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Orioles Say Farewell To Chris Davis

 Chris Davis at bat with a catcher and umpire behind him.
Chris Davis at bat. Photo by Austin Kirk via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The news of the retirement of Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has likely divided Baltimore baseball fans into two predictable camps, one substantially larger than the other.

One group will likely take pity in the story of the end of Davis’ road, feeling empathy for a man forced by nagging and recurring injury to give up the ghost, as it were, prematurely.

To his supporters, Davis leaves Baltimore as a tragic figure, a man unable to leave on his own terms and by his own choosing.

Davis’ fans are exceeded considerably by the throng of people who wanted Davis out of Camden Yards and on his…ear years ago.

To his detractors, and they were many, Davis was guilty of mediocrity in the first degree, although ordinariness would have been a step up for the Texas native in his last five years.

From the 2015 season, when he batted .262 and hit 47 home runs, driving in 117 runs, Davis’ career numbers took a pronounced slide.

He failed to produce a batting average above a paltry .225 in any of his final five seasons. He hit 38 and 26 home runs in the 2016 and 2017 seasons, successively, but never hit more than 16 in his final three Orioles campaigns.

And the strikeouts? While he was earning the nickname of Crush for his propensity to hit home runs – a single season team record 53 in 2013 – Davis was whiffing at a prodigious clip.

He struck out more than 190 times in five seasons, with a whopping 219 of them in 2016 alone.

That came in the first season of a seven-year, $161 million contract. The Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers throw around those numbers routinely, but the contract remains the largest in the 67-year history of the Orioles’ franchise.

By any standard, objective or subjective, Davis didn’t come close to earning that cash by the numbers. His performance after the contract is among the worst anyone has seen in baseball history.

Still, Davis, to his credit, never stopped trying. Baseball insiders say that a bat can turn into a toothpick in the hands of someone who is trying too hard.

Indeed, a case could be made that Davis was his own worst enemy as he tried to justify the money he was getting, all of which is guaranteed. He’ll be getting paid well into the next decade, thanks to deferrals.

It’s not Davis’ fault that the Orioles front office, in an attempt to recoup the pay out, didn’t cut its losses as much as two years ago.

And because the club was so badly burned in the Davis’ transaction, it appears management has been unwilling to make a major acquisition since, either to add big name talent from other clubs or to retain their own free agents.

Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, all very productive and popular players were permitted to leave or were traded rather than being retained and paid.

And yet, Chris Davis stayed. Read into that what you will.

Despite everyone’s best intentions, in the end, the Chris Davis era may be known more for crash than crush, but that shouldn’t stop the Birds from taking another big money swing at getting better.

And that’s how I see it for this week.

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Twitter: @SportsAtLarge

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.