When remembering the final years of Chris Davis' career, don't forget those early years - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

When remembering the final years of Chris Davis’ career, don’t forget those early years

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

On May 6, 2012, the Orioles and Boston Red Sox were tied, 6-6, through 15 innings. Manager Buck Showalter had burned through his bullpen. Only Brian Matusz, who was scheduled to start the next night, and third-string catcher Luis Exposito were left. Showalter had other ideas.

He knew that Chris Davis had pitched in junior college and decided to take a chance on Davis, who had struck out five times and hit into a double play as the designated hitter.

Davis pitched a scoreless 16th, and Adam Jones hit a three-run home run against Boston reserve outfielder Darnell McDonald, who was pitching for the Red Sox in the top of the 17th.

In the bottom of the 17th, Davis threw another scoreless inning, and the Orioles had a most unlikely win.

The most unusual game I’ve ever seen was the beginning in many ways of the most recent successful five-year run of the Orioles.

Before that season, Davis was a power hitter who hadn’t managed to become a regular in four seasons with the Texas Rangers. Texas traded Davis and pitcher Tommy Hunter, who started that May game, to the Orioles on July 30, 2011 for reliever Koji Uehara.

Davis played some third base and the corner outfield positions in his early days with the Orioles. In 2012, he was part of a most entertaining team that finally broke a 14-year streak of losing Oriole teams.

On Thursday, Davis, 35, announced his retirement from baseball. Many fans will remember the bloated seven-year, $161 million contract and the unproductive years that followed. But there were productive years that convinced Orioles managing partner Peter Angelos that Davis was worth the deal.

In 2012, Davis hit .270 with 33 home runs and 85 RBIs as part of a talented team, few of whom remain active.

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This year alone, rightfielder Nick Markakis retired, catcher Matt Wieters, who didn’t sign with any team, was cut by the United States Olympic baseball team, and sidearming reliever Darren O’Day said he’d have to think carefully about his future after his most recent hamstring injury while pitching for the New York Yankees.

Shortly after the Davis announcement was made, the Chicago Cubs placed struggling right-hander Jake Arrieta on release waivers.

Last weekend, the Orioles honored shortstop J.J. Hardy, another mainstay of that team who retired in 2017, with his installation in the team’s Hall of Fame.

The most beloved player in 2012 was centerfielder Adam Jones, who’s completing a two-year contract in Japanese baseball.

A few players from that team are still around — Manny Machado, who was still at Double-A Bowie, playing shortstop on the day Davis pitched, and Zack Britton, who was trying to make it as a starter and is now a key reliever on the Yankees.

That fun team was the one that turned the fan base back on to the Orioles.

Davis didn’t break out until he led the major leagues in home runs with 53 and RBIs with 138 in 2013.

He was expecting another big year in 2014, but it ended with a .196 average and a 25-game suspension for failure to obtain a prescription for a stimulant.

That was the year the Orioles had their best chance to get to the World Series, but Machado and Wieters had season-ending injuries and Davis couldn’t play in the postseason because of the suspension.

In 2015, he had a brilliant second half of the season when he slammed 28 home runs in 74 games and led the majors again with 47.

Davis wanted to stay with the Orioles. After the team allowed Markakis and Nelson Cruz to leave after the 2014 season, Angelos felt he needed to sign Davis to avoid more negative fan fallout.

Once he signed the contract, Davis never duplicated those numbers. He hit .196 with 92 home runs and 231 RBIs.

While he donated large sums to several worthy charities, his on-field performance overshadowed his generosity. Fans called for him to walk away, which he finally did on Thursday.

Davis was always articulate and quotable, and would privately voice his opinion and, yes, he knew what the fans were thinking.

Now, he’ll go back to his Texas home with his wife, Jill, and three daughters and spend time with them without fans making fun of his futility.

In Baltimore, they’ll bemoan that contract, forgetting that many fans swore they’d never attend games again if Davis wasn’t re-signed.

While they’ll recite the numbers in his deal, they’ll forget that day in Boston when Davis pitched to help fuel that great run. They’ll forget those exciting home runs and those Crush T-shirts that were once a hot commodity.

