As the Mets fade off into oblivion, at least there's been one bright spot this season: Ike Davis. He may not be the best ever Mets rookie or win the Rookie of the Year award, but we know it's safe to pencil him in as the starter for next season, and probably for years to come. Just the name alone is cool. It's a classic baseball moniker. Maybe the Davis part reminds us of Crash Davis. Or Willie Davis. Or Tommy Davis. And Ike is just plain cool whether it's baseball related or not. There was an old Tiger, Ike Brown, who was a utility man from 1969 to 1974. So Ike does have some baseball history in it, not that Ike Brown was a legend, but he did sport a nice set of glasses and was an excellent pinch hitter. And there's been one other Ike Davis in major league history - a shortstop who played for the Washington Senators in 1919 and the White Sox in 1924 and '25 (lifetime .235 average, zero home runs and 65 RBIs in 164 games). Our Ike, though, is having an impressive rookie season, living up to his billing as a first-round draft choice (in 2008, which the Mets received when Tom Glavine left town - thanks, Tom, at least you were good for something).
By now we know all about Davis - his father, Ron, pitched for the Yankees, Twins, Cubs, Dodgers and Giants (they're the 197th father-son major-league duo), he broke many of Paul Konerko's high school records in Arizona, he was a star pitcher (with a 93-mile-an-hour fastball), first baseman and outfielder for Arizona State University, he's mastered the over-the-dugout-railing flip catch, his home runs are usually tape-measure jobs, there aren't enough ‘o's' in the word ‘smooth' to describe his fielding and he's as calm and unflappable as you'll find for a rookie. So far this year, he's batting .253 (.328 OBP, .435 slugging), with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs. Since the Ike Davis Story has been well chronicled, let's go back in time and take a look at a handful of other notable rookies throughout Mets history.
The Mets have had four Rookie of the Year winners - Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. Seaver went 16-13, with a 2.76 ERA, struck out 170 batters, pitched 18 complete games and made the All-Star team in 1967. In 1972, Matlack sported a 15-10 record, with a 2.32 ERA, struck out 169 and pitched eight complete games. Strawberry, in 1983, put up a .257/.336/.512 line, with 26 home runs, 74 RBIs and 19 stolen bases. And the following year, Gooden simply had the best rookie performance in Mets history. He finished with a 17-9 mark and 2.60 ERA, and set a rookie record (and led the league) in strikeouts, with 276. He also won the Top Jheri Curl of the Year award.
For the non-award winners, we'll start with Mr. Met himself, Ed Kranepool. After a cup of coffee at the end of the 1962 season, when he was just 17 years old, Kranepool amassed 273 at-bats the next season, batting .209, with two home runs and 14 RBIs. Hey, he was only 18 years old and had just graduated from high school the previous spring. Give the guy a break. That same season, the Mets did field a serious Rookie of the Year candidate in second baseman Ron Hunt. The hit-by-pitch specialist (13 times in his debut season) batted .272 (with a .334 OBP), racked up 145 hits, scored 64 runs, smoked 10 home runs and drove in 42 runs. He lost out to Pete Rose for the award, while the Red (also a second baseman that season) put up almost identical numbers to Hunt (.273/.334, 170 hits, six home runs, 41 RBIs, but 101 runs scored). Two years later, Ron Swoboda belted 19 home runs (15 by the All-Star break) and drove in 50 runs in 399 at-bats. In 1968, Seaver's left-handed complement arrived in the form of Jerry Koosman, who also made the All-Star team in his debut season. Koosman won 19 games (losing 12), with a 2.08 ERA, and struck out 178, while piling up 17 complete games and seven shutouts. He arguably could have been the Rookie of the Year, but he was edged out by Johnny Bench.
The 1975 season gave us a cautionary tale in right fielder Mike Vail. Anointed as the next superstar after his rookie-record 23-game hitting streak and .302 average in 38 games, Vail dislocated his foot playing basketball in the offseason and the rest is not-so-good history (and to add insult to injury, the Mets traded Rusty Staub to make room for him). Brooklyn matinee idol Lee Mazzilli tallied less than 100 at-bats in 1976, but in his first full season in '77, the tight-pants-wearing, basket-catching center fielder hit .250, with six home runs, 46 RBIs and stole 22 bases (though he was caught 15 times). And he won many Scott Baio look-a-like contests throughout the tri-state area that offseason.
In 1980, Hubie Brooks hit an impressive .309, with a .364 OBP, in 81 at-bats (and then hit .307 in 358 at-bats the following year). 1980 also saw the arrival of fan-favorite Mookie Wilson, who eased his way into his major-league career with 105 at-bats in 1980, when he batted .248, hit three triples and stole seven bases. His outfield platoon partner, Lenny Dykstra (they were the black-and-white cookie of platoons), made his debut in 1985, batted .254, stole 15 bases, hit one homer and drove in 19 runs in 236 at-bats. Future NL MVP Kevin Mitchell put up a .277/.344/.466 line in part-time duty in 1986, while hitting 12 home runs, driving in 43 and scaring everyone in the National League. And who could forget the fanfare of Gregg Jefferies? After going three for six in 1987, he played the last 29 games of 1988 and batted .321, with a .364 OBP and slugged an impressive .596. The Mets held back his at-bats so he would qualify for the Rookie of the Year award the next season, but Jefferies could only muster up a .258 average, with a .314 OBP and paltry .392 slugging percentage.
Another fan favorite, Edgardo Alfonzo, came to Queens in 1995, and hit .278 (.301 OBP), with four home runs and 41 runs batted in as a utility infielder, while Jason Isringhausen went 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA and Bill Pulsipher was 5-7 with a 3.98 ERA that same season. Paul Wilson followed his Generation K teammates the next season, going 5-12, with a 5.38 ERA. More recently, Jose Reyes, in 2003, put up a .307/.334/.434 line, with five homers, 32 RBIs, four triples and 13 stolen bases in 274 at-bats. That same season, Jason Phillips batted .298, with an impressive .373 OBP, and banged out 11 home runs with 58 RBIs. And all while wearing goggles, of course. And finally, David Wright made his debut in 2004, and was an instant star. In only 69 games, he drove in 40 runs, bashed 14 long balls and hit .293 with a .525 slugging percentage.
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