At this point, it's hard to imagine Chris Davis ever winning back Orioles fans.
It's a shame, considering the enormous impact he has made in the community, including a record donation to the University of Maryland Children's Hospital and a recent donation to help fight childhood hunger amid the global pandemic.
He's gone above and beyond being a model citizen during his time in Baltimore, not to mention providing multiple jaw-dropping seasons of power at the plate and leadership in the Orioles' clubhouse.
But sports are a "what have you done for me lately?" game, and lately, Davis has been the team's worst player while also making more money than most of his teammates combined. Davis has two seasons left on his 7-year, $161 million contract, but his play on the field hasn't come close to living up to his paychecks - the last time his WAR wasn't negative was 2017, when it was a whopping 0.0.
Posting 190-plus strikeouts every season while making as much money as Davis does is no way to endear yourself to the fanbase. Plenty in Baltimore have long wished the O's would cut bait and eat the sunk cost of the remainder of his contract. And yet when speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Davis confirmed his commitment to the 2021 Orioles once more.
"My desire to play has nothing to do with the amount of money I’m owed," Davis told reporters over a Zoom interview. "I enjoy playing the game. I want to play for myself, my teammates, and for the people of Baltimore.”
Davis knows that his salary and play on the field have put a target on his back, but he has no plans to hang up his cleats anytime soon. He also isn't planning to let the Orioles off the hook for overpaying for him ahead of the 2016 season.
"I’m not going anywhere," Davis said in reference to his contract. "I’m not giving up, not throwing in the towel. I understand the club is trying to cut payroll and I’m the one big lump they’re kind of stuck with. But they knew what they were signing up for when they took the job.”
It's hard to give Davis too much credit for recognizing how much of a hole his contract is putting the team in. Players should always get as much money as somebody is willing to pay them so kudos to Davis for setting up his family with generational wealth.
But it's impossible to expect fans to react well when hearing a quote like that from a player they've been hoping the team moves on from for some time now. And they probably don't want to hear his opinion about the team's ongoing rebuild considering what role his contract is playing in hindering that process.
But that didn't stop Davis from touching on the rebuild as a whole.
"It's tough to know what to make of it right now. There is no doubt we're in a rebuilding phase," Davis said. "Personally, I wonder where that rebuild is headed. Are we talking a complete rebuild? Are we trying to start things over from scratch and only have younger players, players this new regime has drafted and brought up? I think they're trying to get the most out of the guys they have now, and sometimes that means you have to lose some of the guys that have been productive for you."
Davis also touched on what it means to be an older player on a team skewing younger.
"The tough thing about being an older player is, sometimes the moves that are made are going to affect the team in a more positive way when you're not on the team," Davis continued. "I know Mike [Elias] and Sig [Mejdal] and [Brandon] Hyde have a good idea of what they are trying to accomplish, but sometimes it doesn't look like you think it would."
It's fair for Davis to feel out of place as a struggling veteran on a team prioritizing young talent, and it's also fair for the few established players on the current Orioles roster to be curious about the logic behind trading Jose Iglesias and releasing Hanser Alberto and Renato Nunez, considering those were three of the Orioles' best players in a surprise 2020 season. But Davis is answering his own question when he asks about the direction of the rebuild.
The Orioles, through their actions, have been abundantly clear about how complete this rebuild is. It's a head-to-toe starting over, and that means making tough decisions that don't appear to help the team in the short term because, the truth is, they don't. The Orioles are thinking about the future, and that future will be one without Davis in Baltimore.
Fans in Baltimore can, and should, continue to hope Davis finally turns things around, but they are long past the point of expecting it. He brought a lot of joy to the city for a number of years, and has continued to go above and beyond off the field. But fans are going to be confused when he makes comments like these. They will continue to question when the Chris Davis era in Baltimore will finally come to a close. And with quotes like these, fans will be even more curious why it hasn't happened already yet.