Orioles’ Chris Davis raising eyebrows along with suspicion
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org July 2, 2013 9:51PM
Baltimore Orioles v Chicago White Sox
Updated: August 4, 2013 6:38AM
People might wonder what the fallout from the baseball’s Steroid Era is.
Try this: Amazing Orioles slugger Chris Davis (in town to play the White Sox) is on pace to hit 61 home runs — Roger Maris’ golden number — and what he gets as a reception instead of cheery anticipation is a lot of raised eyebrows.
The first thing that goes
through any informed fan’s mind when he or she sees a 6-3, 230-pound muscleman come from almost nowhere and suddenly start ringing the home-run bell is steroids.
We’ve been down this road before, and it’s not a fun ride. We’re sick of it, but it doesn’t mean it’s over.
The Brewers’ Ryan Braun was voted the National League’s most valuable player in 2011, and all that has hung over him since is the cloud of a failed doping test and legal technicalities.
The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown last season, and you just have to wonder. Cabrera’s right up there in all categories again this season, battling Davis for a possible recoronation. Is he clean? Whom do we ever trust?
Commissioner Bud Selig would like us to think the dubious old days of drug-taking have vanished because Major League Baseball and the players union have agreed on a drug-testing program. But the Olympic rule holds: Only the stupid, reckless and bizarrely egomaniacal get caught. Even career narcissist Lance Armstrong might have made it through doping central if he had left well enough alone and not come back to cycling after his seven Tour de France victories.
This is all sad stuff, as noted earlier. Indeed, as any modern baseball player proceeds toward record-setting areas, he will be derided almost as much as he is touted. We learned a lot from Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa.
Everybody says Davis is a humble, God-fearing sort. And he seems to be. He doesn’t like to brag. He walks away from homers the same way he does from strikeouts.
But he has hit a broken-bat homer. He can hit opposite-field dingers on bad pitches. He has checked his swing and hit the wall.
Five days ago, Baltimore Sun baseball writer Matt Vensel noted that Davis’ amazing stat of the week was that he had hit at least nine homers in three consecutive months, something ‘‘last done by Rafael Palmeiro in 1998.’’
Palmeiro? Yep, a previously disgraced ’roider.
I don’t think anybody wants Davis to be dirty. He never has failed a drug test, remember. And let’s state here all the reasons he might be as clean as spring sheets: He is 27, a great age for sluggers. He has changed up his swing to be less wild. He is left-handed, and that helps in parks with shallow corners and against right-handed pitchers. He has been in the majors six seasons and has worked very hard. Finally, he hit 33 homers last season.
It’s that leap from 33 last season to 31 before the All Star Game that nags. By comparison, though, Maris hit 39 homers the season before hitting his assuredly non-drug-induced total of 61 in 1961. He turned 27 on Sept. 10 of that season.
In the second inning Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field, Davis drew a one-out walk from Sox pitcher John Danks in his first plate appearance. This despite the fact Danks is a lefty and so is Davis. The danger of a man with a league-leading slugging percentage of .728, a ridiculous OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages) of 1.135, all those homers and 80 RBI is in his bat, swinging.
We’ll see where this Cabrera-Davis race goes. Let’s hope — for the immediate future, then through the spectrum of history — it remains fair, clean and authentic.
I wish elite sport didn’t so often come around to the fraudulent Armstrong, the guy who lied to cancer patients and everybody else as he won his gold and infamy. But it does.
‘‘The Tour de France? No,’’ he told the French newspaper Le Monde last week. ‘‘Impossible to win without doping.’’
Let’s hope, as ever, he was lying.