The interview portion of FanFest is wrapping up, with only a few more players being led into the media room on the third level of the Baltimore Convention Center.
Chris Davis’ session lasted the longest, at more than 14 minutes, as he revisited a nightmarish 2018 season, the changes in his workouts and nutrition, his enthusiasm over being a leader in the clubhouse and how the shift continues to be a thorn in his side the length and width of an oak tree.
That could explain the oblique injuries in past years.
Here’s a sampling from today’s interview:
On the new hires:
“I like them. Didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time with the hitting coach (Don Long). I’ve talked to (Brandon) Hyde a few times on the phone. But I like him. They both seem like positive ... one energetic, one not so much. They seem like they complement each other very well. But I think coming into this I didn’t want to pass judgment on anyone yet. I wanted to come in with a clean slate and just get to know these guys, get to spend a little bit of time with them, and so far, so good.
“It’s a good spot for me to be in, having been here for several years and kind of seeing the regime change. So I’m excited to see what these guys have to bring.”
On his offseason training:
“It was a lot different this year. Unfortunately, I’m not getting any younger and I think this past season more than anything just really taught me a lot about taking care of my body, the way it looks like as I get older. I can’t go in there and crush arms all the time or just load up and attack training the way I have in years past. So I’ve had to do some different things this offseason.
“I’m a little bit lighter and everybody keeps telling me that I look skinny, so I guess that’s a compliment. But I feel good. I feel more ready this time this year than I did last year. That’s saying a lot because I felt like I was really going to have a good year going into spring training. I’m ready to get it started, I’m ready to put last year behind us and start this season off. We’re actually going down to Sarasota a little early.”
On having fresh eyes on him:
“I’ll be the first one to say that I’m going to miss Buck (Showalter), I’m going to miss Dan (Duquette). Both of those guys, I spent a lot of time with them, I got to know them really well. We had a lot of fun, a lot of good memories, but I am excited to see what this new staff brings.
“It’s a completely different looking team. Completely different dynamic going into this season. A lot younger, which I think to me is exciting. You have a lot of guys that have been in the big leagues a little bit. Not a whole lot, but they’re still really very young in their careers, so it’s an open canvas, so to speak, and I’m excited to be, I guess, the dad or the grandfather, whatever you want to call it of the group.”
“I think there’s no denying the recent success that teams have had with advanced analytics and having a staff that handles all that. I mean, for me it would be foolish to not at least explore it. Especially after last year and everything that we went through, there definitely needs to be some changes. There needs to be a good balance. It can’t be all one way or all the other.
“There’s some good information out there that a lot of people that have different insights, different perspectives, and I’m looking forward to working with those people, meeting those people and seeing what they have to offer.”
On how long it took to turn the page from last season:
“It was a lot quicker than I thought it was going to be, to be honest with you. I think really just the last month of the season it was such a grind, it was such a roller coaster ride for me, really not knowing what to expect going into the offseason. But really, once the season ended, I kind of took a deep breath and let it go.
“I mean, there was so much that went on away from baseball. Having to deal with just failure on a constant basis, unmet expectations, and this is all personal. And I think by the time the season ended I was just so tired that I was ready to turn the page. And I had a lot of work to do, so there wasn’t a whole lot of time for me to sit back and feel sorry for myself. I wanted to explore a lot of options as far as my offense was concerned, my nutrition and training. I felt like the clock was ticking.”
On what will constitute a successful season for him:
“I mean, anything above what I did last year would, I guess, be considered successful. But for me it’s getting back to the player that I was in 2013, in 2012, in 2015. And years that I was productive, even in ‘16. Just being a threat in the lineup. Being a guy that produces runs, that his teammates can count on to be there on both sides of the baseball. That, for me, is where I’m going to kind of define a successful season.
“I’ve never been a guy to throw out a lot of numbers. You guys know that. But to continue down this path that I’ve been on these past couple of years and make no adjustment and make no strides in a different direction, it just seems ... I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to go through another season like I had last year again, and I don’t think that will happen. I really don’t. So we’ll see here shortly, I guess.”
On the shift:
“It’s definitely taken a toll on me. I can think all the way back to 2011, maybe even 2010, times that I was shifted and it wasn’t as drastic as it is now. For me, it’s killed me as far as my average is concerned. A lot of times the low line drives that are hit into right-center field.
“The biggest thing for me is how do you adapt without changing who you are as a hitter, but also still doing something to be competitive? I felt like I tried to bunt a number of times last year and pitchers were laying out making ridiculous plays. I don’t know what it’s going to look like moving forward. I mean, the right-handed hitters are starting to see it like the left-handed hitters are. It’s a little bit tougher with the first baseman being over there. But it’s definitely changed the game. And I think it’s taken away from the game. I really do.
