How to turn Crash back into Crush

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS -

Chris Davis, the dis­as­ter within the dis­as­ter that was the 2018 Ori­oles sea­son — the worst in the team’s his­tory and the source of more mis­ery than the Jones Falls af­ter a del­uge — must be the most self­con­scious man in the coun­try. I mean, wouldn’t you be?

A few years ago, he was Crush. Now he’s Crash. (And even that nick­name doesn’t work be­cause it’s al­ready taken, per­ma­nently en­graved in base­ball cul­ture by Kevin Cost­ner’s por­trayal of a mi­nor-league catcher by that name in “Bull Durham.”)

I won’t go into the statis­tics be­cause they are too shock­ing and painful to put into print again. Be­sides, by now, every­body knows about Chris Davis and his epic col­lapse as a slug­ger, a col­lapse so se­vere he might never re­cover. And, of course, all the mil­lions in his seven-year con­tract com­pound and am­plify the calamity.

I am not he. You are not he. Only he is he. Only Davis knows how Davis truly feels about what hap­pened this past sea­son. I as­sume the man must be pro­foundly em­bar­rassed by the para­dox of his hit­ting de­cline and his fi­nan­cial as­cent. I mean, you would have to have the emo­tional con­sti­tu­tion of a door — or Don­ald J. Trump — not to be. I will even spec­u­late that Davis feels guilty about all the money.

Again, I am not he. You are not he. Only he is he. Only Davis can de­cide what hap­pens next.

But I have called this meet­ing to stick my nose in his busi­ness be­cause, for one thing, un­less the An­ge­los fam­ily finds some way of cut­ting him loose, Davis is go­ing to be around for a while.

More im­por­tantly: We still care about the guy. No mat­ter how aw­ful he looks at the plate, he is still Crush to most Ori­oles’ fans. A lot of us were pleased and re­lieved that, af­ter hit­ting 47 home runs in 2015 — a tragic and tense year in Bal­ti­more — Davis signed that big con­tract to stay here. We want to see him smile again. We want him to be happy, not mis­er­able, with his mil­lions.

No­body, in­clud­ing Davis, asked me, but I think he has three op­tions:

Hit the re­set but­ton. This is the ob­vi­ous thing, and it is prob­a­bly what Davis has in mind — to dou­ble­down on his off-sea­son train­ing, and come back next year and try again. To­tally un­der­stand­able and ad­mirable. The base­ball cognoscenti be­lieve he is in a long tail­spin, with his bat­ting prow­ess in per­ma­nent de­cline, and they might be right. Davis is 32. We might have seen the last of his 30-plus home run sea­sons. But other slug­gers have punched back hard af­ter be­ing on the ropes. It could hap­pen with Davis.

As Yogi Berra said: “Ninety per­cent of the game is half men­tal.”

If Davis can shake his self-con­scious­ness about his lousy 2018 sea­son and about the mil­lions he makes, he might be able to get his groove back.

And he only needs a 60 per­cent come­back, ac­cord­ing to Stan “The Fan” Charles, who an­a­lyzed Davis’ ca­reer with the Ori­oles for a re­cent piece in Press Box.

“If the Ori­oles can get 60 per­cent of the best ver­sion of Davis,” Charles wrote, “that comes out to about 30 home runs, 82 RBIs and solid if not spec­tac­u­lar de­fense, which isn't hor­ri­ble for $17 mil­lion a year.”

Walk away. Re­tire from base­ball. Sa­vor the mem­o­ries and en­joy the sig­nif­i­cant cash you have al­ready ac­cu­mu­lated. Re­lieve the Ori­oles of the re­main­der of the huge con­tract, the­o­ret­i­cally free­ing up mil­lions for new play­ers as the team re­builds.

Davis would not be the first to do this. Dur­ing the 1994 sea­son, fu­ture Hall-of-Famer Ryne Sand­berg walked away from the Chicago Cubs and what at the time was one of base­ball’s fat­test con­tracts. Sand­berg be­lieved his skills had slipped beyond re­pair. He gave up about $16 mil­lion guar­an­teed.

In the win­ter of 2011, a Kan­sas City Roy­als re­lief pitcher, Gil Meche, left the game and $12 mil­lion be­hind. He was 32 years old and felt guilty about the loot. “Once I started to re­al­ize I wasn’t earn­ing my money, I felt bad,” he told The New York Times. “I was mak­ing a crazy amount of money for not even pitch­ing. Hon­estly, I didn’t feel like I de­served it.”

For Chris Davis, there would be no shame in do­ing this.

Play out your con­tract and take the Ori­oles’ money, for as long as you feel right about it, but give half of your an­nual earn­ings to char­i­ties, and let ev­ery­one in Bird­land know what you’re do­ing. This might make Davis feel a lit­tle bet­ter about his predica­ment — even if the 60 per­cent hit­ting come­back does not hap­pen and he ends up on the bench.

GREG FIUME/GETTY IM­AGES

For Chris Davis, 2018 was a sea­son to for­get. Maybe there’s hope for him in 2019.

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