BY JOE RINI
While every Mets fan had an opinion on whether Ike Davis should have been demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas this past Sunday, one fan had a unique perspective on the struggles of the Mets first baseman. This fan was former Met Ed Kranepool who faced a similar career crossroads in 1970 when he was sent back to Triple-A Tidewater in his eighth season with the Mets. The Rockland County Times spoke to Kranepool about his experience then and what Davis may be facing now.
The example of Kranepool provides an apt comparison to Davis. Both were left handed hitting first basemen of similar ages. Although one year younger than Davis at 25, Kranepool had the more accomplished career at that stage of his career. After debuting with the Mets at the age of 17 in 1962, Kranepool represented the Mets in the 1965 All-Star game before playing a valued role on the 1969 championship team. Then after a slow start in 1970, he was demoted to Triple-A Tidewater.
“It’s a jolt to your system,” Kranepool said looking back on his experience. “There’s a big gap between the major leagues and the minor leagues.” Less than a year after homering in his first World Series start and being saluted down the canyon of heroes, Kranepool recalled, “Being back on the buses…in the real world again…starting from scratch again.”
Speaking of Davis, Kranepool said, “He has tremendous talent. The Mets need him,” but no one will hand him anything as he begins his quest to return to the major leagues. He has “a long road ahead of him” and something to prove as he works on getting his stroke back, hitting to all fields, regaining his confidence, and repairing the mental approach to his game.
Kranepool said Davis will have to fight his way back and work hard because, “He will have to face kids who are trying to get to the major leagues at the expense of Ike Davis.” The former Met said as pitchers seek to exploit a batter’s weaknesses, it’s important for any hitter not to get into bad habits as he makes his own adjustments.
On the plus side, Kranepool said Davis can use this time as an opportunity to “clear his mind” and he won’t have to worry about playing time in Triple-A. Also, as the former Met noted, a change of scenery could help because it’s tougher to go through a slump like this when the team is losing since the player gets blamed for the team’s struggles.
For Kranepool, the demotion to Tidewater set the stage for the revitalization of his career. A .170 batting average in 1970 was followed by a solid .280 in 1971, and averages of .300 and .323 in 1974 and 1975. Later in his career, he was renown as an excellent pinch hitter, as he batted .396 in this role from 1974 to 1978. Retiring in 1979, he was the Mets all-time hits leader at 1,418 until David Wright surpassed him in 2012. He was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1990.
Referring to Davis, Kranepool said he’s a good kid, a hard worker, and he wishes him well. Kranepool said he thought he could help Davis on his swing and his mental approach to the game. While some may say Ike Davis has been the victim of too much advice, perhaps the best person to set him on the right path, is someone who has walked in his shoes.
Following Tuesday’s 9-2 loss to St. Louis, the Mets have lost 7 of 8 games, to drop their record to 23-36. This past weekend’s two game sweep at the hands of the Marlins felt like more as Saturday’s 2-1 loss stretched to 20 innings. In addition to Ike Davis, Robert Carson and Mike Baxter were sent to Las Vegas as the Mets recalled Josh Satin, Collin Cowgill, and Josh Edgin. The current homestand concludes this weekend against the Cubs before the Mets set out on an 11 game road trip.