No one was happy to see the baseball season stop in its tracks this past week.
Least of all Chris Davis.
Davis was living up to his moniker again, crushing, swatting and belting like he did in the good old days. It was becoming one of the best stories of the spring, for Baltimore or anywhere. Davis had started as an oddity. Then he was a curiosity. Then, as he kept hitting, the question began to percolate.
“Is there something to this? Could this be a taste of what’s to come this season?”
Well, now we won’t know for a long time. Heck, we might never know. Because even if Major League Baseball does return in May, which is currently the best-possible scenario, or potentially as late as July, the chances are that the zone that Davis was in in early March will be nothing but a memory in the summer.
And that’s just a bummer. Because man oh man, was something interesting brewing in Sarasota.
Davis had come to the plate 26 times, and had picked up seven hits and nine walks for a .467 batting average, .615 on-base percentage and 1.067 slugging percentage. He had homered three times, driven in nine runs, and only fanned three times.
Davis was hitting right out of the gate, and at first it was just a source of amusement. “Chris homered today,” everyone seemed to say. “Celebrate while you can. We won’t get many chances!”
But then Davis kept hitting the ball out of the park, kept working walks, kept looking like someone with a plan at the plate, rather than a beyond-frustrated, washed-up slugger swinging with the hopes of getting lucky and connecting with something.
Suddenly, a cool story was born. And that’s what it was - a cool story. There was something worthy of attention unfolding: the most maligned hitter of the past two years was, out of nowhere, confidently lining hard-hit balls all over the field.
Small sample size, sure. Spring training pitching, of course. But it was fun, and considering it came after Davis all but said it was now or never this season, it was intriguing. Was there possibly some hope for him? Was there something left in the tank? Could, say, a .230 average and 35 home runs, which would have seemed laughable the last two years, be within reach?
Orioles fans could dream about a lineup that, with a resurgent Davis at first base, would have some real pop to it. Add in Renato Nunez, Trey Mancini (best wishes to him) and potentially even Ryan Mountcastle, and there are some decent bats in there. There’s no question, were Davis ever to figure out what’s been ailing him the last two seasons, he could still help the club.
Now we may never know. Whether it would have been a vast improvement, minor improvement, no improvement, we may not get the chance to see for ourselves.
Even if we do get baseball back sooner rather than later, it’s too much to assume Davis will just grab a bat and pick up where he left off. Hitters have a tough time finding a rhythm, particularly so when they’re hitting .172 over their last two seasons. And it’s not just Davis. Most players will probably find themselves needing an acclimation period when the season resumes after what will feel like a second offseason.
It’s worth hoping he’ll acclimate, however. It’s worth hoping Davis’s biggest strides this offseason were mental, in terms of plate discipline, patience and confidence, and that what we were seeing this spring was a newfound approach to hitting that Davis can take with him in these coming weeks as the season - fingers crossed - approaches.
It’s worth hoping that a pretty good story isn’t over just yet.
It was interesting to follow in the short time it lasted. Wouldn’t it be fun to see how the story finishes?