So Chris Davis reported to the Orioles spring training camp yesterday. He had arrived in town earlier, but an illness kept him from the Ed Smith Stadium complex.
He reiterated that he spent some time this winter working with people from his baseball past who may have provided him some new thoughts. He said again he’s willing to make some batting changes. He’s willing to incorporate analytics. Davis knows he needs to prove he can be a productive hitter, and that he needs to show that to Orioles fans.
“I think hearing a few different voices this offseason and doing some things a little bit different, one, it helped me realize I wasn’t as far away as I thought I was, and two, that the player that was productive and successful in the past has not gone. He didn’t disappear,” Davis said. “He’s still here, and I think as far as my swing is concerned, I feel that I’m that player right now.”
At this point there is probably not much more to do than let Davis play and see if he begins to produce more. We won’t know that answer after a few spring games, and maybe not even after a few weeks of spring games. Nothing that happens in Florida - good or bad - will count anyway. But he could begin to set a tone under the Florida sun for a bounceback season. Launching a few balls over a few fences and making more consistent contact might provide hope and momentum for Davis and, at least temporarily, silence some of his detractors.
Davis spoke yesterday about learning to handle criticism better, and the mental game is big here, no doubt. Sure, he makes a lot of money, but dollars alone don’t shelter one from criticism. Those dollars usually create more pressure, not less, and it just built and built as his bat continued to slide and slide.
He produced 53 homers and a 1.004 OPS in 2013. That ranked second in the American League, behind only Miguel Cabrera. He hit 47 homers and produced a .923 OPS in 2015, and that ranked sixth in the AL. He was ahead of players including J.D. Martinez, David Ortiz, Manny Machado, Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve.
But the same guy had fallen so far by last year that he produced a slash line of .168/.243/.296, and his .539 OPS ranked 69th out of 69 qualifying hitters in 2018 in the American League. A qualifying hitter had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.
It was a terrible year and criticism followed Davis with the intensity of a hungry dog chasing a bone. It was justified, but it was also constant, and by that we mean nearly 24-7. At this point it might be best for all of us to come up for air and let this play out a bit. Let’s see what it looks like when the spring games begin. Davis is getting a fresh start with a new manager and general manager running the team now.
Does he take advantage of it?
Former O’s executive Tom Giordano has died: Giordano spent seven decades in Major League Baseball. He died Thursday at 93. He was the Orioles’ scouting and player development director from 1976-1987. He is known as the scouting director who selected future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. for the Orioles in the second round out of Aberdeen High School in 1978. He helped the Orioles acquire other players who led the team to its last World Series title in 1983. He had a long association with former Orioles general manager Hank Peters.
Known throughout MLB as “T-Bone,” Giordano was born in Newark, N.J. New York Newsday wrote this upon his passing this week.