Chris Davis is one of the best stories in all of baseball

June 30, 2013|Kevin Cowherd

If you live in this town and love baseball, the Chris Davis story just keeps getting better and better.

Thirty-one jacks, the most in franchise history this early in the season? The first player in baseball history — that spans a few years, as I recall — to have 30 homers and 25 doubles before July 1?

This is starting to get surreal.

But you wonder: has all this success gone to the guy's head? Has he changed in any way?

"Besides from not really talking to anybody anymore and staying at different hotels [from the team] on the road ... and wearing shades at night on the plane?" Nate McLouth said before the Orioles' 4-2 win over the New York Yankees on Sunday night. "No, not much.

"No, I'm kidding," McLouth added quickly. "You don't have to worry about that with him. He's too good of a dude."

But this much is clear: what Davis is doing with those Popeye forearms and silky-smooth swing and aw-shucks, just-doing-my-job demeanor isn't just a Baltimore story anymore.

It's a national story now, maybe the best in the game, especially since Davis seemed to come out of nowhere last season with his 33 homers and 85 ribbies for a team that finally returned to the playoffs after 14 straight years of losing.

Now you have out-of-town reporters lining up in front of his locker like it's a bagel joint on the weekend, especially after his home run in the second inning Sunday night, and the game he had Saturday, when he smacked a pair of homers and drove in five runs in the O's 11-3 nationally televised mauling of the Yankees at Camden Yards.

Even Davis shakes his head at the quantum spike of attention focused his way lately.

"I don't think you can ever expect or predict anything like this," he said before Sunday night's game. "It's part of the job. Obviously when you're doing well, people want to talk to you."

Oh, people want to talk to Davis, all right, because these numbers he's putting up now are eye-popping.

He leads the major league in home runs and was second to the Detroit Tigers' wondrous Miguel Cabrera in RBIs (79 to 81) and batting average (.371 to .375) going into Sunday's game.

Only eight players in history have hit 30 homers before the end of June, a list that includes guys named Babe Ruth, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Luis Gonzalez, Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols.

Davis is just wearing out pitchers: his 56 extra-base hits in 83 games is on pace for 110 extra-base hits, which would shatter Brady Anderson's club record of 92 set in 1996.

Oh, and Davis is also leading American League first basemen in the All Star Game voting, and he's second overall in the AL balloting to Cabrera.

But Davis says if he's ever tempted to get a swelled head from the marquee numbers, he thinks back to his days with the Texas Rangers, when he was so bad between 2009-2011 that he was sent back to the minors six times and wondered if he'd ever stick in The Show.

"I think that's one of the positive things about struggling," Davis said Sunday. "You understand just how close [success and failure] are. It doesn't take much to get in a slump in this game.

"It seems like when you're going good, it doesn't last as long, and when you're going bad, you're never going to get out of it. So I obviously remember the minor league days in Texas and can appreciate that as well.

"I always thought the potential was there. But I wasn't sure I was gonna figure out how to make it translate [to the big leagues]."

Davis tells everyone who'll listen that it's his new-found discipline at the plate, his patience and unwillingness to swing at bad pitches, that account for the monster numbers he's putting up so far.

And if you watch his swing — maybe the most relaxed home run swing in the game — you see how far Davis has come from the days in Texas, when he often hacked at the ball like a man fending off a swarm of locusts.

"I think he realizes ... he's so strong, he really doesn't have to swing hard for the ball to jump off his bat," McLouth said.

In the meantime, the rest of the Orioles seem to be enjoying Davis' epic start — and his video-game homer totals — even more than he is.

When McLouth was asked to imagine the numbers Davis could end up with this season, the Orioles' left fielder shook his head and smiled softly.

"That's a good question," he said. "I don't know if I want to make a prediction, 'cause that might limit him. But it's going to be fun to watch."

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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