After losing a franchise-record 115 games last year, Baltimore Orioles fans should be ecstatic with their 4-3 start to the season.
Of course, 4-3 isn’t particularly amazing, and it’s still far too early in the baseball season to get excited, but with all the losing and having to trade away their best player last season, this year has mostly been good news for the Orioles under new manager Brandon Hyde.
“Mostly” is the operative term, because while the O’s have enjoyed a promising start to the season, the same cannot be said about their $161 million investment in first baseman Chris Davis.
For a smaller-market team that does not operate with the same payroll freedom as, say, the Los Angeles Dodgers or Boston Red Sox, that $161 million is a literal and figurative weight dragging the franchise down.
It’d be one thing if the 33-year-old Davis were merely off to a bad start to the year.
Instead, Davis is approaching the wrong kind of MLB history with his punchless at-bats.
As WJZ-TV notes, in his first official 17 at-bats this season, he has struck out 11 times and failed to record a single hit.
That figure somehow becomes even more ignominious when you factor in that he finished last season going hitless in his final 21 at-bats. That is a rough 0-for-38 streak, for those keeping track.
Worse yet for Davis, he is becoming dangerously close to tying or breaking the worst hitting slump in MLB history. As MLB.com notes, that dubious distinction goes to former San Francisco Giants player Eugenio Velez’s 46-game hitless streak between the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Eight more hitless at-bats for Davis would tie the record, and nine more would put him in the history books for all the wrong reasons.
Baltimore fans have let Davis know what they think of his current flirtation with the record books. The latest example of that came in the Orioles’ home opener, an 8-4 loss to the rival New York Yankees on Thursday at Camden Yards.
Davis, a one-time fan favorite, was booed after striking out three times in three at-bats.
— Kyle J. Andrews (@KyleJAndrews_) April 4, 2019
“It’s not something I was really expecting,” Davis told reporters, according to WJZ-TV. “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 we were having, really kind of had them on their heels the whole game. It was a frustrating game for me personally.”
Davis, whose Christian faith has carried him through good times and bad, has turned to God amid his current difficulties.
“One of the biggest misconceptions of the gospel, in my mind, is that you have to be perfect,” Davis told Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated in September 2018, when his hitting struggles first began. “That is the complete opposite of the truth. Christ paid for our sins on the cross knowing that we would never be able to measure up.”
“Christianity is a game of failure, too, he says. The idea is to fall short, then wake up the next day and try again,” Apstein wrote.
Apstein related how Davis’ wife, Jill, told the slugger there is a purpose behind what he’s going through.
“You’re right where God needs you to be. … In the clubhouse, in the community, in the city of Baltimore, your words carry a lot of weight,” she told her husband. “But your testimony speaks so much louder when you struggle.”
According to Spotrac, Davis still has $68 million left on the seven-year, $161 million extension he signed three years ago.
Davis, the Orioles and all the fans in Baltimore hope he will break out of his slump and earn every penny of that.
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