2:03 pm May. 21, 2012
Events are conspiring to shake Ike Davis' hold on the first-base job for the New York Mets.
Well, they're conspiring with Davis himself, who isn't helping matters with a .163 average and five home runs through Sunday's games. But the team's patience, exemplified by Terry Collins' declaration that "there is nothing etched in stone" about Davis on the major league roster, is affected by some other moving parts.
The current left fielder, Mike Baxter, has been nothing short of dominant in his 2012 season. After Sunday's three-hit performance, the Whitestone-bred Archbishop Molloy alumnus is hitting .390, and slugging .610, higher than Davis' slugging and on-base percentage combined.
But Jason Bay is set to come off the disabled list shortly, and his contract essentially dictates a regular position in the starting lineup. With Andres Torres in center field, Lucas Duda in right field, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis in need of at-bats if he stays up, finding a place for Baxter isn't so simple.
Unless Davis gets sent to Triple-A to try and work out what ails him.
Despite the divergence in how the Mets acquired Baxter and Davis—the former was a waiver-wire pickup last year, the latter was New York's top pick in the 2008 draft—it isn't impossible that Baxter could be a legitimate contributor. He'd once been a fifth-round pick by San Diego, and his production suffered in the minor leagues because of injuries.
Baxter has taken the unlikely path of slugging over .600 without a home run. Part of that is his batting average on balls in play of .516, which is comically high. But that is supported, to some extent, by the fact that 38.7 percent of his balls in play have been line drives. He's hitting the ball hard.
And Baxter isn't all that much older than Davis. He's playing his age-27 season, while Davis is 25. Add in Davis' recent history of missing most of 2011 with an ankle injury, and his ongoing battle with Valley Fever, and projecting which player can give the Mets more over the long term gets awfully tricky.
Baxter, it should be noted, has done all of his major league damage against right-handed pitchers. Really: He is 0-for-6 so far against lefties. So he's got a way to go before he proves himself capable of becoming an an every-day option.
But for a Mets team in desperate need of offense from someone other than David Wright, choosing to give Baxter a legitimate shot at the first-base job while Ike Davis works out his problems at Triple-A no longer feels like it has to be a short-term solution.