In what threatens to become an Orioles home-opener tradition, Chris Davis went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and was increasingly booed for each.
Things are miserable right now for the Orioles first baseman. To start the season, he is, incredibly, 0-for-17 with 11 strikeouts. (For the record, his triple-slash is .000/.190/.000.) Add that to the fact that he’s only in year four of a seven-year, $161 million contract, and you’re going to get boos.
“It’s not something I was really expecting,” Davis told reporters after the game. “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.”
I’m sure, because this isn’t only a 2019 thing. Dating back to last season, Davis finds himself 0 for his last 38—just eight hitless at-bats away from the MLB record of 0-for-46, set by the Giants’ Eugenio Vélez in 2010 and 2011. Vélez was not an everyday player and it took him more than a full calendar year to achieve that historic ohfer, so it’s fair to say that Davis’s slide is among the most brutal in baseball history.
It would be one thing if it were a fluke. It’s another when Davis’s 2018 was one of the worst hitting seasons in the long history of the sport.
This, then, is what happens when a king of the three true outcomes loses his bat speed, and with it his power to keep pitchers honest, and is reduced to a one-true-outcome hitter. (The one true outcome for all of us is decline, and, eventually, death.) Davis is 33, and while he can’t ride an ohfer forever, he’s probably beyond the point where a tweak to his mechanics can return him to being the guy who led MLB in home runs as recently as 2015. Or to just being a useful major-league player. Or even a replacement-level one. Davis put up a putrid -3.5 bWAR last season, and as if to underline this point, was pinch-hit for in Thursday’s loss by Hanser Alberto, who fouled off four pitches before slapping a single.
I’m not sure where everybody goes from here. Fans aren’t going to stop booing if this keeps up, though Davis feels to me more like a figure of pity than one worthy of antipathy. The Orioles haven’t given any signals that they’d be willing to consider his contract a sunk cost and release him, even if a replacement-level player would probably make the team better. So what about Davis himself? This can’t be fun. He’s not going to retire, not with that contract, nor should he. I was only half-joking when I suggested to someone that he could accept an assignment to Norfolk, where maybe he just spends the next couple years putting up good numbers against 21-year-olds and not getting yelled at. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Better than this. Anything would be better than this.