Less than two weeks before the start of the regular season, the New York Mets are channeling their inner Abbott and Costello: Who’s on First?
Anyone who’s familiar with the nearly 80-year-old comedy routine has to start seeing some parallels with the Mets. Coming into the offseason, along with shortstop, GM Sandy Alderson identified first base as a significant focus. A few months later, not only are the same individuals who prompted Alderson to say that in the first place still here, they’re both competing for that same job.
To make matters worse, both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda have already been hampered by injuries this spring, which has prevented New York from getting a good read as to whom they should open the season with.
In what seems like a make-or-break year for both, Davis and Duda have both gotten off to inauspicious starts. Although both players started Spring Training relatively well, hopes and dreams turned into head shakes and shoulder shrugs as neither player was deemed healthy enough to take the field for over two weeks.
For two players looking to prove themselves, these injuries couldn’t have come at a worse time. The same goes for the Mets, though, who haven’t had any means by which to evaluate either player.
Furthering their plight, the Mets had considered moving one of Davis or Duda during the offseason, but no deal ever materialized. Spring Training is a prime time for players to show other teams that they’re worth trading for, and neither player could accomplish that because they weren’t out on the field. As a result, New York is likely left with a decision as to whether to carry both, seeing as Duda and Davis are really only one position players, or just one of them.
Also, even if they do go north with both, who gets the lion’s share of starts? Both men hit lefty, so there’s no opportunity for a platoon — something is going to have to give.
While everyone expected Davis would be the incumbent coming into camp, his absence has been very noticeable. He was going to have to have a strong spring to wipe away the stench of last season and distance himself from the perennially lurking Duda. While Davis’ glove was always considered to be stronger than Duda’s, last year conventional wisdom stood on its head as Davis was anything but solid defensively. Perhaps he brought his struggles at the plate out in the field with him, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow for the team.
Duda, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to develop any consistency. After frequently shifting between the outfield and first base, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy either. While the Mets like Duda’s patient approach at the plate more than the free-swinging Davis, sometimes Duda can be too patient and not aggressive enough in counts where he has the pitcher on the ropes.
New York has a decision to make, which gets closer by the day. Davis and Duda hope to get back on the field to try to make any final impressions they can before the roster deadline, but the Mets are aware that it will be a very small sample size that they’re deciding from. Ultimately, whomever they decide is likely to have a very short leash, and the “loser” of the competition could get his shot quicker than he expects.