It’s sad that Davis couldn’t duplicate his early success but be happy that there was that early success.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

 

30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    August 13, 2021 at 7:46 am

    Unfortunately that was his second positive test, with all the good he did for Baltimore, he knew the chance he was taking having tested positive earlier for Adderall…I am quite sure he & his family are set for their lifetimes, best of luck to them…go O’s…

  2. Boog Robinson Robinson

    August 13, 2021 at 8:36 am

    Nice article Rich. Funny, I’ve rarely had much great to say about the man, but I did name my favorite dog Crush. Thanks for reminding me why I did that. Texas welcomes home one of it’s own.

    Drink H2O

  3. TxBirdFan

    August 13, 2021 at 8:47 am

    Despite the clamor on this site for CD to be jettisoned, I had quietly hoped that he would come back and have one more good year. Not that it would have helped the Orioles who were set up to lose with or without him, but I would have enjoyed seeing him succeed again when others thought he couldn’t. Alas – his body double crossed him and he wasn’t able to do it. Best of luck to Crush and his family!

  4. Bman

    August 13, 2021 at 8:59 am

    At least they are cutting his salary from 2022 and spreading it out over like fifteen years. Put the money now where it will best help the organization. Norby has not been hitting yet. Hopefully he hits his stride. I would bump up Cowser and Mayo too to Delmarva.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 13, 2021 at 10:25 am

      I’d rather they bite the bullet and pay him in full.

      Begone foul contract!

  5. CalsPals

    August 13, 2021 at 10:47 am

    Interesting article on ESPN regarding tanking, whose picture do they put at the top of the article?…Guess…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 13, 2021 at 1:04 pm

      Thanks for pointing that one out CPs. Very interesting. But instead of picturing Pedro Severino, why not get a pic of the King of Tanking himself? Players don’t tank….GMs do, and if Mike Elias didn’t write the book on it, he’s certainly taken to another level.

      As far as that article goes, I love the idea of a reverse order draft for the teams that didn’t make the playoffs!

      Tanking Begone!

      Drink Pepsi

    • CalsPals

      August 13, 2021 at 2:21 pm

      That would’ve been VERY appropriate, also like that idea…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        August 13, 2021 at 7:51 pm

        I knew he couldn’t let this one go. bwahaahaahaahhaa .

    • CalsPals

      August 13, 2021 at 8:17 pm

      Agree, us critics…lol…go O’s…

  6. BirdsCaps

    August 13, 2021 at 11:28 am

    That day in Boston was something else. I watched part of the game, went out to pick up our season tickets at Ripken Stadium, and listened to and watched the end of that wonderful game. This is one of the best moments from the “winning” era of birds baseball, along with Jones’s trip around opacy after clinching the pennant. I will always remember crush and try to remember the good years. However, the stupid amount spent on his contract is a reminder of how terrible ownership is at running a baseball team (I remember stories circulating about the birds outbidding themselves). While I would have been disappointed, I never would have blamed the birds for not signing Davis at those ridiculous terms. Furthermore well run teams like the Red Sox act like adults when they sign $100+ million dollar flops, they cut bait like they did with Sandoval.

  7. willmiranda

    August 13, 2021 at 11:35 am

    Full disclosure. When the O’s re-signed Davis I felt it was a good thing off his previous performance. The amount did not trouble me because entertainers’ salaries are beyond any real comprehension on my part. As I have sometimes mentioned, I do know that the O’s administration, in its many incarnations, is no match for Scott Boras, Inc. But I digress. My point is that I don’t think you can blame Davis for crippling the rebuilding process of the present regime. The Plan, although not transparent, is clear about not spending big bucks on major league payroll in its first phase. Money is being directed to infrastructure: analytics, overseas installations, scouting, minor leagues, etc. In my opinion, The Plan is to build these up until they produce enough talented, but entry-level payroll, major leaguers to justify, in management’s mind, spending serious bucks on top free agents to complete the rebuild. Chris Davis’ presence on the major league payroll, aside from his occupying a roster position that now will be taken by a non-prospect, has had little or no impact on this “process.” The O’s, if they wanted to, could have been spending a lot more on payroll even with Davis on it. In fact, I would argue that Davis’ inflating the payroll has made management seem as if it were trying harder to field a major league team.

