Schmuck: If Orioles let Chris Davis go, they could lose more than just power

Orioles slugger Chris Davis watches his walk-off home run during the 11th inning against the Tampa Bay Rays, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, in Baltimore.
Orioles slugger Chris Davis watches his walk-off home run during the 11th inning against the Tampa Bay Rays, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, in Baltimore. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

The dramatic home run that Chris Davis launched into the stratosphere late Wednesday night probably isn't going to propel the Orioles into the postseason, but it should get people high up in the organization to ponder what next year might be like without him.

Davis is a freak of baseball nature. He really is Paul Bunyan with a bat instead of an ax. He can perform feats of pure power and strength that leave even his well-muscled teammates in total amazement.


Of course, he can also provide additional air conditioning for long periods of time, which is a source of great frustration to fans, and the only real argument against throwing open the vault to sign him to the nine-figure contract that agent Scott Boras is certain to demand when Davis enters the free-agent market in November.

Davis is the single biggest reason the Orioles have gained a reputation over the past four years for showering the stands with home runs, and on the flip side struggling to produce a consistent offensive product. And that creates the internal organizational debate that will allow owner Peter Angelos and the front office to rationalize letting him go.


It would be nice to think that the Orioles learned their lesson with Nelson Cruz, whose performance in Seattle this year would have put the O's in a very different place at this point in the season. But we all know better.

"The guy's going to hit 40 home runs and drive in 100 runs," said manager Buck Showalter, slam-dunking a question about the relative pluses and minuses of his big-swinging first baseman after Davis hit his third home run in a span of five at-bats.

Davis' run-production numbers actually project to 46 home runs and 118 RBIs this season, both totals that would have led the major leagues last year. He and Cruz are locked in a duel for this year's home run lead, but Davis probably will not catch up with Josh Donaldson in the RBI department.

This all sets up very well for a typical Boras superstar auction, which will feature comparisons with every offensive player who makes the kind of money that the Orioles almost certainly will not be willing to pay. The Orioles, if history is any barometer, will let their exclusive bargaining window pass in early November without an aggressive attempt to convince Davis to stay in Baltimore.

To be fair, that probably wouldn't have any real impact, except from a public relations standpoint, because Boras doesn't sign guys early. But there has to come a time when the Orioles decide that they are going to be in the game if they want to remain a competitive team next year and beyond.

The alternative is possibly letting go of the major league home run leader for the second season in a row and somehow convincing yourself that writing off the 2016 season is the right move for the long-term health of the franchise.

OK, so we already know how this is going to end, and the irony here is that letting Davis go would be so much more palatable if the Orioles had realized what a bargain Cruz was at $14 million per year — even for that pesky fourth year that lured him to Seattle.

Showalter hasn't weighed in on all this, but he told a story Wednesday that illustrated how much Davis means to this team. The Orioles were on their way to a very lopsided loss Tuesday night and Showalter was starting to swap out his starters in the late innings when Davis approached him in the dugout.

"If it's all the same to you," Davis told him, "I'd like to finish the game."

Davis remained in the lineup and hit one of his signature blasts in the ninth inning, finishing that big swing off with a gesture of appreciation toward Showalter as he headed for first base. The two-run homer didn't make any difference in the outcome of the game, but it apparently carried over into his two-homer performance Wednesday.

"He posts up every day," Showalter said after Wednesday's walk-off, "and like the story I told you last night, him playing the last inning or two last night might have been the key to tonight, the rest of our season. Those are little things that just go unnoticed. It's always about the end game."

Davis said afterward that it wasn't just about getting one more at-bat to try to snap out of a frustrating 4-for-41 slump. It was about reminding himself that the game — and the season — isn't over until it's over.


"The way things were going, I didn't like the way I was playing and I just wanted to get something started — continue to play hard, have a good at-bat," Davis said. "There may have been some carryover, but I think more than anything it was just an attitude of, 'OK, it's not over. Enough's enough,' and just kind of get it turned around."


Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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