Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stimulating

It had to be a long, long day for Ike "The Stimulus" Davis. At 11AM Monday morning, he's batting cleanup for the Bisons.

(Editor's note: Isn't the plural of "Bison" just plain "Bison"? I mean, you spend money on a minor league jersey and it prominently displays bad grammar? What are we teaching our young players? What are we teaching the youth of America? Oh well, if you can have a grammatically incorrect professional team like the Maple Leafs, who really should be the Maple Leaves, then I guess you can have Bisons. Okay, I'm done.)

As I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself:

At 11AM Monday morning, Ike Davis is batting cleanup for the Bison for a 1:00 start. His day ends as the sixth hitter for the New York Mets in a game that ended with two hits, a run knocked in, and a pie in the face from Jeff Francoeur at about a quarter past ten. I go that long without a nap and I get cranky. I'm sure the last thing that The Stimulus is feeling is cranky.

You can't get much better than two hits and a pie in your major league debut. Hell the pie was probably the first true smile that Met fans have had in a long, long time (I don't count that Nelson Figueroa pie last season ... that was more of a "thank God this abortion of a season is finally finished" pie.) But as "feel-good" as it was, this may have been the pie that made pies passe. Think about it, if Stimulus knew the pie was coming five seconds before it actually hit him, then that means the pie has become way too predictable. Either that, or Francoeur has become way too predictable.

Dousing him with the grounds keeper's hose ... now that's a postgame celebration, my friends.

But seriously, it isn't like that pie was Ike's introduction to Frenchy. Jeff was all over him all pregame with smiles and hugs as that's obviously a relationship that has blossomed this spring. At least Davis has somebody that will show him the ropes and teach him not so much how to play baseball, but how to be a major leaguer. That's an advantage for Davis. And with Frenchy only being three years older than Stimulus, they can discuss similar things like God O' War 3, Beavis and Butthead, and Ultimate Fighting. Eventually, these are the guys that are going to bring back the hotfoot. And Howard Johnson can sure as hell coach that.

Oh yeah, there's the matter of how Davis actually played.

They kept talking about John Olerud. Olerud in 1999 helped make probably the most perfectly constructed lineup that the Mets have had. Not the best, or most productive lineup, mind you ... but the construction of it was classic from 2-5 with Alfonzo, Olerud, Piazza, and Ventura. Lefty, righty, lefty, righty, all prototypes of what those batting slots should have. Ironically, what that lineup probably could have used was a guy like Frenchy batting sixth (too bad he was only 15 years old at the time.) And it's that construction that has obviously spoiled Snoop Manuel as he's tried to make Mike Jacobs into Robin Ventura by batting him fourth and fifth all season. (Ventura once hit a grand slam single ... Jacobs once had a grand slam breakfast at Denny's. Similarities end there.)

If Davis is anywhere near Olerud, I think we'd take that ... at least until he goes 0-for-10 against the Phillies, then we'll start complaining again. But there was a shade of Olerud in his game tonight. The long reach. The sweet classic lefty swing. And in the seventh inning, the ability to hang in on a curveball to ground it into center field after getting pushed off the plate by an inside curveball the pitch before. That's usually the benchmark in whether a rook is ready, how he responds to that. Davis did well. He stepped in the bucket a little bit on that pitch, so he has a ways to go. But he didn't look completely overmatched. As we move forward the next two weeks, that could change. He'll see Carlos Zambrano. He may see Derek Lowe or Tim Hudson. He may see Jonathan Broxton. All vets with either a clue, or with unbelievable stuff. We'll see what The Stimulus can create out of that the next week or so.

The best thing to happen on Ike's first night in the majors was that the night ended. Now, Davis can be a major league ballplayer instead of the looming savior that he has been made out to be since spring training ended. Having to hear about LeBron James every day for the six months leading up to his NBA debut and then having the entire day of James' debut be dedicated to a guy who had never played a professional athletic competition in his life drove me absolutely nuts. For crying out loud his nickname was "King" and he had done nothing except dunk on a bunch of 15-year-olds a foot shorter than him. That kind of lead-up and hype drives me unbelievably insane. But the best part of James' debut was that from that moment on, he was an NBA player, like every other NBA player. Now that he's among the best if not the best that the NBA has to offer, he deserves all the hype he gets.

My disclaimer here is that I'm not, repeat: not comparing Ike Davis to LeBron James or his baseball equivalent. But the hype that Davis was getting was morphing into a local version of the national attention that LeBron got. Between Mike Francesa doing an entire segment devoted to Ike Davis on his show every day to the constant mentions of his call up during the pre-game show to having hoards of media surrounding him when he steps out of the dugout can be a little much. Perhaps it was that hype that pushed the Mets to call him up in the first place. But now that he's played his first game, all that stops. He can now be a major leaguer instead of a mythical creature. (I guess you can say the Mets released the Kraken.) That can only be good for him as he can now put smiles on our faces for his production with the Mets, rather than put agita in your coffee cup for the things he was doing in Buffalo.

It'll be fun watching him take the next step in his career ... such as what Jon Niese did tonight. Niese wasn't dominating as he gave up eight hits and walked three in his 5 and 2/3's tonight. But what he did was get himself in trouble, and then get himself out of trouble by coming after guys and being aggressive. He wasn't scared of throwing any of his pitches, whether they be heat or off-speed, in the strike zone. Now you might say that it's a trait that only makes him better than say, Alay Soler, and you would be right. But what Niese showed Monday is that while he's going to have those struggles as he did against Colorado, he's also going to have those games where he's going to battle and give you good innings. And that those games might out-number the struggles if only by a little. From Niese, that's all you can ask for. He's also got a ways to go, but he took a step forward.

Oh, and Angel Pagan hit a big home run. It's an opportunity to tell you that when I was in Washington last season, a few Mets were kind enough to sign a baseball for me. Angel Pagan was signing too, right before the game. He had to get to the dugout as the anthem was done and he was leading off the game. But he said "I've got time for one more." Standing near him was me ... and a nine-year-old girl.

I just walked away. That's a war I can't win.

2 comments:

FeceMcGee said...

I was real glad to see Ike there yesterday.. happy for him that he got a hit in his first at-bat. I hope he's here to stay. I feel bad for Murphy though.. he seems like a genuine nice guy and I wish he at least had a month to show if he improved. Now he might just get dumped

On a nitpicky note, you threw me off with the lefty, righty thing. I was thinking, "I could've sworn Fonzie was a righty.."

Then I realized you flipped it... sneakkyyy

MetFanMac said...

I love how resigned Davis sounded when he realized Frenchy was coming at him... :)