BALTIMORE—The Baltimore Orioles owe Chris Davis nearly $110 million for the remainder of his seven-year, $161-million contract.
With Mike Elias in charge as the club’s general manager, John and Louis Angelos running the team because of their father’s declining health, fans wonder how long the Orioles will keep their struggling first baseman on the field.
After the first week of the 2019 season, Davis is hitless in 17 at-bats and has struck out 11 times. Dating back to mid-September, Davis hasn’t had a hit in his last 38 at-bats.
For the most part, Oriole fans have been supportive of Davis. In 2014, the year after he led the major leagues with 53 home runs and 138 RBIs, they didn’t boo him when he slumped to a .194 average.
After the 2015 season when Davis rebounded and hit a league-leading 47 homers and signed the team-record contract, fans were overjoyed, but his performance has gone south.
Last year, he had what many consider the worst season in major league history, hitting .168 with 192 strikeouts in 128 games. As he did after the 2017 season, when he slumped to .215 with 195 strikeouts in 128 games, Davis vowed to change. However, this year has started off even worse for the 33-year-old.
It reached new lows when many in the Opening Day crowd of 44,182 booed him heartily after each of his three strikeouts and sarcastically cheered Hanser Alberto, who pinch-hit for Davis in the eighth.
“It’s not something that I was really expecting,” Davis said of the reaction.
“But, it was tough. At the same time, I heard it a lot last year, and rightfully so. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. I understand the frustration. Nobody’s more frustrated than I am, especially a day like today, the kind of game that we were having, really had them on their heels the whole game and it was a frustrating day for me personally and the team collectively. But you’ve got to move on.”
Davis addressed the frustrations of 2018 at January’s FanFest, and three weeks later when he reported for spring training. He’ll have to revisit them after a start like he’s had.
‘It makes it a little tougher,” Davis said.
“Especially having to hear about it all the time. That was really my main goal going into spring training, really to turn the page and just focus on what lies ahead and try to forget about what had happened last year. It’s been tougher to start the season, but there’s a lot of baseball left to play. I’d be foolish if I just started wallowing in my own self-pity and feeling sorry for myself. I don’t think anybody’s feeling sorry for me right now. I think people are ready to see me turn it around, and I’m ready to turn it around.”
Since Davis was traded from Texas to the Orioles in July 2011, Buck Showalter had been his manager. Now, it’s Brandon Hyde.
“I’m seeing a guy that is giving a great effort,” Hyde said. “It’s just not happening right now. We wanted to get him off to a good start. It’s not the start I’m sure he wanted to get off to, but I’m going to continue to play him and I’m going to continue to support him and find the right matchups for him to try to get him off the schneid here a little bit early. But he’s battling and being a great teammate and not taking his offense to his defense.”
Alex Cobb, who started the opener, said Davis has the support of his teammates.
“Chris works really hard,” Cobb said.
“He’s a great guy. I mean, he really is. He’s one of the better teammates that I’ve had in my time in the big leagues, and I know he cares so much. To feel that in front of your home fans, I mean, I can’t even imagine. I do feel for him. I understand the fans’ frustration, as well, but nobody’s got a better outlook.”
Hyde believes his relationship with Davis is strong.
“I have a lot of conversations with him,” Hyde said. “We talk regularly. That stuff happens during the game. I haven’t been around here, so I wasn’t aware of fan reaction. I’m not really concerned about it. I’m going to support the guys on the club. It is what it is. I’m going to continue to stay positive with him and continue to support him as well as the whole coaching staff. We’re there for him, and we’re working as hard as we can to get off to the best start he can.”
When Davis was asked about Hyde’s support, he bristled.
“I would expect my manager to be behind me, no matter who it was,” Davis said. “Obviously, I’m going be here for the foreseeable future, and I’m a guy that’s been here for a while. So I know Brandon is behind me, I know the whole coaching staff, I know my teammates are behind me. At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.”