Baltimore suits Davis fine, but only dollars will complete his wardrobe

Ken Rosenthal

March 21, 1991|By Ken Rosenthal

Listen to Glenn Davis for five minutes, and it's obvious he's not your typical baseball millionaire. Listen to him for 10, 15, 20, and it's obvious he'd be more than willing to sign a long-term deal with the Orioles.

Noted economist George Bush said, "We have more will than wallet, but will is what we need." As far as anyone knows, the Orioles aren't facing a deficit. They have ample wallet, so in the case of Davis, will is all they need.

Frankly, they'll have no explanation for losing Davis, other than their own refusal to pay the going rate for a slugger who can help keep them in contention the length of his contract, presuming he stays healthy.

Davis, who turns 30 a week from today, forced his trade to the Orioles by telling Houston he wanted $25 million over five years. The way salaries keep escalating, he might receive that sum after averaging 27 homers his first six seasons.

The Orioles will pay Davis $3.275 million for 1990, knowing he can become a free agent. Whether they're willing to invest nearly eight times as much -- and address all the ensuing payroll questions -- is another matter entirely.

The club annually hems and haws about free agents, insisting most won't consider playing in Baltimore. That excuse, perfectly legitimate at times, must now be discarded. Davis is already here.

Not only that, it sounds like this is the kind of place he'd like to stay. Davis won't sacrifice cash for crabs, mind you, but he's not Mr. Bright Lights, Big City either. Baltimore surely will suit him just fine.

"The fans, the people in Baltimore, the people in Maryland -- they've impressed me," says Davis, who already has purchased a suburban home near teammate Cal Ripken's. "They don't even really know me, but the way they've reacted to me, it seems like they've known me for a while.

"There's a genuine aura about the people. They don't put on facades. There's nothing fake about what they do. They really enjoy baseball. They're proud of the team, proud of the players. You can tell just walking around here."

By "here," he meant the club's spring training complex.

He has yet to play a single game at Memorial Stadium.

The city and its people, however, comprise but one element of the total package for Davis, a deeply religious man who professes a strong commitment to traditional values both on and off the field.

"To a lot of players that doesn't matter, but to me it does," he says. "I'm not saying I'm going to underestimate my market value. But there are some factors you cannot replace, that money can't buy.

"They're important to me, important to my total being and welfare, important to my family. It's good for a ballplayer to feel he's part of an organization, comfortable in his surroundings. Today that's tough to find.

"A lot of ballplayers go where the most bucks are. I think we're all guilty of faults like that. But a lot of times that might not be the best thing. I think a ballplayer has to analyze the total situation, the overall view."

So?

It's early, but Davis already is marveling at the closeness of the organization, from team barbecues attended by club executives the work of the "Designated Hitters," a volunteer group that sells season tickets.

He says the Orioles remind him of "a little family," players included. Gregg Olson called him to go to lunch the day after the trade, and Davis still can't believe the second-year reliever picked up the tab.

In spring training, Davis admits to pinching himself and thinking, "This is the way baseball should be." He admires the Orioles' disciplined approach, their attention to detail, their work ethic -- especially when compared to the Astros.

On a different level, it surely didn't hurt when Ripken invited Davis to his house for pre-spring training workouts rather than express resentment over being replaced as the club's highest-paid player.

In truth, this may be a perfect fit. Davis swiftly picked up on the banter in the trainers' room. He calls the Orioles' minor-league talent "a good sign for the future." Why, he even sees fit to defend Eli Jacobs.

"I know there's been some bad remarks shot at the owners here, which in all fairness might not be true," Davis says. "I think they're taking the right steps. I think they're headed in the right direction."

Well, the club at least showed enough initiative to acquire Davis for the largely unproven Pete Harnisch, Curt Schilling and Steve Finley. But keeping him long-term would be an even stronger statement.

This is a player who is not only capable of hitting 40 homers, but a player who is heavily involved in charity work, a player who is anxious to become a pillar of the community.

The Orioles can sign Glenn Davis.

That, and that alone, is the bottom line.

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