However, the Mets shouldn’t have to include Davis in any such deal.  Jonathon Niese is a potentially great trading chip, certainly valuable enough to be the centerpiece of a package for an outfield bat…perhaps along with Wilmer Flores, Michael Fulmer, or another of the Mets’ highly touted Minor Leaguers not named Zack Wheeler.  Although it would be risky to deal Niese (something I’m not in favor of doing), it would make more sense to construct a package around him and others than it would be to include Davis as well.  The Mets appear to be in a position of strength as far as their starting pitching is concerned.  Dealing Niese would be risky, but trading Davis along with him would be counter-intuitive.  The Mets should be looking to add a power outfield bat to go along with Davis’ power bat at first base – not to exchange one for the other.

For now, we’ll have to sit back and let this thing play out.  Let’s just hope for the sake of the fans and the future of this franchise, that the front office isn’t obtuse to the point where they’d base a personnel decision partly on something as innocent as a player who likes to go out after games.  Let’s also hope that they’re seeking to hold onto and acquire players who can be excellent on both sides of the ball, not merely those who can be adequate.