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Crazy Sandy and post-Ike Davis trade letdown

Rich Schultz

When I was a kid, there was this electronics chain in the New York area called Crazy Eddie. For awhile, the chain was seemingly successful, but by the end of the 1980s, the whole thing collapsed in a miasma of corporate fraud and disappeared. This made me very happy, because their promotional approach was to saturate the local television channels I watched with commercials in which an ex-DJ named Jerry Carroll shouted at you in a series of increasingly loud and nonsensical commercials. You can find many on YouTube; according to Wikipedia there were over 7,500 different spots:

Imagine you are home from school, you are watching your afternoon/early-evening cartoons or sitcoms (something of a latchkey kid, I didn't do much homework, have a dinnertime, or much in the way or regimentation or scheduling at all), and you're getting ready to doze off in front of the television when this SCREAMING JERK starts HARANGUING you about buying a CAR STEREO, VCR, or TELEVISION VIDEO GAME SYSTEM. Suddenly you're wide awake, every nerve on alert, body reacting in the same way your ancestors' did when, catching a quick nap on the African veldt, they heard a lion roar somewhere nearby, say in the same bed. All peace and serenity was gone, possibly forever, I don't know -- I'm still working on the answer to that one.

Anyway, today the Mets finally traded first baseman Ike Davis, something they had been threatening to do since approximately the days of Eddie Kranepool. They sent him to the Pirates, a team that has been looking for a high-quality, long-term first baseman since ... since ... well, basically for the whole history of the franchise. Willie Stargell played there quite a bit and even won what was sort-of a career-achievement MVP award in 1979 at the position, but he was more often in left field. Other players popped in and out, had a few good years, and were gone. Elbie Fletcher (three OBP titles!). Jason Thompson. Adam LaRoche, even. Only three first basemen have played even 900 games at first for the Pirates in the modern era out of the 140 to have done so league wide (Gus Suhr and Kevin Young). According to Baseball-Reference, only three players to play 75 percent or more of their games at first base for the Pirates have been worth even 10 wins above replacement for their careers -- Fletcher, Suhr, and Donn Clendenon.

After this trade, they're probably still looking. Sure, back in 2012, Davis hit 32 home runs, and he's willing to take a walk. He's a career .256/.357/.471 hitter against right-handed pitching, which would have to be an upgrade on current Pirates lefty platoonfellow Travis Ishikawa, a 30-year-old journeyman and a career .259/.326/.407 hitter against righties. Then again, Ishikawa may be closer to being that guy than Davis is to being the hitter his platoon stats suggest. Extremely streaky, his whole career boils down to a few hot months, principally June to October, 2012. If you want to be generous, you can throw in last August, at which point an oblique strain ended his season.

Funny thing about the baseball-playing Davises. Hall of Famer Goose Gossage always says that Ike's father, Ron, was the best set-up man he ever had, and that's absolutely true -- from 1979 through 1981, Ron went 27-10 with 22 saves and a 2.86 ERA pitching as Gossage's wingman. Then the Yankees traded him to the Twins, the Twins thought he could close, and the rest of his career was an almost unmitigated nightmare, with a 4.77 ERA in 455 innings. This was at a time when a 4.77 ERA was a country mile from league average.

Perhaps it's the injuries, perhaps something else is happening, but Ike seems to go through similar phases of forgetting how to play at his highest level. He doesn't, however, have his father's excuse that there might have been some pitcher's injury that went undiagnosed by the technology of the time or that the Twins were, at the moment of his arrival, a cheaply run, primitive organization not particularly serious about winning.* Since his rookie year, we haven't seen Ike hit with any consistency over a full season.

*Late addition: Then again, given the state of the post-Madoff Mets, maybe that statement isn't totally fair to Ike. Further, you could argue that the ankle injury that cost him 126 games in 2011 might have permanently diminished his skills, but were that the case you'd think evidence of it would have presented itself beyond, "We infer this from the fact that he goes all soft and slumpy."

Sometimes a new set of eyes see a flaw in a player his jaded old organization can't. Maybe the Pirates can help Ike in a way the Mets could not. After all, they've made Pedro Alvarez into something valuable, and consistency -- not just month to month but at-bat to at-bat -- is a huge issue there.

In any case, the Mets didn't give up someone whose present value is very high, and appropriately they didn't get back much, at least insofar as we know -- they picked up a 26-year-old right-handed reliever with good control named Zack Thornton -- i.e. a specimen of baseball's most abundant crop, the generic right-handed reliever. There might also be something more: Jon Heyman hears the player to be named later "Is fairly significant." But, he adds in appropriately disappointed tones, "So there's that."

The disappointment comes from just how long a Davis deal was rumored and just how anticlimactic the trade actually turned out to be. But then, Davis has been anticlimactic as well. Thus, to echo Heyman's "So there's that," we'll add, "So we'll see." But until then, the deal feels like a giveaway, the same kind that Crazy Eddie spokesman used to shatter my psyche with -- shop around, get the lowest prices you can find, but don't buy a first baseman! Crazy Sandy's prices are so low, he's practically GIVING it all away. Crazy Sandy! Crazy Mets! Their prices are ... INSANE!