David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Ike Davis, as a first baseman for the Mets, doesn't get to tell us what's a story or not. We decide that. It's part of our job description, along with asking questions, taking notes and obsessively checking Twitter.
But when it comes to the way Davis is portrayed in the media, he steers the ship by how he performs or what he says. Play well, and Davis is described as the second coming of Keith Hernandez. Hit .205 and wind up demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas, as he did last season, and you get to the place we all were at early Monday morning:
Watching Davis display poor judgment by publicly scolding a reporter from the New York Post in the middle of the Mets' clubhouse.
Apparently, Davis was upset because a Post story made him look as though he hid the severity of an oblique condition from the Mets last season. And that now, in retrospect, he was using the lingering injury as an excuse for his woeful 2013.
We can see how such a story would make Davis angry, and the Mets weren't too thrilled by it, either, with Terry Collins pulling him aside later in the morning to discuss the matter.
"It shouldn't have been a story," Davis said.
Instead, he made sure it was much more than that. He actually made things worse. Davis looked as if he wanted to put on a show -- evidently for the benefit of his teammates -- and that's what he did. We'll spare you the semantics, however, and get right to the crux of Davis' argument.
"I sucked last year because I sucked," he said. "It's not because I had an injury."
So you be the judge. What's better? Being lousy -- or playing lousy because of an undisclosed ailment?
Neither is great, but Davis chose not to go the alibi route when asked Monday to explain himself. That's usually the safer play, and Davis was able to get the spin he wanted on his rebuttal.
But the important thing to remember here, amid all the noise, is that we're talking about last year. As far as we know, Davis is perfectly healthy right now, and arguing whether he hid a worsening oblique injury from a Mets team that won 74 games doesn't seem like a pressing issue for a club that has other stuff to worry about.
When Collins repeatedly was asked to think back to last season, and how he could have dealt with the whole Davis oblique affair differently, the manager shrugged.
"Well, we didn't handle the situation," Collins said. "There was no situation to handle."
To their knowledge, anyway. He went on to explain that every player is watched and analyzed very closely during the course of the season -- in games, on video, in batting practice and side sessions. Managers and coaches -- along with the front office -- tend to know players better than their own family members.
If someone is favoring a body part, it often gets noticed. But ultimately, the player has to cop to a physical problem, and pain thresholds vary depending on the person. There are no universal definitions for "hurting" and "injured."
"Guys deal with stuff in different ways," Collins said. "Certainly if you're failing at what you're supposed to be doing, something needs to be addressed."
The Mets tried to do that with Davis when he slumped badly to begin the season. They talked to him frequently and held numerous discussions about how to correct what they believed were defects in his swing.
Davis said he didn't tell the Mets about the oblique discomfort because he wanted to stay in the lineup. But if he had, he likely would have avoided the trip to Las Vegas and wound up on the disabled list instead -- a preferable option for a major-leaguer.
"You can't tell people stuff because you won't play," Davis said.
Again, it's a moot point now. The Mets insist Davis is competing with Lucas Duda for the starting first baseman's job and that the decision hasn't been made yet. Whatever turmoil Davis stirred up Monday is temporary and the Mets shouldn't hold a grudge. He still must be thought of as an asset on a team with too few of them -- even if he turns out to be a trade chip later this month.
In the meantime, we'll handle the headlines, Ike.