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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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When Davis was d'Arnaud

If you don’t count the L.A. portion of their itinerary, the Mets have done a nice job of sticking it to the National League West this season. Against the Giants, Rockies, Diamondbacks and Padres, their combined record after Friday night’s 5-2 win over San Diego is 15-7. So if we can just avoid drawing the Dodgers in the first round of the playoffs, we’ll be fine.

Amazing what a two-game winning streak can do for your morale and to your perspective. The Mets didn’t lose to the Padres Friday, just as they didn’t lose to the Padres Thursday and — despite so many individual Mets striking me as fodder to fill as yet undesigned Padre uniform combinations (which is to say sinking into a state of noncompetitive 10:10 PM oblivion where few north of La Jolla and east of El Cajon will be aware of their existence) — I’m feeling pretty decent about my team at the moment. This season, at roughly the three-quarters mark, is holding serve…or is not allowing its inherited demons to score, since I suppose you should use some sort of baseball metaphor if you’re going to be discussing baseball.

It’s dangerous to float too far above a state of curbed enthusiasm with these Mets, for they tend to let you down the instant your thumbs rise up. They went 16-9 from the moment Kirk Nieuwenhuis hastened Western Civilization’s decline through the sweep of the defending world champions in San Francisco. Since that exhilarating stretch, they’ve gone 16-16, the very definition of inconsistency: win one, lose one sixteen times. A month and change of .500 ball looks good when you haven’t hurdled over that bar for a full year in five years — and it’s not bad when your captain is down and your closer is out. But it’s still .500 for a month-and-change after playing at a .640 clip for a few golden weeks.

Of course 2013 was never going to be about 2013, which is easy to say when you take the sophisticated long view but difficult to deal with when you’re in trenches for all 162. That’s probably why we get overly excited with anything that breaks up the 56-64 routine on the cusp of our team’s 121st game. That’s why the birth of Travis d’Arnaud’s major league career is a bigger deal to us than anything the newly arrived Bentley Buck does short of laying down a guitar solo in diapers like that suspiciously talented baby in the heavy-rotation Pepsi Next commercial.

Our long prenatal nightmare is over and d’Arnaud joins the Mets tonight at Petco Park. John Buck can take his time with his family and Anthony Recker can take a seat. Those who are expert at proffering such observations report Anthony Recker comes equipped with a very sweet seat, but when your backup catcher goes 3-for-3 and is still batting .193, his backside can go back up against some pine. It’s Travis time!

Naturally, I hope the best thing the Mets are projected to place behind the plate since sliced Grote meets, exceeds and obliterates expectations. I hope he aids and abets Harvey and Wheeler as Buck has for most of this year and hits as Buck did for most of April. I hope this is one of those positions we can legitimately stop wondering about for the rest of the decade. I hope Travis d’Arnaud is charging out from under his mask to greet one of our fully matured young guns halfway to the mound after the Mets notch their biggest win since 2006 or 2000 or the 20th century.

If Ike Davis is a part of all that, that would be swell. I wouldn’t bet on it. I’d like to. I’d like to trust in Ike the way we wove him into our championship fantasies when Ike was the one whose promotion to the bigs signaled a brighter Met future. Ike Davis was Travis d’Arnaud in April 2010. It’s August 2013. Ike Davis is barely Ike Davis anymore.

Friday night, he was, if just in passing. In the third inning, just after Marlon Byrd homered to give Jon Niese a 2-0 lead, Ike blasted off like Ian Kennedy was Cape Kennedy. It was ground control to major GONE! They’ve brought the dimensions in at Petco Park. They could’ve pushed them back. Wouldn’t have mattered. Ike was unstoppable in that swing.

There haven’t been too many of those kinds of Ike Davis swings. Ike’s troubles have been closely monitored and well-documented. His conversion into an on-base percentage machine lately, as pleasant as it’s been, has been operated by wind turbine, with no traditional power source apparent. Ike Davis, whose portfolio bulged with 32 home runs produced in 2012, now has all of seven in 2013. For as much as he’s shed the patheticism that sent him to Las Vegas in June, he’s batting .204 and slugging .324. It’s been a slog on top of a trudge on top of valley fever on top of an ankle that crumpled in Colorado. He’s not the Gold Glove first baseman we thought he’d be. He hasn’t collected the Silver Sluggers we dreamed he might. Albert Pujols’s departure for Anaheim did not clear a space on the National League All-Star roster for him.

