Ike vehemently disputes playing with injury
First baseman adamant struggles in '13 weren't result of troublesome oblique
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Livid over a New York Post report suggesting that he played through injury for most of last season, Ike Davis on Monday loudly and publicly disputed its validity.
With David Wright and other players staring gape-mouthed as they ate breakfast in the Tradition Field clubhouse, Davis insisted that although his right oblique bothered him as far back as June, it never affected his on-field performance.
"It shouldn't have been a story, anyway," said Davis, who batted .205 with nine home runs last season and endured a midseason Minor League demotion. "It's just an overblown thing. Everyone has injuries and then they get hurt. So it was pointless to write an article. I [stunk] last year because I [stunk]. It's not because I had an injury. You always have injuries. And now it just looks bad."
Davis' right oblique finally "popped" in late August, in his words, at which point he went on the disabled list with a season-ending strain.
"You always hurt," he said. "We always hurt. We play 162 games in how many days? You hurt all the time. Unless you can't physically go out and play, you can't say anything. So that's what we do. And you have injuries that last a little longer or they don't. Sometimes they never pop. I wish it didn't, but it did."
The episode became the latest in a long string of headaches for Davis, who -- injury or not -- slogged through a dreadful summer with the Mets before enduring a winter's worth of trade speculation.
It also sparked debate over what sort of behavior is acceptable within a clubhouse culture that glorifies machismo. If an injury exists, manager Terry Collins said that "there's got to be a conversation, certainly, and it's up to me to decide which way to proceed."
"It's a fine line, but nobody wants to come out of the game," said Wright, who strained his hamstring last August after fighting through initial soreness, and who famously played through a stress fracture in his back for weeks in 2011. "Being as competitive as most of us are, you try to battle your way through nagging things. There's very few times over the course of the season where you go out there and say, 'You know what? Something's not bothering me.' It's just a matter of being smart enough to know what you can and can't play through."
Davis was already in the midst of a significant early-season slump when his oblique started bothering him in mid-May. But he concealed the injury, in part because he did not want to make it look like an excuse for his troubles.
Collins, who receives comprehensive daily injury reports from the Mets' training staff, said he was never aware of the issue until Davis' muscle finally ripped in August.
"I'm not really sure what to say," the manager said. "I was as surprised as anyone when I heard.
"If you're failing at what you're supposed to be doing, something needs to be addressed. If you feel it's taking away from your game, you've got to say something."
Davis did not, and the Mets ultimately demoted him on June 9 with a .161 batting average, five home runs and a .500 OPS. Davis returned four weeks later and hit .267 with four home runs over his final 48 games.
His struggles played into the Mets' public -- and ultimately unfulfilled -- desire to trade him this winter. Now Davis is in camp battling Lucas Duda for the Mets' starting first-base job, but general manager Sandy Alderson has repeatedly said that a trade remains possible before Opening Day.
How much Davis' injury affected that situation is impossible to gauge.
"It's not black and white," Wright said. "There's a lot of gray area, in that you don't want to miss games because of something that you could possibly play through. Ike's a grown man. I think what Ike was trying to do was … not make an excuse out of it. But by doing that, it almost makes it sound like he's making an excuse out of it. And Ike's the last person to make excuses."
Or, as Collins put it: "Everything would have been better off had he said something. Hopefully, he learned from it that he needs to speak up."