  8. Boog Robinson Robinson

    August 13, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    Remember …. the demise of Chris Davis coincided with the introduction of the “Superhero Crush Davis and his Dog Samson” bobblehead.

    I still maintain that the pressure of trying to live up to the concept of himself wear tights and cape while swinging a bat ruined his psyche.
    (though I don’t believe it bothered Samson)

    We should have all melted those suckers down in a bonfire on Eutaw St.

  9. Buzz1979

    August 13, 2021 at 1:46 pm

    I don’t believe any other player in MLB history had totally lost it like he did.

    • CalsPals

      August 13, 2021 at 2:22 pm

      Not even Wilkerson?..;)…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 13, 2021 at 2:36 pm

      Not even Miggy Cabrera? 😉 ….Drink Gatorade

      • Buzz1979

        August 13, 2021 at 3:53 pm

        With his contract, he is close.

    • CalsPals

      August 13, 2021 at 4:07 pm

      Holy cow, is he for real?…go O’s…

  10. Birdman

    August 13, 2021 at 4:04 pm

    Admittedly, hindsight is 20/20, and no one would have predicted Davis’ complete collapse after the 2015 season … but looking back, Davis’ abysmal .196 batting average in 2014, just one year before he was given a $161 million contract, should have been a warning sign that something, whether it was medication issues or something else, wasn’t quite right.

  11. millboy

    August 13, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    Thanks Rich…There were some good times at OPACY during that run, and Crush was a huge part of that. He was also a very good defensive first baseman.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 13, 2021 at 6:14 pm

      You’re welcome, Millboy.

  12. OriolesNumber1Fan

    August 13, 2021 at 6:27 pm

    Pretty interesting article from ESPN about “Tanking”. Some critics here mentioned the Orioles because of the picture although there was no mention of them when reading the article. Of course it’s pretty tough to tank when your already in the cellar!!! Of course if this was written a few years ago maybe a picture of Dan Duquette would be there instead!!!
    Reverse draft standing of teams that don’t make the playoffs would have some merit if there was a balance schedule for teams. The Orioles played way better against the AL West than their own division and should not be punished for having to play the richest teams with the richest payrolls the most times with the exception of the Rays who took them 10 years of losing to build up their draft stock! Or Toronto which now has all of Canada in their back pocket because they have no teams within 100 miles to compete with like the Orioles!
    It’s also funny that they had player union reps speaking for ways for teams to spend also. Andrew Miller should look in the mirror that the Cards spent $169mm for a team payroll and picked up Paul Goldschmidt hefty contract along with Nolan Arenado hefty contract totaling $56mm for 2 players for a team that’s 2 games over 500!!! Oh and by the way, is already pimping for his next contract that ends after 2021!!! Or Ian Happ flapping his gums for a Cubs team that spent $199mm to be 13 games below 500! These two teams took on plenty of payroll to win now so where’s the production??? Can’t blame the GM or ownership here!!! So I say the team play “Tanked” and not the GM or ownership!!! So blame the players in your own backyard!!!
    Now on the other hand, teams would and do not mind paying out a big salary for a player who had a big year. So I say, pay the players after the year is over on their production! Play well statistically and you get paid well in the same way. So you sign a player for 4 or 5 years but only pay him on his production after each season. Let’s see what the players have to say to that! I could have lived with Chris Davis’s 7 year contract if he was paid that way and so would the team which was handcuffed to that salary! I bet CD would have retired 3 plus years ago if that was the case and not for the $$$ he was making!

    • dlgruber1

      August 13, 2021 at 8:21 pm

      OriolesNumber1Fan, as far as what you said about paying players after the season, you said you’d like to see what the players have to say about that. Well, there aren’t enough expletives to tell you exactly what they’d have to say about that.

