Ike Davis' hard lessons

There are not a lot of good feelings that come with being sent down. You are caught between a lot of contradictory emotions. On one hand, you have to respect the manager and front office that arrived at this difficult decision. You may believe you just needed more time, but you also know that the major leagues are not developmental leagues; they're production leagues and you have little time to "figure it out." So objectively looking at a horrible start to your season, you have some understanding, even while believing one moment could change everything.

A ballplayer is conditioned to be optimistic, to see the silver lining in the hitch in his swing, to believe he can find his stroke in that upcoming series in Colorado. Why not? It has happened before, especially when he has hit 32 home runs in a season.

Ike Davis has been trying everything to fight his way out of a dismal funk. The good news is that the Mets believe in his future, that they believe in the 2012 season when he showed as much power as any left-handed hitter in the game. Davis was also known to have a good glove, but in 2013, everything took a giant step backward. There was no comfort, no sign of life other than in batting practice or in the cage. He was struggling, and despite various attempts at changing his reality, he could not make it happen on the field.

There is a part of you that knows you need to get better, that you can finally exhale that big major league breath you have been holding for the last three months. But you are still mad, even if it is mostly at yourself. Of course, you don't want to admit that you need mercy, but there are times when the game brings you to your knees, and there are times when you are just lying in the fetal position. It actually is fairly typical in the course of a long career. But New York City tends to notice more than most cities.

Sure, you may want to turn over a chair or two, which usually leads someone to say "be angry like that before you get in the batter's box next time." So in most cases, when your stats can't back you up, you have to listen to the company line.

You'll probably hear things like "You have the ability, you just need to get your confidence back" and "You are the long-term of this organization, but short-term you need to work out some things." Fine. Yet when your swing is broken, it is often broken enough that your dog could throw a ball with his tail and get you out. If it is truly only a confidence issue, then removing the stress could be all it takes. And Davis' .293/.424/.667 performance at Triple-A may be a positive indicator, even in hitter-friendly Las Vegas.

It is a big pill to swallow to know your trip down to the minors is not necessarily temporary, that you will be competing against some very good players who are also trying to get back to or up to the big leagues. There is no time to exhale that major league stress away, no time to take days to assess what went wrong. You need to get back into a mode that will remind the front office that you are a major leaguer who can produce every day, not a guy that was lucky or over his head.

It is harder these days to know which Ike Davis is the real Ike Davis, in part because so many prospects fly through the system. In 2008, Davis was in A ball. In 2009, he shot through to Double-A. In 2010, he was Triple-A and the big leagues. When top prospects have even the slightest success, they are rushed to the top. For some players, this can be disastrous, especially if their only struggles come in the major leagues, where it's hard to learn how to extract yourself out of a funk unless you go back down. You've seen Mike Zunino (first pro season was 2012) get called up when he was hitting only .238, and the optimistic quotes to explain how his batting average was not indicative of how well he played. That may be true, but there is value in playing out full seasons (like Wil Myers or Lorenzo Cain for example) and being productive at each level, complete with working through the tough times -- not avoiding them through success.

Time will tell what becomes of Ike Davis. He may discover that once a team gets used to the idea that they can send you down, it can become a lot easier for them to do it again. Davis also knows that it will be hard to get as long a leash the next time around. He will have to do all his biting and barking from the first moment of his next opportunity.