BALTIMORE – Chris Davis doesn’t blame the fans at Camden Yards for showering him with boos, especially when he’s walking back to the dugout after another strikeout.
The Orioles slugger is enduring a nightmare season. Although his power numbers have improved slightly since a recently mandated layoff, Davis is batting .156 with seven homers, 24 RBIs and 99 strikeouts at the midpoint of the season.
Not exactly what the Orioles were expecting when they signed the left-handed hitting first baseman to a guaranteed seven-year, $161 million contract in January 2016.
At the time of the deal, Davis averaged 42 home runs and 109 RBIs over the previous three seasons and was coming off a year in which he hit .262 with 47 homers and 117 RBIs.
Since then, his production has dipped annually. His 2017 numbers – .215, 26 and 61 – were downright prolific compared to this year.
Thus, the jeers from the home fans, who have grown weary of watching the struggles of the highest-paid player on the worst team in the big leagues.
“I understand their frustration,” Davis said. “I know exactly what I’m capable of and what I’ve done in the past. I know that the standard is high and I haven’t been playing that well. But I have to move forward and continue to try to find a way to still have an impact on this season.”
It’s probably too late for his bat to make a difference. His most significant influence on the team, unfortunately, is that his sizable contract makes it that much more difficult for Baltimore to pay big bucks to several of its pending free agents, most notably Manny Machado.
The Orioles and Davis appear destined to be together through the 2022 season, so both sides must make the best of it. That’s why Davis was given an eight-game hiatus in June to get his swing down and his head right. Up to that point, he had tried just about everything else.
“For me, it was exhausting,” Davis said. “My solution to a lot of my problems in baseball has always been to work. I felt as long as I was working, as long as I was trying, that I would figure it out. This is the first time in my career when I was kind of at a point where I didn’t know what else to do.”
So he went to the sideline, working with hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson, a left-handed batter who hit 50 homers for the Orioles in 1996.
Upon his return, on June 26 in Atlanta, Davis homered and drove in two runs. Over the past 10 games, he’s hitting .158 with two doubles, two homers, nine RBIs and 13 strikeouts.
“His run production is a lot better, his at-bats have been better,” manager Buck Showalter insisted. “They may say comparatively speaking, but if Chris continues at this rate, if you put it over 160 games it’s pretty good.”
Davis has tried just about everything else in an effort to get back into the groove, with the breakaway from the game coming as a last resort.
“I appreciate them giving me the chance to step back, gather myself and regroup,” he said.
Showalter and the organization can only hope for positive, lasting results.
“Chris has been a good friend of mine,” the manager said. “He’s got a lot of support from the coaches and his teammates.”
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