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One week later: A closer look at the Jim Palmer, Chris Davis situation

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How do former O’s Steve Stone, Kent Mercker, Lou Piniella and Mark Reynolds figure into this public spat?

Philadelphia Phillies v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Camden Chat’s Tyler Young summed it up as accurately as possible in Wednesday’s Bird Droppings: “There is something wrong with Chris Davis. Maybe it’s mental. Maybe it’s physical. Whatever it is, he cannot be playing every day and he certainly shouldn’t be batting clean-up. He is a black hole from which an offensive rally will not survive.”

It is hard to disagree with that analysis. Through Wednesday’s game, Crush’s slash line is unbelievably disappointing at .156/.239/.244. He has four homeruns and 15 RBI in 50 games. Only Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Trey Mancini have appeared in more games for the Birds. Per MLB.com, Davis ranks 159/161 throughout baseball in batting average, 159/161 in on base percentage and 160/161 in slugging. Wow. That’s bad. Only Kole Calhoun of the Los Angeles Angels is consistently worse.

Jim Palmer vs. Chris Davis

As Orioles fans are well aware, last week MASN broadcaster, Hall of Famer and O’s legend, Jim Palmer, waded into the situation with some less than flattering comments regarding Davis.

”You’ve got to throw that away, and you’ve got to make some adjustments. I don’t see anything. I don’t see a wider stance, I don’t see a closed stance, I don’t see him dropping my hands. I don’t see anything. And we’re seeing the results. He’s just in a prolonged slump. You know, they say he works hard. Ehh. He told everybody in spring training that he worked with Scott Coolbaugh. I asked Scott in spring training, I go, ‘Hey, you must have really put in a lot of work.’ He goes, ‘We didn’t work.’ So, you know, I don’t believe anything.”

Palmer’s comments came in Chicago, which provides some irony. The Windy City is home to Steve Stone, current Chicago White Sox and former Chicago Cubs broadcaster. And of course, former Oriole pitcher from 1979-1981, going 25-7 and winning the Cy Young in 1980.

Stone’s history as a broadcaster teaches us that the situation in Baltimore between Palmer and Davis could be worse. Much worse.

Steve Stone vs. 2004 Cubs

In October 2004 as the Cubs floundered down the stretch to miss the playoffs (following their 2003 run to the NLCS, five outs from the World Series), among other on-air comments throughout the season criticizing the team and questioning strategy, Stone didn’t mince words.

“You want the truth. You can’t handle the truth. The truth of this situation is an extremely talented bunch of guys who want to look at all directions except where they should really look and kind of make excuses for what happened. At the end of the day boys, don’t tell me how rough the water is, you bring in the ship.”

Well, there you go. The last line in the quote is particularly epic. Needless to say, Cubs brass didn’t take Stone’s comments well.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry: “I think it was pretty clear yesterday that it was personal.”

Cubs manager Dusty Baker: “It shocked me. I don’t understand it, I don’t understand the timing of it. It’s bad timing. If there is something personal, you need to talk about it with somebody instead of broadcasting it to everyone else.”

The quotes from Hendry and Baker followed episodes in August and September 2004 respectively, where a Cubs relief pitcher (Kent Mercker, who appeared in 14 games for the 1996 Orioles) called the broadcast booth during the game, and also confronted Stone on a charter flight, to criticize and question Stone’s broadcasting. Now that’s dysfunction!

After the final Cubs home game in 2004, Cubs fans chanted “Stoney!” “Stoney!” in the direction of the broadcast booth. It turned out to be his last game behind the home microphone at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, as he resigned a few weeks later.

Steve Stone vs. 2010 Cubs

Six years later, in 2010 – then on Chicago’s south side broadcasting for the White Sox – Stone caught the ire of a different Cubs manager, Lou Piniella (another former Oriole with four games played in 1964).

Providing commentary on Chicago Comcast SportsNet, among several other criticisms, Stone offered that “…Lou (Piniella) doesn’t have a great grasp on what to do with young players.”

Not known for keeping his thoughts private or emotions in check, Piniella responded to Stone with a critique of his own.

”And Steve Stone, he’s got enough problems doing what he does with the White Sox. What job has he had in baseball besides talking on television or radio? What has he done? Why isn’t he a farm director and bring some kids around? Why isn’t he a general manager? Why hasn’t he ever put the uniform on and be a pitching coach? Why hasn’t he been a field manager? There are 30 teams out there that could use a guy’s expertise like that. I’m tired of some of these guys, I really am. That’s it. Let’s go to baseball.”

Lessons for the 2018 O’s

The brewing soap opera between Davis and Palmer seems to have died down, for now. That’s good news. Other good news for the Orioles is that the episode has not evolved into a dramatic public he said, he said situation, with disparaging comments on all sides, such as the Cubs episodes with Steve Stone. There could be a truckload more drama involved.

Recently, the Baltimore Sun cataloged every relevant quote on the matter from Palmer, Showalter, Coolbaugh and Davis. Words mean things, and an analysis of the words in these various quotes show people trying to avoid controversy and move on, not fan the flames.

Looking closely, Palmer stood by his comments, reiterated Davis isn’t playing well, but has the potential to be great. Buck supported Coolbaugh and Davis, without really saying much else, which is his specialty. Coolbaugh also stood by what he supposedly told Palmer, but focused largely on what Davis needs to do to get back on track. And Crush basically took the high road and ended by stating the obvious: “My job is to go out here and do what I can every day, prepare and continue to work hard and show up every day. That’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

What does all of this mean for the Orioles?

While they are not performing well on the field, losers of five in a row as of last night, Buck seems to have not lost the clubhouse. This situation could really spin out of control and it has not. Just imagine if it was like 1992 and Rob Dibble vs. Sweet Lou in Cincinnati or Hal McCrae in 1993 with the Royals. Those episodes make fun YouTube watching, but are bad for baseball and clubhouse chemistry.

What does all of this mean for Chris Davis?

He is having a terrible season. And it is painful to write about because he’s a blast (no pun intended) to watch when on his offensive game, his defense at first is excellent, and he’s carried himself with class and dignity since arriving in Baltimore. That said, it is a bottom line business. At some point – if the lack of production continues – he needs to move to the bench or be released.

One final point of interest

Baseball is a strange game. Mark Reynolds – another former Oriole, now with the Washington Nationals – is slashing .375/.419/.850 with six homeruns and eight RBI in 13 games. He’s on a minor-league contract with $763,441 guaranteed for 2018. Chris Davis is making roughly $23 million in 2018. Go figure.