Perhaps today Chris Davis’ contract will become official. The slugger has been taking a physical, and the Orioles hope to announce what is by far the biggest contract in team history today.
Davis’ contract is a huge story, but the impending snowstorm is a bigger one, and for the moment, it will serve as a happy distraction to the hardship that’s about to come.
Four weeks from today, pitchers and catchers will report to Sarasota for the beginning of spring training, and while we’re digging out from the predicted foot or two of snow this weekend, my colleagues and I are certain to remind you of that.
Davis will return to Texas after the expected press conference, and he’ll resume his preparations for the 2016 season.
For years to come, and maybe decades, this and future generations of Orioles fans will debate this contract’s worthiness. If Davis has another good season or three, the contract talk will die down.
But, first let’s examine just how unusual Davis’ seasons have been.
His 53 home runs in 2013 were the 26th most in a single season. Hank Aaron never even hit 50 in a season.
Davis will turn 30 in March, and of the 43 seasons in which a batter has hit 50 or more home runs, 20 of them were by a batter who was 30 or older.
One of them was Brady Anderson, who was 32 when he hit 50 in 1996 to set the Orioles’ previous team record.
Several of those with multiple 50 home run seasons, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who have the top six totals in history, are rightfully viewed with suspicion.
But, Ken Griffey, Jr., who was voted into the Hall of Fame earlier this month, who had no steroids taint whatsoever, had consecutive seasons of 56 homers in 1996 and 1997.
Davis has led the majors in home runs two of the past three years, and he’ll try and lead it in consecutive years. Not since Jose Bautista (2010-11) has a batter led the majors in consecutive year.
Counting Nelson Cruz’s 40 home runs in 2014, the Orioles will try and become the first team to have the major league leader in home runs for four consecutive years in more than 60 years. Pittsburgh’s Ralph Kiner led the majors in home runs from 1947-52.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Davis is that he’ll try too hard to live up to his huge contract. He’ll want to cut down on his strikeouts. His 208 last year was the fifth most in baseball history.
Hopefully, Orioles fans will be realistic. The odds are he won’t hit 50 home runs again. But, if Davis can give the Orioles two or three seasons of 40 or more in the coming seven, fans won’t keep bringing up Albert Belle’s contract.