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Chris Davis is not going to save the city of Baltimore, nor should he be expected to

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A column in today's Baltimore Sun treats Chris Davis as if he would be some kind of savior for the city of Baltimore and all of its problems. That column is wrong, because Davis can't, and shouldn't be expected to, save Baltimore.

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If you are like me and you still make consumption of the local daily newspaper part of your morning routine, whether you read the actual paper at the breakfast table or find the content on the mobile device of your choosing, you may have seen this whopper from The Baltimore Sun this morning, sporting the audacious headline: "An appeal to Chris Davis to stay in Baltimore and help this city."

The column, by Sun columnist Dan Rodricks, begins innocently enough as an open letter, with a winding ode to some of the greatest Davis moments in Baltimore, a harmless plea for the guy to stick around because Orioles fans like him. And Orioles fans do like him, that much is true, maybe even more than any other team's fans will ever like him. After a cotton candy kind of beginning, the column then veers abruptly in an entirely different direction.

When I first read the headline, I thought to myself, they're not going to go THERE, are they? But it turns out, yes, they are going to go there. After that discussion of the virtues of Davis the baseball player comes the pivot: "It's been a rough year in Baltimore, brother, and the last thing this town needs is to lose its biggest baseball slugger."

Now, we should not jump to the conclusion that Rodricks literally means the last thing that Baltimore needs is to lose its biggest slugger. Exaggeration is one of the rhetorical devices available to a writer. Rodricks, I am sure, is well aware that the last thing Baltimore needs is another riot, and that there are a whole host of other things on the list that Baltimore does not need - like another year with 300+ murders, another public housing sex-for-repairs scandal, or more city departments that don't bother to keep records - long before we get to the question of Davis continuing to play in an Orioles uniform. Next to all of that, the success or failure of the Orioles doesn't matter much at all.

Being as Rodricks works at The Sun, a paper whose reporters soldier on in trying to bring all of these issues to light even through repeated waves of buyouts and other parent company nonsense, of course he must already know all of this. Yet somehow that knowing doesn't stop him from putting this paragraph into that same paper:

You should think of yourself not only as a power-hitting first baseman, but as an important citizen of Baltimore, someone whose example of modesty and hard work is needed here. You'd be respected and beloved, and not just because you can hit home runs, but because you made a commitment to a struggling city.

What? Seriously, what?

There is power in symbols. That should not be denied. Getting people to believe in something is an important step in making change happen. Sports are often looked to in this symbolic way, narratives crafted about how much a win for so-and-so team would mean to a beleaguered city. When the Saints won the Super Bowl not too long after Hurricane Katrina, that was such a symbol. When the Red Sox won the World Series the same year of the Boston Marathon bombings, that was also a symbol.

The thing is, none of that actually fixed anything. The Ravens winning the Super Bowl just a couple of years ago did not solve any of Baltimore's problems that came to a head this year. Had the Orioles somehow won the World Series last year, or this year, that would not have been a cure for anything that's wrong with Baltimore. Every problem would still be there when people woke up the next day.

It was nice when the Orioles won that game in an empty stadium in the middle of a week of night-time curfews. It was nice they won the first game back after the riot-related rescheduling caused an extended road trip. Neither of those things meant much other than to the fortunes of the 2015 O's team. They certainly didn't mean anything to the problems of Baltimore.

Individual players can, and do, make a difference on the margins. Adam Jones has made a real investment in the city with his charitable contributions, including a $75,000 donation just earlier this week to help fund a renovation at a Boys & Girls Club, the third such donation Jones has made. The Orioles themselves are involved in charitable efforts through their OriolesREACH program, including, among other things, the annual food drive for the Maryland Food Bank that this year collected $37,000 and nearly 7,000 pounds of food.

Both of these things are great. If Davis signed a big contract here and wanted to have a few charitable projects, that would be great too. The thing is, they're just a drop in the bucket. If owner Peter Angelos sold the Orioles and decided to plow every last dollar into fixing things in Baltimore, that wouldn't fix everything that's ailing the city. Money would help, but even that's only a part of it.

There's so much that can't be fixed overnight, in a month, or in a year, and eye-rolling pleas in newspaper columns like this just seem deaf to that:

Think about what re-signing with the Orioles would say to all the doubters, the snarky and the sneering who've declared the city hopeless. If you re-signed with the Orioles, you'd be renewing your commitment -€” and not so much to the franchise, but to this city, this community. You'd signal affinity with the rest of us who still believe in Baltimore.

I'm embarrassed just having read that paragraph. As if the signing, or not, of Davis, is all that stands between Baltimore and the beginning of some glorious renaissance. I highly doubt Davis being on the Orioles the last four seasons has stopped any murders on the city streets. I find it unlikely it's prevented any robberies. It hasn't done a whole lot to address blighted blocks full of vacants. The list goes on.

Chris Davis is not going to save the city of Baltimore because he can't save the city of Baltimore. Neither the Orioles nor any other sports team can save the city of Baltimore. Nor should any one of them be expected to do so. Shame on Rodricks and anyone else at The Sun responsible for running his column for acting like there's any connection between Davis signing here and the fortunes of the city. They should know better.