04/26/2010 1:10 PM ET
Everybody likes Ike, now and forever
Phenom Davis can do no wrong in eyes of Mets fans
By Howard Megdal / SNY.tv
Ike Davis already has a 450-foot home run to his name in the big leagues. (AP)

The most striking thing about Saturday afternoon's game at Citi Field, believe it or not, wasn't the record-setting 208 dogs in Mets attire. It wasn't even seeing Jason Bay begin to drive the ball, or Jose Reyes' beginning to look like Jose Reyes again, especially on his diving catch to preserve a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning.

Instead, it was the love for Ike Davis, who has become the fan favorite of the Mets in what has to be record time. Five days after his Major League debut, Ike Davis had already become a folk hero.

Just don't tell him that.

"Tell them I'm not a folk hero," Davis said by his locker following New York's victory on Saturday.

But Davis may not have a choice. Folk hero isn't a job one decides to have. It is thrust upon individuals. And Mets fans need one more than most.

So when the lineups were announced Saturday by the immortal Alex Anthony, it was Davis who got the biggest cheers. Not David Wright, the man most likely to hold all the offensive records worth owning for the franchise. Not Reyes, maybe the most exciting player in baseball, finally back from injury.

Ike Davis. With 18 at-bats to his name.

So what is it that makes Davis uniquely positioned to enjoy the adoration of Mets fans? Is it as simple as my SNY.tv colleague Ted Berg thinks it is: That Davis hasn't been around long enough to fail yet? Or has the stage been set for something more enduring?

While it is true that Davis has yet to have any high-profile setbacks -- in a game that imposes periods of futility on even its brightest stars -- Davis is unlikely to ever go through a slump that sears Mets fans the way the collapses of 2007 and 2008 did.

Instead, while Wright and Reyes need a success (read: World Series title) to erase that heartache and merely get back to even, Davis gets to start there. This is a major advantage in winning hearts and minds of fans.

There are other advantages Davis enjoys as well. His path to the Major Leagues really turns the misery from Mets fans on its head. The recent Mets teams have had huge expectations, but their play on the field didn't live up to that supposed potential.

Davis, meanwhile, exceeded hopes. He hit entirely too well to allow the Mets to limit his timetable to late 2010 or early 2011. Mike Jacobs' not hitting at all didn't hurt, either. The bar has been set pretty low for Davis.

There can be no greater disparity between losing a seven-game lead with 17 to play and how Davis described his first few days in the Majors.

"I had such nerves the first few days," Davis said. "I didn't even have an approach. It was just see the ball, hit the ball. Only now am I settling in, getting the chance to think about how a pitcher is going to approach me."

Even so, he managed two multi-hit games in his first four contests, and hit the longest home run of any Met at Citi Field in his fifth game. Again, this is an example of apparently easy success rather than strung out, overwrought failure.

And just as easily, fans ran out in droves to purchase the Davis No. 29 jersey or T-shirt. The season-ticket holder who got to greet Davis on the field prior to Saturday's game had his jersey on. Many fans throughout the stadium did as well. A shirt that couldn't have been sold before Monday -- no one knew what uniform number he'd wear, with the possible exception of equipment manager Charlie Samuels -- had become standard fare in just five days.

Of course, another aspect of Davis' popularity that is likely to endure is his Jewish background.

Davis' father is a Major Leaguer, something that drew the attention of the media. What drove the conversation among the many Jewish fans is the faith of his mother, which makes Davis the highest-profile Jewish player in New York in decades.

"I am really proud of my Jewish heritage," Davis said. "I did grow up celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah. And I know there haven't been too many of us. So I'm glad Jewish kids get to see they can grow up to be professional baseball players."

Probably the most interesting part of Davis' story so far is that even he doesn't realize what is in store for him. When I told him that Shawn Green used to get marriage proposals from Jewish mothers on behalf of their daughters, Davis laughed nervously and replied, "I hope that doesn't happen. I'm not ready for marriage."

But Mets fans are clearly looking for a major commitment. And in Davis, they have someone free of the stains of the past, who has done nothing but succeed so far while simultaneously giving a large ethnic group of Mets fans someone to rally around.

Ted is right: Davis hasn't been around long enough to fail yet. But even that first 0-for-20 slump is unlikely to bring him down too much. And that puts him well ahead of the established Mets stars, fairly or unfairly, in the hearts of their fans.

Howard Megdal is a contributor to SNY.tv, MLBTradeRumors.com and the editor of The Perpetual Post. His book, The Baseball Talmud, is available now. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/HowardMegdal.
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