Davis can find cure for case of 'mind monsters' by playing

Ken Rosenthal

April 29, 1992|By Ken Rosenthal

Glenn Davis knows he's disappointing everyone from casual baseball fans to top Orioles executives, and he's so haunted by his own demons, he calls them "mind monsters." Harsh as it sounds, there's only one solution, and that's for him to get back on the field.

Obviously, it's easier said than done, but the slugging first baseman understands the frustration over his latest injury -- heck, he's frustrated himself. He says a "black cloud" hangs over him. He says, "I wish I was out there." He says, "It's far easier to play."

"I need to play the rest of the season," Davis admits. "That's what it will take to reassure me everything is OK. There are a lot of questions I have to deal with every day. A lot of times I even think about having to deal with retirement. I don't like this. This is not fun."

He's not going to retire, but the man clearly is hurting inside and out. Please, no more talk about how Davis is just collecting his $2.815 million salary. The fact is, he can earn as much as $600,000 more in incentives by playing 140 games.

The incentives are in 10-game increments from 80 to 140. So far, Davis has played only one of the Orioles' first 20 games. By the time he comes off the disabled list -- the best-case scenario is next week -- the 130- and 140-game plateaus might be unattainable. That would cost him $150,000.

Yet, this is not about money. This is about an athlete who appeared in 96 percent of his team's games over a five-year period, missed the equivalent of more than a full season the next two years, and now is injured again. Understandably, Davis is a little spooked. Unfortunately, that's part of the problem.

Davis isn't imagining things, but his recent medical history magnifies this seemingly minor injury beyond recognition. Whatever you call this muscle problem in his upper left side, it's not related to any of his past ailments. In all honesty, it's not a big deal.

But here's Davis, calling manager Johnny Oates after he learns of published reports citing alleged rift with the club. Here's Davis, pursuing outside medical advice after apparently growing frustrated with the answers from team doctors.

The whole thing has its ugly side; Davis accepts it, but regrets it. He even feared the "silent treatment" from his teammates after the club returned from its recent trip to Toronto and Boston. "I know what it's got to be like for those guys," he says. "They don't know me. They haven't seen me play."

Davis says the players are behind him "100 percent," but he realizes they're also confused. After he was injured, he began undergoing physical therapy at the Greenspring Valley Sports and Medical Rehabilitation Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. As a result, he'd arrive at Oriole Park for home games after everyone else.

"Johnny said, 'Do whatever you have to do,'" Davis says. "But my teammates don't understand that.They see me come in late. I can't go to each of them and say, 'I was doing this, I was doing that.' Most know what I'm doing. But some are saying, 'What's he doing here?' "

Now he's been away from the team for an entire nine-game road trip, and he says "the worst thing is sitting home and watching on TV." Still, he believes the best available treatment is at Greenspring Valley. These days, he's working out at the ballpark too.

Who's to say how badly he's hurt? Who's to say whether he's doing the right thing? It matters to the club doctors and trainers who treated him all last season only to be second guessed now. But it all will seem trivial once Davis starts playing again.

Until then, he must face all the outside questions, and confront a few of his own. Davis last season overcame a career-threatening injury to his spinal accessory nerve. Naturally, he wonders if he's being overcautious now. "Those are the mind monsters I have to deal with," he says. "It's not easy."

The strange thing is, he always considered himself gritty, a gamer. "When I go on the field, people have to put a bridle on me to control me," he says. "People tell me, 'When you come back, swing easy, run easy, pace yourself.' I don't know how to do that. I can't do that."

Indeed, at one time he frowned on injured players -- "I didn't respect them. I didn't want to be around them. I had no compassion for them." Now he's the injured player, and the emotions are reversed.

Harsh as it sounds, there's only one solution.

Glenn Davis must play.

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