Given how poorly Chris Davis has followed up on his tremendous 2013 season, it will be interesting to determine just how valuable he is in 2014 in light of his recent 25-game suspension.
The Baltimore Orioles have the American League East Division sewed up. They are winning it in a walk and so will not only qualify for the playoffs based on being a division champ, they will avoid the first-round wild wild-card competition.
It is after that things get intriguing. As well as the Orioles have played this season they are easing into their division title in a year where competition is thin and there will be no clear-cut favorite to win the World Series.
That would be true with or without Davis. His sub-.200 average is ridiculous, but the first-baseman-outfielder ends his season with 26 home runs and 72 runs batted in, so he was still bringing something to the plate. Davis has been in a slump for so long he was trying everything to break out. He tried one thing too many.
Davis flunked a Major League Baseball drug test for amphetamines, apparently a product named Adderall, which is prescribed for such health-related reasons as attention deficit disorder or narcolepsy. Davis previously had an exemption from being penalized for using the substance because of unspecified health reasons. However, that exemption had expired and he was caught still using the drug.
This has been one of the great feel-good seasons in recent Orioles history, with the populace mad about baseball again after a very long time of coping with underperforming, weak teams. Davis’ situation mars the season. He was the toast of the town in 2013 and he is the biggest loser in town this week.
The last time the Orioles had a first-place season was 1997. The time before that was 1983. Highlights have been at a premium. The last time the World Series trophy visited Baltimore was 1983, a passage of 31 years. Some of the featured names that season were Jim Palmer, Dennis Martinez and Cal Ripken Jr.
When Buck Showalter took over as Orioles manager in 2010 the team seemed hopelessly mired at the bottom of the standings. By 2012, however, Showalter had led the O’s to a 93-win season. He instilled optimism in the team and town.
Going into Sunday play the Orioles were 28 games over .500. For many this is the true redemption squad, the one that improved on the 2012 pleasant surprise model. These are the Orioles supposed to lead Baltimore to fresh glory.
Distraction in town
Neither the city nor the squad needed the Chris Davis distraction. He is sidelined for the rest of the regular season and most of, if not all of, the playoffs. That depends on how long the Orioles last in the post-season, whether management believes the team needs Davis if the franchise is still winning, or if the organization even wants Davis back.
Baseball teams have been very forgiving of players who violate the sport’s drug policies. After 50-game suspensions they have no trouble finding work or being offered multi-million-dollar contracts. That is after they let their teams down and were caught cheating. If the Orioles win their American League Division Series and the American League Championship Series (or are close to wrapping it up), do they really need Davis for the World Series?
If the Orioles win without Davis, he will seem expendable. If the Orioles lose without Davis, he will get the blame.
And what kind of message does that send if they fully embrace him, suit him up, and use Davis in the final games of an ACLS or World Series immediately following his punishment?
Chris Davis’ situation puts an unfortunate blemish on the Orioles’ season. The best thing that can happen now is that Baltimore keeps winning without him.