The painful Orioles tenure of first baseman Glenn Davis finally ended yesterday, when the club waived him for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release.
Davis, 32, who came to the Orioles in a blockbuster trade that cost the team three highly regarded young players in 1991, left without displaying the talent that had made him one of the most dominating hitters in the National League.
He left so the Orioles could make a place on the roster for veteran outfielder Lonnie Smith, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday for two minor-league players to be named. He left so the club could dissipate the cloud that had hung over his locker since Monday's clash of tempers with manager Johnny Oates. He left so he could get a fresh start after three years of injury and frustration.
"I have nothing to hold my head down about," Davis said yesterday at a hastily arranged news conference in the auxiliary clubhouse at Camden Yards. "I'm not ashamed. I'm going to walk out of here proud, because I can say in the face of God that I gave it an all-out effort."
No one ever questioned that. Davis endured two years of arduous and painful rehabilitation after he suffered a freak neck injury during his first spring with the club. He has rankled some teammates with his unorthodox training methods, but he won some respect for the way he refused to give up in the face of a string of debilitating physical setbacks.
First, it was the neck injury, which cost him all but 49 games of the 1991 season. Then it was a back problem -- probably related to the damaged nerve -- that relegated him almost entirely to designated-hitter duty last year. This season, he suffered a broken jaw when he was punched by a bouncer outside a Virginia Beach, Va., nightspot and later was hit in the head by a line drive in the Orioles dugout.
"I hold deep compassion for Glenn Davis," said Orioles general manager Roland Hemond. "From the nerve injury that first spring, he was just unable throughout his three years here to remain healthy and perform to his capabilities."
That was a source of frustration for Davis and the club. The Orioles traded Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling to the Houston Astros for Davis in January 1991 in what seemed to be a promising deal for a club that ranked 13th in runs scored the year before.
Davis had braved the spacious Astrodome to hit 166 home runs in the equivalent of five seasons with the Astros, but that power seldom revealed itself in Baltimore. He hit 24 home runs in parts of three seasons with the Orioles and hit only one in 113 at-bats this year.
In all, he appeared in just 185 of a possible 463 regular-season games, which might explain why a loud roar of approval went up in the stands at Camden Yards last night when the announcement of his release was displayed on the JumboTron message board in the sixth inning. Davis was batting just .177 with nine RBI in 30 games this season.
Nevertheless, he exploded in anger Monday when Oates scratched injured first baseman David Segui from the starting lineup and replaced him with newcomer Mike Pagliarulo. Davis just had returned from a second voluntary assignment to the minor leagues and apparently felt he had been promised an opportunity to play.
The argument with Oates spilled out of the manager's office and into the clubhouse, leaving room to wonder just how many days Davis had left in an Orioles uniform. Forty-eight hours later, he was preparing to take his career elsewhere, but Hemond said that there was no connection between the altercation and the roster move.
"We acquired Lonnie Smith, and we were at the 40-man limit," Hemond said. "Glenn has expressed his desire to play for another club before the season is over. We wish him well wherever he goes."
The news conference to announce Davis' departure and Smith's arrival was free of recriminations. Davis even showed up, which is unusual when a player is released. He had nothing but good things to say about the Orioles, their front office and Oates.
"There are a lot of things going through my mind right now," Davis said, "but I think what has taken place today is best for both parties. I'm glad the Orioles are where they are, and I wish them the best. I hope they win the pennant. I'm looking at this as an opportunity for me to get an opportunity to play and try to get back to where I want to be."
Davis expressed disappointment that he was not able to give the Orioles more of a return on the three players given up to acquire him and the nearly $10 million in salary he received while an Oriole, but he displayed little self-pity and he placed no outside blame -- except in one reference to the bouncer who punched him in Virginia Beach.
"Since I've been with the Orioles, a lot of things have happened that I've had no control over," he said. "It's been a learning experience because there were a lot of things I had never had to deal with before. The incident in Virginia Beach didn't help my situation any."
