Suddenly, an .089 hitter became a folk hero. This weekend, Chris Davis went from being pitied to a sought-after guest on talk shows.
On Monday morning, shortly before the Orioles’ Patriots’ Day game against the Boston Red Sox, Davis, who a few days earlier was cheered by tiny crowds in Baltimore, was on national sports shows to talk about his perseverance.
When the Orioles’ home season began, and Davis was hitless, he was booed each time he struck out. After the three games with the New York Yankees that drew large crowds came four games against Oakland, and a record-low crowd, followed by three modest gatherings.
Whenever Davis came to bat against the A’s, he was cheered, and his outs were greeted with encouragement.
In some fans’ eyes, Davis went from an overpaid, greedy player who should be sent to the minors, an eye doctor, or home, to a sympathetic character.
He hit the ball hard in some of those hitless at-bats in Baltimore. When he ended the record for most consecutive at-bats, 54, and plate appearances, 62, without a hit, he was cheered in Baltimore and by fans at Fenway Park.
Many of those fans in Baltimore remembered that it wasn’t all that long ago that Davis twice led the major leagues in home runs. In Boston, they recalled when he won a 17-inning game as a pitcher.
They didn’t want to see him humiliated. They wanted him to get a hit.
His teammates, all younger and many of them new to him, have quickly taken to Davis, who despite being extremely polite and well-spoken, is very much a loner.
When he came into the clubhouse on Saturday, they began to cheer and bang on lockers, causing him to get emotional. Davis even called for the ball when he got his first hit, which he plans to auction off to benefit the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital
Despite past criticism questioning his willingness to work on changing his approach at the plate, his teammates saw how hard he worked this spring.
And even though there are still fans who think Davis should be satisfied to take his money and disappear, the Orioles have no intention of releasing him, and he has no intention of quitting.
Still, he wasn’t enjoying the added attention the streak was bringing, and that his manager and teammates were being asked about it constantly.
During the weekend, though, it turned into a feel-good story about persevering through adversity.
Not long after appearing on “The Dan Patrick Show” and MLB Network on Monday morning, Davis hit his first home run in nearly eight months. MLB Network’s Robert Flores said he couldn’t help but pull for Davis after talking with him on Monday.
After starting the season 0-for-33, Davis has had four hits in his last 12 at-bats to bring his average to .089. He was scratched from the Orioles’ 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night because of illness.
In order to achieve a modest goal, a .200 average after 100 at-bats, Davis would have to go 16-for-55, a .290 clip, to get to .200.
That’s hard to do, but if Davis has regained his stroke with the help of the team’s new hitting coach, the skilled Don Long, perhaps he can get to .200—or even higher.
After he signed the team record, seven-year, $161 million contract, Davis’ average fell to .221 in 2016, but he still compiled a .332 on-base percentage because of his 88 walks.
Those numbers were followed by a .215 average in 2017 and an unfathomable .168 last year.
Fans hope that the weekend was a sign that Davis is making strides. When he hits, and hits with power, it gives the Orioles’ lineup another dimension.
However, if Davis falls into another gigantic slump, the goodwill he’s engendered is likely to disappear.
For now, let’s remember the true Oriole fans who didn’t mind being part of small crowds, who made sure that Davis was appreciated. For them, those glory days of “Crush Davis” haven’t yet gone away.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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