“I understand the numbers, I understand analytics and trying to do whatever you can to beat the other team, but it’s just not baseball to me, and I don’t feel like it ever will be, no matter how they try to modify it. If they’re asking for votes to change it back to the way it was, my vote is out there.”
On whether FanFest is harder on him or a needed pickup:
“For me it’s been a pickup. A lot of times it’s easy to sit back and focus on the three to 5 percent that are negative, that are hateful and disrespectful and really lump everybody in with that, but I can’t tell you how many people have walked up to me and encouraged me, praised me for the way that I carried myself or the way that we handled ourselves as a team going through that. And just have told me how excited they are for this year.
“That, to me, is life-giving, coming back here after everything that went on last year, all the emotions tied to it and not really knowing what it was going to look like. It’s been exciting for me and it’s made me want to get down to Sarasota even more.”
On confidence that he can be a feared hitter again:
“Absolutely, absolutely. And that was my goal after ‘15. I wanted to lead the big leagues in home runs. That was a personal goal for me that year, but moving forward I wanted to continue being a threat at the plate as a power hitter. And I don’t feel physically like I’ve lost a step. I don’t feel like I’ve lost any ability. I think if anything I have a lot more perspective than I had a couple years ago. I still feel like I’m at the top of my game, I still feel like I can compete with anybody and I’m looking forward to the chance to kind of redeem that.”
On how he can close the gap on the stat sheet:
“I think a lot of it was really the mentality, and I know that’s kind of vague, but I was searching for a certain feeling. Something that I just have done all my life. It was kind of a feel I had my whole life that for some reason I had lost touch with it over the past couple of years, and I was trying to get it back sometimes during the season, sometimes in the offseason. And like I said earlier, I made a lot of changes in the offseason.
“I saw a lot of different people, people I hadn’t seen in a decade but that knew me at a younger age when I was in the Rangers minor league system. And I feel like it just kind of opened me up. And I think going through last season, going through that stretch of just failure day in and day out really got me to the point where it was like, ‘OK, now we need to exhaust all options and really take a step back and make an adjustment.’ I don’t feel like I’m an old man, I don’t feel like I’ve lost a step. Maybe down the first base line. But other than that, honestly I feel great.”
On what percentage was mental versus physical:
“I think a lot of what happened last year started out as physical, and I think I let that creep in way too much and way too often. I’ve played through injuries before. I’ve played full seasons with injuries and still been able to produce. I feel like that’s kind of our roles as big leagues players. It’s something that you accept.
“Nobody’s going to feel 100 percent every day and it did get to a point last year where I was just, mentally it was too much for me to handle and I wasn’t opening up or sharing that with anybody. I was trying to keep it all in and be professional, and it took its toll on me. And I think it was very obvious and very easy to see.”
On whether he can be a leader if he’s not producing:
“I think it definitely plays into it. You can’t be a leader and just not go out there and show up. It’s more than just going out there and putting on the uniform and standing at first base or wherever on the field. It’s more than just looking the part. People want to see the fruits of your labor, and for me I think if anything, going through last year ... And really I felt like I was one of the leaders in this clubhouse for several years. Obviously not as outspoken as Jonesy (Adam Jones), but I definitely felt like I was part of that group.
“I think last year it actually gave me the ability to kind of relate to guys on a different level. And there was a sense of pride for me to continue going through that and not just give up or give in or try to place the blame on anybody else. I think there was honor in what I did and I hope those guys appreciated it, and hopefully it will help us kind of get to the next phase in our relationship as far as me being the leader of the clubhouse.”
On how much of the blame he places on his shoulders for last year’s 115 losses:
“There’s no doubt that I in no way fulfilled my responsibilities or my duties as far as production, but at the end of the day the two best seasons I’ve had statistically, we didn’t even sniff the playoffs. So it just goes to show you that no one man can carry a team. As hot as Manny Machado was at times last year, we were still losing games. As well as Alex (Cobb) threw the ball down the stretch, we were still losing. You can’t put it on one person. It’s not fair and it’s just not right. But that doesn’t mean you can just neglect responsibility or not accept accountability.
“But to be honest with you, it just didn’t feel real going through that. I was just kind of numb to it. Maybe it was because I had so much going on personally, maybe it was because we had won here for so long and I had never seen a season like that, but I just don’t want guys to think this is what it looks like. In my mind that was a fluke, that’s not going to happen again.”