Chris Davis has no excuse for failing a drug test in this era

Suspension puts the Orioles in a tough spot at this point in the season

September 12, 2014|Peter Schmuck

The same simple question comes up every time another major league baseball player tests positive for a controlled substance during this era of universal testing, and it's fair to apply it to Orioles slugger Chris Davis.

How could anyone be this stupid?

The testing protocols are known to every player. The rules are posted in every clubhouse. There are a couple of decades of steroid scandal in the rear-view mirror and the performance-enhancing drug era is littered with players who have endangered their team's playoff chances by either failing to clear a substance with the team's medical staff or taking the chance that they won't be caught.

So, the next logical question is, how could anyone be this selfish?

Davis has no excuse. The fact that he was suspended for 25 games means that this wasn't the first time he tested positive for an amphetamine — in this case the attention-deficit drug Adderall. He had to know that he was taking a huge risk by using it again after his first positive test, which only triggered a warning and additional testing.

The disciplinary action is not as onerous as it would have been if Davis had been caught usuing anabolic steroids, which calls for a 50-game suspension for a first offense, but the timing of Davis' suspension couldn't be worse for the Orioles. They entered Friday's doubleheader against the New York Yankees with 17 games left to play in the regular season, which means that Davis will miss the first round of the playoffs if the Orioles complete their sprint to the American League East finish line. He could also miss a big chunk of the American League Championship Series — or the entire thing — if the club gets that far.

Maybe Davis will be forthcoming at some point about the reason why he felt he needed the drug, but it's certainly tempting to speculate that he was looking for some kind of edge because he has not been able to replicate the terrific numbers he put up during his historic 2013 season.

If that's the case, he accomplished just the opposite. Remember, this is the same guy who tried to fend off PED questions by saying last year that he didn't recognize the legitimacy of Barry Bonds' home run record because it was tainted by the steroid era.

Now, even though there is no evidence that he used steroids or human growth hormone during his 53-homer season, the fact that he has joined the legion of players who have tested positive for a restricted substance can't help but take some of the luster off that performance.

Don't misunderstand. Adderall isn't Winstrol. It's a legitimate ADD drug that can be used legally by major league players if they are granted a temporary use exemption because of a legitimate medical need. Davis said in a statement of apology to his teammates and fans that he has had an exemption in the past but did not have one this year.

Obviously, it's impossible to accurately measure the impact of losing Davis for the rest of the regular season and much of the postseason. His batting average has been below .200 for the past six weeks, and he is leading the major leagues with 173 strikeouts, but he has been a major part of the Orioles' terrific infield defense and his run production (26 homers, 72 RBI) has been significant even if it pales in comparison to last year's performance.

It's definitely a major blow to a team that has played much of the season without All-Star catcher Matt Wieters and Platinum Glove third baseman Manny Machado. Orioles manager Buck Showalter has been filling holes and squeezing production out of every corner of the club's 40-man roster, but it will not be easy to replace Davis' looming presence in the lineup even during what has been a frustrating individual season.

Orioles fans can take some comfort in the team's ability to rebound from every setback over the course of this surprising season. Someone, it seems, has stepped up every time an injured player has had to stand down.

Ironically enough, a lot of the production lost to injuries has been replaced by spring training acquisition Nelson Cruz, who served a 50-game suspension during the final two months of last season for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.

Maybe the winning chemistry the Orioles have developed will be enough to offset the loss of one more key ingredient. It's just hard to believe, after all they have overcome, that this wonderful season might run aground because of something like this.

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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