  13. OriolesNumber1Fan

    August 14, 2021 at 6:26 pm

    Hey dlg – I was just being sarcastic. I don’t really care what the players are crying about, just like I don’t care what certain cry babies on this site say either. Crybabies will cry, that’s just what they do! They know I’m right. Just like they know who put the Orioles in the cellar and started this rebuild! They just can’t accept it and are looking for the here and now to blame. Short term memory, I heard that happens to some old folks!

    • OriolesNumber1Fan

      August 14, 2021 at 6:47 pm

      Oh, and one more thing. Players don’t tank – GM’s do??? I’m still waiting for the answer to the Cardinals and Cubs and let’s add the Gnats too! Players don’t tank? $169mm to be now 3 games over 500 and $199mm to be now 14 games under 500! How about the Gnats $182mm before salary purge to be 16 games below 500. Sorry, they’re wrong again! I can see why owners don’t want to pay out huge salaries!

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        August 14, 2021 at 7:03 pm

        OK, just one more!!! These teams could pay 50mm apiece and get the same results and they could maybe make a few bucks at tax time when showing a major loss!!! Lol! Wait, some teams are smart like a fox and are already doing that! Lol! Sorry I couldn’t resist! LOL

  14. jimpalmer65

    August 14, 2021 at 6:42 pm

    Here are the details of the Chris Davis deferred payments: 2022 would have been the final season of the Davis deal, and Baltimore still would have owed him $17 million. That’s in addition to $6 million in deferrals Davis had already agreed to. Dan Connolly of The Athletic reported that the Orioles had agreed to spread out Davis’ 2022 $17 million salary over several years beyond 2022 in order to avoid paying a lump sum all at once. That’s in addition to previously agreed upon deferred payments.

    According to Spotrac, the Orioles will pay Davis just over $9 million per year through 2025. After that, the payments will be reduced to $3.5 million per year in deferred salary through 2032. Then they’ll pay him $1.4 million annually through 2037, at which point Davis will be 51 years old. In total, Davis will pick up another $42 million from the Orioles over a 15-year period starting in 2023. Again, thank you for your time with the Orioles, it was fun watching you hit home runs. Never blame you for the contract. Got to hand it to Scott Boras he will always find a idiot GM and/or Owner. In this case the culprit is the baseball genius we call are beloved Owner PA.

  15. Eastern Sho Joe

    August 17, 2021 at 5:06 pm

    Rich, a big reason I follow this site is because I enjoy your candor. I also get a kick out of the Post Game after we get stomped and Hyde takes a deep breath when they say, “next up, Rich Dubroff.” lol. I think you make him address losing more than anyone else.

    While I greatly enjoy your articles, I think you gave CD a free pass on this one. His game pitching is irrelevant. His job was to hit dingers. Yes he did do that but he was also among the leaders in Ks.

    I know many were calling to re-sign him, but many others were not, I was among them. I remember him and his wife doing a statement after he was caught dirty. He said he could’ve appealed and played in the postseason, but they said their religious convictions pushed them to accept the punishment. I was hot. The Bible teaches to listen to your convictions when you know you’re doing something wrong, not wait until you get caught. He knew he was cheating, he knew the team was depending on him but he kept on. But when caught he does what’s right right with God. Anybody remember Jimmy Swagart?

    Anyway, you’re still my favorite beat reporter, but can you at least stick it to Brandon a little extra for me the next time we get whooped?

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 17, 2021 at 7:49 pm

      Joe, the legacy of Chris Davis is a complicated one, and this was a hard piece to write because there were so many ways I could take it and because I knew for several years, I’d have to write it.

      I wrote about Davis’ struggles as they occurred, and I wasn’t thrilled when he chose a Baltimore religious radio station to give his first interview after he was suspended.

      I was covering the team for Comcast then, and I voiced my displeasure.

      He was traveling with the team in the 2014 postseason and we asked him to talk, and he refused.

      Those suspensions can’t be appealed.

      I had a good relationship with Chris and he was very frank with me in private, and I’ll keep it that way. His wife, Jill is a highly intelligent and accomplished woman.

      Davis’ time with the Orioles is worthy of a book, one that I won’t be writing.

      Thanks, as always for your nice comments, and I’ll tell Brandon you said hi.

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