Orioles first baseman Chris Davis endured a harrowing 2018 season and said goodbye to many of his veteran teammates when the team decided to embark on a wide-ranging rebuild, but he said on Tuesday that he wants to be a big part of the organizational revival.
Davis and his wife, Jill, helped host the 40th annual Orioles Reach Holiday Party at Dave and Busters at Arundel Mills mall, bringing some Christmas cheer to a large group of students from the Commodore John Rodgers School in Southeast Baltimore.
He played video games with the kids and then gave his take on the reshaped Orioles front office and what he hopes to help it accomplish over the next few years.
Though Davis has had no contact with new general manager Mike Elias since the new chief of baseball operations was hired, he said that the credentials of the former Houston Astros executive speak for themselves.
“Obviously from my days in Texas playing the Astros quite a bit and the recent success that they’ve had, there’s no doubt he’s coming from an organization that is doing things that a lot of teams are trying to emulate and trying to follow in the same footsteps and win a world championship,’’ Davis said. “To know that he’s got that in his back pocket is pretty nice.”
It was also encouraging for Davis to hear Elias’ positive comments about the need to do everything possible to help him turn his career — which includes two major league home run titles — back in the right direction.
“Absolutely,’’ Davis said. “In my own eyes, I feel I’m a big part of this and I know for us to be successful as a team, it starts with me. That’s offense, defense, base running, my presence in the clubhouse, leadership on and off the field. I understand that responsibility and I accept that fully.
“I appreciate him saying that. It’s encouraging and it’s motivating for me knowing that the guy who’s calling the shots is committed to not only me but the entire organization and the process that it takes to rebuild and to do it the right way.”
Before you wince at Davis’ opinion of his own importance to the club, consider that what he was really doing there was acknowledging that his struggles played a major role in the Orioles’ 2018 collapse and that fixing what ails his swing would go a long way toward helping to make the early years of the rebuilding project less painful.
“As a competitor and as a veteran player, you don’t ever want to go into a season just admitting defeat,’’ he said. “Knowing that we’re part of a rebuild right now and that it’s going to take a little bit of time, you do want to temper your expectations and make sure that you keep that in the back of your mind, but at the same time you still have to go out there and compete. Who’s to say that we don’t get a good young group of guys that really don’t know any better and end up surprising some people.”
The midseason tear down engineered by former baseball operations chief Dan Duquette left plenty of room to speculate that the Orioles are in for at least one more 100-loss season. The Astros lost more than 300 games during the first three years of the Jeff Luhnow era while evolving into one of the most talented and exciting teams in baseball.
Davis looks back to the season the Orioles shook off a 14-year losing streak and took the New York Yankees to the limit in the 2012 Division Series. It might not be directly relevant to what’s happening now, but Davis was clearly in an anything’s-possible frame of mind.
“We didn’t necessarily have a lot of rookies, but we had some players that had just two or three years in the big leagues and hadn’t really proved themselves,’’ he said. “We really didn’t know any better and we just enjoyed being around each other. We energized each other and we fed off of each other and we ended up surprising a lot of people.
“I’m going to still have high hopes and I’ll never go into a season expecting to have a losing record at the end of the year, but at the same time you understand that there are going to be some challenges ahead.”
There aren’t many Orioles who could possibly understand that better than Davis, who has had a few months to take a hard look at what happened during the nightmare that was last season.
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“I think that’s my biggest takeaway from the season so far, just kind of being able to catch my breath and not just to forget about what happened last year, but really think through it and try to understand what’s going on and fix that and keep it from happening again.”