He was a Met — maybe he didn’t perform to the standards we set for him or to our satisfaction of what we decided he could be, but he was one of ours. He went out there and he did his best. Then one day he was gone and we could only imagine the damage he’d do for his new team and the regret he’d cause his old team.
But enough about Aaron Harang.
Harang (3-1, 0.70) threw seven no-hit innings Friday night before Fredi Gonzalez decided a complete game no-hitter against these Mets in their home ballpark probably wasn’t going to be worth the trouble of running up the pitch count of the best starter in the National League. Luis Avilan gave up a hit in the eighth but no runs. Jordan Walden gave up nothing, which is what the Mets scored in their 6-0 loss that was — thanks to Jonathon Niese’s six solid frames — closer than the score indicates for a while, though what that counts for, I’m not sure.
You’re excused for not remembering Aaron Harang (7 IP 0 H 6 BB 0 R) was a Met. He pitched in that segment of 2013 when you probably weren’t watching: four starts at its ass end, none of them totally embarrassing, each of them reasonably effective. To use the blanket description that fits every Met September over the past half-decade, you didn’t miss much. For the also-ran Mets late last year, he was a rotation temp.
For the first-place Braves early this year, he’s basically the ace. But like I said, enough about Aaron Harang, who was never in anybody’s plans for 2014, not even the Braves’. Friday night’s ex-Met in the spotlight was supposed to be Ike Davis.
Davis was supposed to be an ex-Met long before Friday, but between calculating imposing offensive metrics and diligently upgrading the shortstop situation from Ruben Tejada and Omar Quintanilla to Ruben Tejada and Omar Quintaniila, the Met front office was too busy to sort through its glut of first basemen and thus carried into the season two lefthanded starters at the position. Given that the Ike half of the glut launched a game-winning grand slam the day after the Lucas Duda half blasted a pair of homers himself, it didn’t really hurt anybody to have them both around for a couple of weeks, but it couldn’t go on like that forever.
It didn’t, which is why Ike Davis was finally sent packing, to Pittsburgh, in exchange for a Triple-A righty reliever of little advance renown named Zack Thornton and that player whose name has yet to arrive, but is said to be a more exciting get than Zack Thornton.
Ike Davis, Pittsburgh Pirate, will become Willie Stargell in about ten minutes, you’ve likely determined. Maybe. Probably not. He’s still Ike Davis who’s been searching for his swing, his comfort zone, his batting eye, his eye of the tiger and now his eyepatch (aarrgghh!!). In the midst of his obligatory remarks about being alternately saddened and gladdened by the turn of transactional events, I heard Ike say he’s been feeling “a lot better in the box”. You know which hitters are feeling a lot better in the box? Hitters like Ike who are hitting .208. Hitters who are hitting a lot better in the box are able to have their hitting speak for itself. And they’re not traded three weeks into the season.
Continuing exposure to his groping for answers over the past two seasons convinced me it was never going to come together again for Ike Davis as a New York Met. I came to that conclusion last summer, so I can’t say going Ikeless will be a hardship for the .500 Mets (yes, the team that was one-hit Friday night hasn’t lost any more than it’s won; hard to believe, I know). The Davis powerburst of the second half of 2012 seemed like an illusion when it was in progress and there was nothing of substance to be mined from 2013. But in the scheme of what might have been or could have been or should have been, the trade is an emotional blow.
Ike was the homegrown slugging first baseman who did everything right from the moment he was given the chance, and from that small sample size, we dreamed. We dreamed this guy was the next step — or maybe the first step — in the necessary rebuilding of our team. It was gonna be, left to right around the horn, Wright, Reyes, Tejada, Davis. He was free and easy at the plate and in his manner. He fell over railings and came up with catches. He was in the middle of every Citi Field celebration back when the Mets used to win home games by the bushel. He brushed up against cocky, especially for a rookie, but that was all right, I thought. It was refreshing. The players who have “swagger” don’t have to talk about it. Ike, I was sure, had it.
Whatever he has left after parts of five seasons as a Met, it wasn’t enough anymore. He may have started up, but unlike the rest of the refrain from his stubbornly unchanging walkup music, he sure as hell stopped. Some of it was no doubt physical. Some of it was likely mental. All of it was a shame given the menschy aura he exuded whether he was hitting them far or not at all. That’s too bad in terms of the dreams we dreamed, but it’s the way it goes in reality.
Now first base is Duda territory, which may mean a player with a genuine talent for generating line drives will finally settle in and produce consistently. Or it may mean the man with the Mona Lucas smile will struggle because, let’s face it, Duda hasn’t proven all that much across parts of his five seasons as a Met. I guess the only thing Lucas Duda proved to those who decide such matters was he was a less worse bet than Ike Davis.