And when he starts to click a little, instead of being encouraged that this is it, he’s turning the corner, I mope to the opposite field. There’s something about Ike since he came back that tells me he’ll do just enough to tantalize us — we’ll be sure that finally he’ll live up to where we saw him ascending in 2010 before inevitably settling into the rut that’s defined him post-2011. We’ll instinctively anger at someone who seems like a genuinely good guy and appears to be an outstanding teammate (have you ever seen one Met offer so many other Mets “go get ’em” pats to the shoulder, back and assorted body parts?). We’ll look at Ike and dwell on what we thought he could be, not accept what he is. It’s an old Met story that could apply to almost any Met who was called up to great fanfare but delivered ultimately spotty results. Right now, recent OBP and Friday night moonshot notwithstanding, that well-worn tale feels like it looms as Ike Davis’s destiny.

Thank goodness Travis d’Arnaud could never possibly disappoint us like that.

7 comments to When Davis was d’Arnaud

  • Tell me you did not just jinx Travis …

    I’ll have plenty of room in my baseball card box of current Mets for more d’Arnaud cards once Ike is traded. It is hard to shake the disappointment of Ike. If it was Quintanilla boasting a .500 plus OBP I’d be thrilled, but the wind turbine reference is spot on and Ike is losing any steam that might have been harnessed as a backup generation source. Ike’s lack of kicking the crap out of the ball has left me wanting Satin or Flores at first.
    And I’d love still to be wrong.

  • Steve D

    Ike looks better at the plate…but I find this amazing…Alfonso Soriano has 26 RBI in 19 games back with the Yankees…Ike has 26 RBI in 91 games.

  • 9th string catcher

    I really am not a Satin believer nor have I seen anything of Flores yet. Yes, 9 RBI is all well and good, but sample size, people, sample size. Ike continues to be a mystery, but if you want to appreciate his glove, watch Satin play the position. Yikes. I haven’t given up on Ike yet, but they need to figure out what he is in a hurry.

    As for D’Arnaud, let’s see what he can do. I hope we can hold on to Buck, as this young pitching staff needs support, and we can ill-afford another Thole situation.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    Of course, the problem is not just the disappointment Ike Davis has been at first but the lack of a solution to resolve our first base situation.

    We all know that Davis was being counted on as part of the core for the future and we have found ourselves caught off guard with no replacement plans for him. First base is a power position and Josh Satin is not that type of player. Like with our potential outfielders with big bats, whomever we have for first base in the farm system is also nowhere ready for a shot in the big leagues.

    Lucas Duda, though no gold glove, has also shown he is better equipped to handle first base but he too has been a disappointment as well since his rookie year in 2011.

    No matter what one thinks of the wisdom of the Mets “rebuilding” plans this is one situation we all agreed just a season ago was not going to be a problem. Without Davis and Byrd, next season we are going to be faced with really just two proven major league hitters in Wright and Murphy (who might give way to Torres). d’Arnaud should add some pop in the lineup but that leaves us once more with “what outfield” since we have many good quality fourth outfielders. Lagares could be a regular at center if he was supported by power producers. We need a shortstop as well.

    So our offense only has three or four positions at most that can be considered settled for 2014. This is in part due to our reluctance to go outside the organization but also because it appears rebuilding plan was actually done in two phases which reveals a weakness with our goal to build from mostly within. Our first phase was pitching which I think we can all agree is ready. Our second phase is hitting and I think we can also all agree this part is still a few years away. If it was an equally balanced phase – some arms and hitters now and other ones currently in high A-ball to be expected later, is one thing. Not having bats ready along with pitching at the same time is another thing.

    And with the free agent list for 2014 being thinner and less talented that the previous year or so, that is why I mention what all we might see would be a resurgence of the Mets of forty years ago – the best pitching staff in the league that could not muster more than 83 wins in any one season because of the lack of run support behind it.

  • Wow, you guys are a little bit of a downer today. Building through the draft is a bit of a crapshoot. We all know that, right?

    1B is a power position, agreed but if you get power from OF you can have it be an OBP position, but you gotta hit more than .250. What bothers me most about Davis is that the slump seems to have sucked the wind out of him. How about Flores to 2B and Murphey to first?

  • Andee

    Ike got sick. That’s what this comes down to. He can deny it up and down, but it’s obvious. Even a little bit of muscle wasting is death to a power hitter. Davis is quite possibly the most unprojectable player of all time, which is quite a feat in a game where nobody is really all that projectable.

    And yes, I mean nobody. Assembling rosters is always a crapshoot; the statistical analysis that exists now just makes it slightly less of one. WAS and SF were great teams last year, not so great now. Could they be great again next year? Sure they could. But so could we, or the Royals, or somebody else.

    But you know, if TdA doesn’t pan out, Plawecki is not far behind him; he could reach Vegas by the end of next year. But hey, Travis got on base twice and didn’t strike out. I’ll take that for a debut.

  • […] Davis has one year of 20 or more home runs, also from 2012; we’ll see if he gets another. Bernard Gilkey topped 20 once; he’s widely understood to have had the season […]