BALTIMORE - No one enjoys acknowledging it, but It’s impossible to miss the boos with every mention of Chris Davis’ name.
During the home opener Thursday, they were mostly drowned out by polite cheers during his Orange Carpet jog. Ditto for his first plate appearance.
Unfortunately, that PA ended in a strikeout, and the boos returned. His second and third at-bats ended in strikeouts as well, and by then, jeers replaced the cheers in full force.
By Davis’ fourth scheduled at-bat, he was replaced by Hanser Alberto as a pinch-hitter, and the ensuing ovation was equal parts deafening and gut-wrenching.
“I mean it’s not something I was really expecting, but it was tough,” a worn out Davis told reporters after the game. “At the same time, I heard it a lot last year, and rightfully so. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I understand the frustration. Nobody’s more frustrated than I am.”
The numbers speak for themselves at this point. $161 million contract. Deferred money until 2037. 0-for-17 with 11 strikeouts. 1-for-his-last-54.
Everyone, including Davis and fans alike, has a right to be frustrated, as the slugger recognizes. But his teammates and coaches certainly aren’t giving up on him just yet.
“I’m not really concerned about it,” manager Brandon Hyde said in response to the fans’ visceral reaction towards Davis. “I’m going to support the guys on my club. It is what it is. I’m going to be positive with him.”
The rookie manager made a point to highlight some of the positives with Davis’ season.
“You see a guy giving great effort, and it’s just not happening right now,” Hyde continued. “We wanted to get him off to a good start, it’s not the start that he wanted. I’m going to continue to play him, I’m going to continue to support him. He’s battling, and he’s being a great teammate, and he’s not taking his offense to his defense.”
Those small positives won’t outweigh the .000 batting average and avalanche of strikeouts in the minds of fans, but they aren’t nothing, either. And Hyde isn’t the only one to see what Davis brings to the locker room.
“I don’t know how I’d be able to handle it, but he comes in and is a great teammate every single day,” Alex Cobb told members of the media. “I know he’s dealing with a lot with that, but he comes in and is a good teammate to everybody and a good friend to everybody. He knows that he’s got to work to get that back from the fans’ standpoint. But I enjoy being around him every day.”
The sentiment was echoed from team leader Trey Mancini in the form of a supportive pat as Davis walked by his locker after taking questions.
It’s not easy going through the struggles Davis is so publicly, and it clearly weighs on him. Having to hear about it every day takes a mental toll.
“It’s a little tougher, especially having to hear about it all the time,” Davis said when responding to yet another question about the strikeouts. “That was really my main goal going into spring training was to turn the page and focus on what lied ahead and try to forget about what had happened last year.
Davis did try to spin a positive view as well.
“It’s been tougher to start the season, but there’s a lot of baseball left to play,” said the Orioles first baseman. “I’d be foolish if I started wallowing in my own self pity and started feeling sorry for myself. I don’t think anyone‘s feeling sorry for me now. I think people are ready to see me turn it around, and I’m ready to turn it around.”
Cobb pointed out that while it’s no fun seeing a teammate go through what Davis is dealing with, he too understands where the fans are coming from, saying he “gets all sides of it.”
Still, the pitcher is quick to continue supporting his friend and teammate.
“Chris works really hard,” Cobb went on to say. “He’s a great guy. I mean, he really is. He’s one of the better teammates that I’ve had in my time in the big leagues. I know he cares so much. To feel that in front of your home fans, I mean I can’t even imagine. I do feel for him. I understand the fans’ frustration as well, but nobody’s got a better outlook.”
While it’s been a struggle for Davis, it’s obvious to the clubhouse that he isn’t letting it outwardly affect his personality. Some of that mental boost comes from the support he has within the organization.
“I know Brandon’s behind me, I know the whole coaching staff and my teammates are behind me,” Davis said. “At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.”
Orioles fans might disagree as to what really matters, but Davis knows he’s the only one who can change the discussion.
The former All-Star may not have the answers he needs right now, but he’s certainly right about one thing. Everyone, himself included, is ready to see him turn it around.
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