Nobody asked them, but several baseball-savvy readers of my column came up with more suggestions for Chris Davis following his monumentally-miserable 2018 season. The distressed slugger batted .168 and had 16 home runs in the disastrous Orioles season that joyfully ended on Sept. 30. Davis has four years left on a $161 million contract, with a chunk of the change deferred until after the contract ends.
In Sunday’s column, I described three ways for Davis to go with the $17 million he will make next season. The third option seemed to be most popular with readers: Play as best as he can, take all the Angelos money, even if he ends up on the bench, but give half of it to charity.
Steve Jones wrote to say that he’s had the same thought: Davis, he said, should apologize to Orioles fans and let them know he’s trying regain his mighty swing. Meanwhile, he should donate a portion of his salary to charities, and maybe even let the fans help him choose which ones receive donations.
“But,” Jones added in an email, “you missed a fourth option: Renegotiate his contract with performance clauses that stipulate he gets the large contract only if he achieves a minimum level of performance.”
A fellow who wished to be identified only as a “senior business leader” in Baltimore made the same suggestion: “Davis could restructure his contract so that it is more incentive-based. Potentially, he would make $17 million — if his production and leadership rise to appropriate levels. But he would make less if they don’t. Seems fair for both sides.”
I like the idea of the Player Formerly Known As Crush going this self-incentivizing route. Sometimes, the money pressure — the pressure to prove you deserve all that green — is too much. Davis could concede that he’s not earning his keep, but set goals for improvement with commensurate rewards.
Here’s another suggestion, from Ted Pope in Howard County: “Let [Chris Davis] take a breather, followed by lining up and paying the best hitting instructor he can hire to join him at the highest level of winter ball in which he can immerse himself. I suppose that would be in South America, Mexico or Cuba. He owes it to the Orioles, the fans and himself to make every effort to fix his swing. If nothing else, it would show humility and a desire to improve. All on his own dime, of course.”
Gil Beckhardt of Mount Wolf, Pa., was more specific about what Davis needs to get out of the hitting hole he founded himself in during the 2018 season. “Try the Charlie Lau approach,” he wrote, referring to the legendary batting coach once with the Orioles. “It would be a drastic change but it could work. It worked for George Brett and many of the Kansas City Royals: Try to drive the ball up the middle with a modified crouch, using the top hand and a slight choke-up on the bat for more control. . . . I refuse to drive down from York County to watch Davis take three pitches down the middle and walk away with a mystified look on his face.”
Patrick Shea was not the only reader to make suggestions like this: “Take an unpaid season off. Go fishing. Come back at full pay and give it one last shot.”