New York Mets: Ike Davis Starts Spring Training With a Lot to Prove in 2011

James Stewart-MeudtCorrespondent IIFebruary 23, 2011

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 28:  Ike Davis #29 of the New York Mets watches after hitting a double in the ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers on September 28, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Brewers 4 - 3. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The 2010 season probably doesn't rank very high on the list of great seasons in Mets history. The Mets finished the season 79-83, fourth in the NL East, with their ace, Johan Santana, on the disabled list.

There weren't many bright spots last season.

After yet another disappointing season, Mets fans have been clinging to the warm memories or R.A. Dickey and his 2.84 ERA, Angel Pagan's eye-opening season and Ike Davis and his 19 home runs.

It's odd to think that all three of those players are going to be relied upon even more in 2011 if the Mets want to have any chance at contention. Certainly the Mets should have added pieces this offseason to strengthen the team, and they did add those pieces, but their additions were designed more towards replacement and compensation than improvement.

If the Mets want to win, Dickey needs to continue his career resurgence, Pagan needs to repeat his 2010 performance, possibly in center field full time, and most importantly, Davis needs to remind the Mets front office why he was called up last April.

After Daniel Murphy was unable to start due to injury, the Mets began last season with Mike Jacobs and Frank Catalanotto at first base. That one sentence is as much as I want to talk about those dark times.

That little experiment lasted all of two weeks before, on April 19, Ike Davis made his rookie debut. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI against the Chicago Cubs that day, and by the end of the season, the Mets had themselves one hell of a first baseman.

Davis would finish the season with 19 home runs, leading all rookies, and a nice collection of highlight-reel catches. Davis established himself as an excellent defensive player, posting a 10.1 UZR, ahead of perennial gold-glovers Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez, and a .993 fielding percentage.

One of the best parts of Davis' game last season was his post-All-Star Break performance. He hit 12 points higher (.270 to .258) after the break, including a .344 tear in September.

Those are the kinds of things you want to see from a rookie, especially one on a team as desperate for a spark as the Mets, and fans want to see more.

So this is a very important season for Davis. Not only do the Mets expect more, they need more from him. A 25-home run, 85-90 RBI performance would go a long way towards satisfying the fans and maybe even getting a few of them into Citi Field.

But it's a different front office in 2011 than 2010. GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins weren't a part of the group that decided to call up Davis last season. With improving the team, their main goal for the future, it's unclear which route will be available to Alderson.

While the Mets will have between $55-$60 million in expiring contracts coming off the books after this season, it's somewhat safe to assume the Mets will be buyers in the offseason. But with the lawsuit stemming from the Mets' involvement with Bernie Madoff still unsettled, it's unclear how much of that money will be reinvested into the team, and Alderson has already said the Mets payroll is "significantly higher" than he'd like.

While Davis will start at first base for the Mets this season, fans can't help but notice the names of some pending free agents: Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, for example.

The addition of either one of those players would energize this team more than almost any other move. Both players are dynamic offensive players, capable of sliding into the middle of any lineup and changing how it works for the better.

We all know Pujols could give baseball its first $300 million contract, and it remains to be seen whether or not Alderson would be willing to sink $30 million each season into a single player, even one of Pujols' caliber.

Fielder would be the more financially realistic option, with Ryan Howard's $25 million salary being the likely comparison.

Now, in all honesty, the Mets need to direct their money towards finding starting pitching, which will always be more important than offense, but with Carlos Beltran entering his final season with the Mets and the possibility of losing Jose Reyes to free agency looming, the Mets may need both equally after this season.

Could a mid-season trade for either Fielder or Pujols involving both Reyes and Davis happen? Maybe, but it would hinge on either player's willingness to sign an extension with the Mets, and, of course, the Mets need to be willing to write that check.

So with some big-name first basemen available next offseason and the Mets in need of a big injection of energy and interest, Davis needs to have a big season and show the Mets that they don't need to pursue those big names, because Davis is a big name.