Chris Davis wasn’t in the lineup for a second consecutive game Sunday, and that, obviously, was the primary topic of conversation in manager Buck Showalter’s pre-game press conference.
Showalter didn’t sidestep the issue, but he chose his words carefully, more carefully even than usual. It was out of respect to Davis, but also because Showalter’s not going to reveal too much.
Still, Showalter said plenty — in what he discussed and what he avoided. He talked about the frustration Davis has had and hinted at his own frustration and that of hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh in watching Davis attempt to do the same things with no improved results.
In fact, the results have been brutal. Davis, 32, is hitting .167 with a .257 on-base percentage, .256 slugging percentage, two homers, six RBIs, 10 walks and 33 strikeouts in 101 plate appearances in 2018. He has four extra base hits so far this year.
He’s 1-for-18 versus left-handers — that one hit, a homer — with two walks and 12 strikeouts.
And the stat no one can forget: He’s in the third season of a seven-year, $161 million deal that is the largest, by far, in franchise history.
Showalter, of course, knows all of this.
He explained that Coolbaugh and Davis are taking these two days and Monday’s off day, to try and re-establish some things with Davis, to try and make adjustments. He’s not revealing what those adjustments are. But, the sense, Showalter said, is that Davis is fully on board.
With all of that, here are Showalter’s quotes, cleaned up for clarity when possible. The questions are paraphrased. You can read in between the lines if you like.
Showalter was asked about Davis’ absence in the lineup for a second consecutive game.
Showalter: “Chris is working on some things. Doing some things … working on some adjustments and some things that we think … today, yesterday and maybe even tomorrow, some things that he and Scott are working on and trying to make some adjustments. So we look forward to him being back in the lineup and with some things maybe that can help him for Tuesday. We’ll see.”
Showalter was asked about Davis attempting to get back to what worked in the past and how different techniques, such as batting him first, already have been attempted.
Showalter: “The past was last year. Trying a lot of different things. We all know what he’s capable of and what he’s done in the past. But it’s been a while since it has been consistent. We’ve tried leaving everything alone, just letting it play its course. We’ve tried batting order, Scott has tried. … I think Chris is very receptive to some things that … I don’t know if somebody would consider them drastic. I just think there’s a few things (that need to be altered). I talked with him some yesterday, I talk with him some every day. … Chris was a baseball player with power, you know? I think that he was a guy, and still does, that runs the bases, goes down the line hard. I’m sure there is, regardless of what we may think, none of us have really walked in his shoes and I’m sure there is some inner pressure to live up to some things. Just trying to step back and start again. You can’t continue down the path and expect different results if we don’t try something to fix something that isn’t working as well as it could be.”
Showalter was asked if he remembers such a sharp drop-off with players in the past.
Showalter: “I’ve seen guys struggle with high expectations, all the other stuff. Yeah, I’ve seen that, obviously. I think we all have. Try to get to the root of what’s causing it. It’s always not just one thing. People think it’s just one thing, it’s multi. And Chris is working. … It means a lot to him, OK? It does. It’s very very frustrating. If you guys see the behind the scenes, it’s eating at him. He wants to be everything for everybody. And I know a lot of people sarcastically would say, ‘Well you know, for X amount of dollars a year, I’ll wear that.’ He doesn’t look at it that way. Believe me.”
Showalter was asked if the money and expectations compounded Davis’ situation.
Showalter: “It’s a real, real long answer if I was being completely, not honest, but blunt and open about it. And I just don’t think that serves a purpose to talk about a lot of those things that present challenges.”
Showalter was asked if he views what Davis has done to try and shake the slump as positives or as further examples of frustration.
Showalter: “That’s one of the things I talked about him yesterday without revealing a whole lot, it’s just you’ve got to get back to kind of being a baseball player. I don’t want to get into all the (specifics). I think Chris loves to play baseball and he loves playing the game within the game. … What happens is you’re trying to get it back with three homers in a game and two more and this one 480 feet, you know. When you drive in 100-plus runs, you are hitting some two-out singles, OK? You look at (Miguel) Cabrera (Saturday) night. That’s how you drive in a bunch of runs. But it’s there. It’s there.”