Davis would not have been in Virginia Beach if he had not accepted a voluntary assignment to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings to try to work out of an early-season slump. Instead, he was sidelined for another two months.
The road back took him to the minor leagues again at the end of August. He came back looking for a chance to play, but the clutch performance of Pagliarulo the past few weeks had pushed him farther out of the picture.
"The team has gone a long way without me," Davis said. "I wanted to come back and help. I knew I was not going to come back next year, so I just wanted to come back and do something for the club.
"I've enjoyed playing here. This organization will always have a place in my heart."
Oates also said that Monday's altercation was not a factor.
"It was completely forgotten," he said. "It was forgotten that night. Glenn gave me a nickname from the Bible a while back . . . Joshua. That's the last thing he said to me today: 'See ya, Joshua.' "
"I hold Johnny in high respect," Davis said. "He has touched my life. There are character traits that I've learned from him that I will carry with me the rest of my life. I think the Orioles ought to be proud to have a man of leadership like Johnny Oates."
With that, Davis ended a very unhappy chapter in his baseball career, but not without vowing that he will make it all the way back.
"I'm not a loser, I'm not a quitter and I'll never be," he said. "If I gave up now, all the years I've spent in baseball would be for nothing. I believe that there are a number of good years left in Glenn Davis."
The Orioles figure to be responsible for all but a tiny fraction of the remainder of Davis' $3.8 million salary ($574,419), since it seems unlikely that anyone will claim him before the waiver period expires Tuesday.
THREE FOR NONE?
A look at how the three players the Orioles gave up for Glenn Davis are faring this season (statistics through Tuesday):
Steve Finley, Astros
Avg... .. ..2B .. .. .3B .. .. .HR .. .. .RBI .. .. .SB
.266 .. .. .13 .. .. .10 .. .. ..4 .. .. ..30 .. .. .17
@Pete Harnisch, Astros
W-L.. .. ..ERA .. .. ..IP .. .. .H .. .. ..SO
13-8 .. ...3.29 .. .. .186 .. ..152 .. .. 158
Curt Schilling, Phillies
W-L .. .. .. ..ERA .. .. .IP .. ..H .. .. ..SO
12-6 .. .. ....4.16 .. ..199 .. .198 .. ...150
A look at the major events in Glenn Davis' Orioles tenure:
Jan. 10, 1991: Acquired from the Astros for Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling.
March 12, 1991: Injured his neck in a spring training game and missed a week of the exhibition season.
April 6, 1991: Hit an RBI double in his first official Oriole at-bat.
April 26, 1991: Went on the disabled list with an injury to the spinal accessory nerve in his neck and missed 105 games.
Aug. 19, 1991: Returned to the Orioles after a seven-game rehab assignment in Double-A Hagerstown. Hit .222 with six homers and 20 RBI in 37 games after his return from the DL.
April 7, 1992: Went on the DL on the second day of the season with a strained rib-cage muscle and missed 25 games.
May 4, 1992: Returned to the lineup after spending 128 of his first 186 games as an Oriole on the DL.
Feb. 21, 1993: Reported to spring training apparently healthy and said: "I feel a lot of people have pointed the finger at me, as if it is my fault that I kept getting hurt. That's not true."
March 7, 1993: Said that if this season were like 1992, he might retire.
May 15, 1993: Removed from the starting lineup by manager Johnny Oates while hitting .172 with one homer and eight RBI.
May 21, 1993: Returned to the lineup temporarily because of an injury to David Segui.
May 27, 1993: Accepted a temporary assignment -- to last no longer than 20 games -- to Triple-A Rochester.
June 6, 1993: Suffered broken jaw when punched by a bouncer outside a Virginia nightclub.
Aug. 1, 1993: Struck in the head by a foul ball while standing in the dugout at Camden Yards, but not hurt seriously.
Aug. 27, 1993: Accepted a minor-league rehab assignment.
Sept. 6, 1993: On the day he was activated to the major-league roster, got into a clubhouse shouting match with Oates.
0$ Sept. 8, 1993: Released by club.