I like Ike!
Say it with me now, “I like Ike!”
No, I’m not turning this column into something about presidential history, with all due respect to Dwight David Eisenhower. I’m talking about the new first baseman for the New York Mets.
That would be Ike Davis, who made his Major League debut in Queens on Monday night a rousing success with a pair of hits, an RBI and, even more important for the locals, a Mets win. Most importantly, at least for this space here, he’s one of us.
That’s right, the hottest thing to hit the National League since Jason Heyward is a Member of the Tribe. Davis told me during the offseason, when I interviewed him at Major League Baseball’s Rookie Career Development Program, that his mom is Jewish. His dad is Ron Davis, the pitcher who spent parts of 11 seasons in the big leagues with the Yankees, Twins, Cubs, Dodgers and Giants. So he’s got MLB and MOT bloodlines all at the same time.
Davis was drafted by the Mets out of Arizona State in the first round of the 2008 Draft, so it’s taken him less than two years to get to the big leagues. His reaction after his first game in New York sounded like something my grandmother would’ve said:
“I’m in the big leagues,” Davis said. “What’s not to like?”
There’s little not to like about Davis, the latest player to hit the big leagues for Jewish fans to grab a hold of. While he said he’s not religious, he does not hide from that part of his lineage at all. He’s a good defensive first baseman and he’s got a smooth, left-handed swing that generates easy power. And you know the folks in New York (I hear a few Jews live there) are going to love him, invite him to bar mitzvas and ask him to marry their daughters. Maybe he can ask Shawn Green how to handle all of that attention.
Actually, it seems like he’s got a pretty good idea of how to deal with it. Maybe it’s the fact his dad played the game or maybe it’s just how he’s wired, but Davis seemed to belong in the bigs the second he showed up for batting practice. There’s an ease about him that allowed him to fit in during Spring Training and again on Monday. He took the shaving cream pie in the face he got in stride, though there was no word whether the pie was parve. He knows the spotlight of New York can be awfully bright, but he didn’t appear overly concerned.
“I think I put more expectations on myself than I let you guys do,” Davis said. “I’ve gotta go out there and perform. Just go out there, swing hard, hopefully hit it.”
The Mets offense had been struggling when the move was made to bring Davis up. Everyone, from the front office to his new teammates, seems acutely aware of not putting too much pressure on the youngster. The hoopla surrounding his callup is already out of proportion for a prospect like Davis. Don’t get me wrong. He’s very good and has the chance to be an excellent big leaguer. But he’s not the type who’s created buzz like this before, like a Stephen Strasburg or even when Pedro Alvarez arrives here in Pittsburgh. The Mets, for their part, are trying to temper that excitement.
“I’m not sure he has to be the savior of [the 2010 Mets],” manager Jerry Manuel said. “He’s a good complement for what we have. Be careful of high expectation.”
That’s good to hear — I think we all know the history of Jews thought of as saviors.
I like Ike!