Sometimes things happen, sometimes they happen in such a way you figure you’ll make sense of them later. Sometimes you become a part of a story you just can’t wait to share, waiting for just the right moment. Sometimes you find yourself relegated the status of a drooling dweeb, which is more or less how I felt during my conversation with Patrick Reusse — a local sports-media legend in the Twin Cities who has his own talk show on one of the local TV channels. Somehow, probably because of his outgoing and disarming manner, he was appointed ambassador to my awkward presence (itself a novelty) in the pressbox before a Mets Twins game. I felt like I’d won a behind the scenes tour to the circus with Reusse as the chatty ringmaster.
I couldn’t get into the pre-game “presser” so I was the first Mets person present in the second (visiting) row. Naturally I was grilled about, of course, Matt Harvey … is he for real? Can he pitch or is he just velocity? How is he compared like to a Verlander?
Then, I made the mistake of bringing up how Harvey actually reminded me a little of Tom Seaver without the big leg push, boy did I step in it. As Gil Hodges is my witness there showered a maelstrom of profanity that raised no one’s eyebrows but mine (they’d all heard this rant before apparently) … It was hilarious. Of course Reusse brought up Seaver’s recalcitrance to which my reply was “who cares, he was so great on the field.” A fact that Reusse acknowledged reluctantly, adding that Seaver’s abrasive personality more than likely helped him dominate on the mound … and I thought, yeah, “duh,” (didn’t say that of course).
Anyway, his next question involved how we “Mets fans” liked “our new first baseman?” I thought, what an odd question. There were several other more interesting stories at the time. including Shaun Marcum insisting on John Buck as his personal catcher, but Reusse apparently had a particular interest in Ike. I said “Davis somehow forgot how to go the other way,” but my answer was brushed aside. Patrick was amused, yes folks he was genuinely interested in Ike because he knew his dad.
Ron Davis is of course an ex-major leaguer who had a couple of outstanding seasons as a middle reliever with the Yankees, including an excellent 2.95 era season in 1980.
Same guy who got traded to the Twins where he was asked to close games, which apparently didn’t end well.
Davis torpedoed two consecutive pennant races with a withering assortment of gruesome meltdowns … And after these cataclysmic unravellings?
Davis, the very next day, would jog onto the field singing “Jimmy Cracked Corn” … every … single … time. A fact confirmed by a smattering of nods in the press arena. “Thing is” continued Reusse, “By the time Davis was shipped to the Cubs, the fans and the team were fed up with him. There’s even a story about how after he was traded Kirby Pucket performed a raucous rendition of Jimmy Cracked Corn on the plane ride.” Ouch.
So, naturally the busybody local press would wonder about Ron’s kid. Now Davis Sr. wasn’t all bad as a player. He racked up a bunch of saves with the Twins and would have been regarded differently were it not for his tendency to cough it up in huge spots, still, he was quite the character.
His son? I didn’t know what to say, “What do we think of our new first baseman?” What kind of question is that? He was hitting .165 for crying out loud! I said his power was legit, but Reusse countered by reminding me that the minors are littered with guys like Ike who can’t hit a breaking pitch. Tough to argue with, especially since Ike seemed to be compelled to swing at every kind of curve ball in the dirt ever invented. I felt schooled, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The lesson was that the Ike situation was one to keep an eye on.
Recalcitrance can be a good thing or a bad thing. Seaver’s stubbornness may have very well been a vestige of his assertiveness on the mound, it was probably a good thing. Ike on the other hand doesn’t have much to show beyond his 32 homer 2012 season. “It’s hard to believe anyone could hit 32 homers in the majors and not be pretty darned good.” I said …
But the Jury is still out on Ike. There’ve been stories about a tirade that didn’t stay in Vegas after he didn’t get a call-up, whispers about questionable “coachability,” petty rumors about keeping poor hours, and more recently he was the endless subject of trade rumors. In the end Ike’s success with the Mets will largely be contingent on his ability to rediscover a way to punch that outside breaking ball the other way.
I eventually kind of ran out of stuff to say and just started nodding as if I was still part of a conversation that was no longer there … Reusse no doubt got tired of my amateurisms and became engrossed in what appeared to be 4 or 5 conversations at once — a palpable chorus of bubbling commentary under the hum of computer clicks and keyboards. Trying to eavesdrop was all but impossible, and It didn’t help one bit that Jay Horwitz seemed to have an uncanny knack for hitting me with a scoring question every time I missed a play.
So there you have it, that was my Ike Davis conversation with Patrick Reuse. Relevant today not because Ron Davis recently accused the Mets of botching his son’s development (never mind Ike’s incessant proclivity to try and pull everything over the right field wall), but because first base for the N.Y. Mets is, somehow, a year later, still unresolved.