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Friday, April 5, 2019

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So...About Chris Davis...

By Speed on the Beat

I apologize for the homer feel in this baseball-centric piece in advance.

If you know me at all, you know that I’m a Baltimore-area sports fan. I was the guy who went to Baltimore Nighthawks games at the then-Baltimore Arena with my folks because I wanted to see basketball in Baltimore. I’m the type of dude who’ll cheer for the Terps, even when it’s maddening to see them be as up-and-down as they are. Being a Baltimore sports fan means that you’re an optimistic realist. You know that things can go to crap early and/or often, but you still know that there’s potential in every game, in every player, and within every coach. You appreciate the unprecedented runs, the playoff games, and the championships that come the way of our hard-nosed town. Our teams, even when they don’t do well, still embody what it means to be a Baltimorean.

However, Chris Davis is testing my patience as a fan.

I wrote midway through Spring Training that I believed Davis had the capacity to turn his woes around. “No one could suck forever, even if they get old” was the gist of the piece. Then, the 2019 season proper got underway and he started 0 for 17 with an eye-popping eleven strikeouts. He’s closing in, as one Twitter pundit said, on a fresh, new hell. No one expects the Orioles to be the GOAT team this season. They’re scrappy and feisty, just like Baltimore itself, but they probably won’t contend. Even if they lose 100 games again, it looks like it’ll be fun to watch. That’s okay, as it’s Baltimore in a nutshell. As I said in my “Oriole Magic” rap (shameless plug), it’s not the cleanest city, but the water’s kind of clear.

And then you get to Davis and his lack of a batting average and things kind of deflate if you’re a fan. 

Don’t get me wrong here. Chris Davis still plays good defense and contributes to the morale of the team as an elder statesman. He's still a potential role model for the younger players because he's seen both sides of the game, the winning side and the losing side. Plus, next to former Oriole Adam Jones, he's one of the more charitable players on the team.

Something’s up with the offensive side of his game, though, and it’s sad and infuriating to watch. I’m no expert. In fact, the last time I played organized baseball was in my teens, so I avoid playing Friday Morning GM unless I’m playing MLB The Show. I know that the team has been actively trying to help him improve with analytics and the whole nine. He’s the team’s most-recognizable player right now and the longest-tenured Oriole. Davis doing well puts butts in seats (because of his contract, even him doing well won’t procure anything for him in a trade).

However, I can’t help but wonder if his offensive game is effectively finished. Never mind the money owed to Davis. That’d be a tragedy for the man himself and the team if their most-recognizable player can’t put the barrel on the ball anymore. Then once you add in the money aspect, if you’re a fan, you’ll probably want to shed real tears. He’s struggling out there. Yes, he still draws a few walks here and there, because “Crush” Davis can still crush the ball every so often. But, when will enough be enough? He’s closing in on the longest hitless streak of all-time, months after ending one of the worst seasons of all-time. I hate to be the one to say this, but bruhman’s best years may be behind him.

What can we, as a collective fanbase and people who care about the well-being of the team, do? Does the team continue to trot him out there because he gets bank and they need some sort of return on investment, even if it’s a minuscule one? Does the team sit him and have him stew and think about his actions like a toddler in time-out? The fans are actively booing the man pretty much every time he steps up to the plate. To manager Brandon Hyde and new GM Mike Elias, that’s not the way to instill confidence in your team. Remember, fans turned quickly on Buck Showalter in 2017 and 2018 when he continued to put Davis in lineups. And yes, this season is an experimental one. That doesn’t mean that every fan is going to trust the process if it includes watching Davis whiff 200 times in a year.

A few years ago, the crowds would go berserk when he got in the batter’s box. Life comes at you fast, I guess. I thought this piece would offer up answers for Davis’ struggles, but it went completely left. It’s a saddening thing to watch a player go through this. Why? Well, it reminds us that, even if they’re getting paid millions upon millions, these players are still human, and they still will have periods of amazing endeavors and periods of suck. It (usually) helps us empathize with them, but also takes us out of the distraction sports often give us to real world problems.

I just hope Davis can get out of his suck period and provide even a fraction of what he did at his absolute peak. We all want to see the brother shine.


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