Chris Davis might be the best example of what the 2012 Orioles are all about.
Entering the season with untapped potential and more failure than success at the big-league level, both Davis and the Orioles have blossomed in the first 2 1/2 months of the season, surpising critics and even the most optimistic fans in what’s been Baltimore’s best start since 2005.
The 26-year-old Davis has morphed into a fan favorite in his first full season with the Orioles, not only becoming one of the team’s most productive hitters but providing one of the craziest memories in club history when he pitched two innings to earn the win in a 17-inning marathon at Fenway Park on May 6.
Add a broken-bat home run against Pittsburgh last week and his first games in right field at the big-league level this past weekend in Atlanta and you have all the makings of a folk hero in Baltimore.
Much like the 39-27 Orioles, at times, it’s difficult to believe what you’re seeing when watching the designated hitter/first baseman/right fielder/pitching extraordinaire.
But there’s no understating how important Davis’ emergence has been this season, especially with stints on the disabled list by Nolan Reimold, Mark Reynolds, and Nick Markakis. Center fielder Adam Jones has emerged as a superstar by leading the Orioles in batting average, home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage, and runs scored, but Davis ranks second or third in all five of those categories in becoming a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat in the lineup.
His 12 home runs and 60 strikeouts in 211 at-bats entering Monday night aren’t overly surprising given Davis’ reputation when the Orioles acquired him in the Koji Uehara trade last July, but his .294 average defies what we saw over his last three years in Texas where Davis went from looking like a future star in 2008 to a player fitting the mold of a “Quad-A” hitter before being dealt.
The raw power has never come into question — evident by his broken-bat homer to right field off Pittsburgh reliever Tommy Watson last Wednesday — as Davis hit 17 home runs and batted .285 in 295 at-bats during his rookie season with the Rangers in 2008. However, the left-handed slugger quickly earned the reputation of a hitter who struck out too much, didn’t walk enough, and struggled to handle plus-fastballs in the major leagues. Those flaws led his batting average to plummet to .238 in 2009 and .192 in 2010, causing Davis to bounce back and forth between the Rangers and Triple A in his final three years in Texas.
It was difficult to project Davis as anything more than a less-patient, less-powerful version of Reynolds entering the season, which didn’t speak highly for his potential when considering how flawed Reynolds is as a player.
In 2012, Davis hasn’t made any dramatic changes to his overall approach — 60 strikeouts to just 13 walks — but his improvement against plus-fastballs has led to the substantial increase in average. A career .204 hitter in 255 career at-bats against power pitchers (those in the top third in the league in strikeouts plus walks) entering 2012, Davis has handled them at a .286 rate in 42 at-bats this season.
Davis has also handled left-handed pitching at a far more successful clip, batting .327 in 53 plate appearances against southpaws in 2012 after hitting only .236 against lefties in 275 career at-bats entering 2012.
While his high strikeout and low walk totals aren’t indicative of a hitter that will continue to hover around the .300 mark, Davis has been a model of consistency through his first 57 games this season. Aside from an abysmal seven-game stretch in May in which he went 3-for-28 and struck out 14 times, the left-hander has consistently sat somewhere between .290 and .310 as we reach the final two weeks of June. His .355 batting average for balls put in play indicates Davis has been fortunate, but it’s actually lower than the .366 combined clip he posted last year for the Rangers and Orioles.
When seeing the ball well, Davis shows exceptional power to straightaway center and the opposite field has eight of his 12 home runs have traveled in either of those directions.
After Markakis was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a broken hamate bone, manager Buck Showalter turned to Davis to hold down the No. 3 spot in the order as the Orioles were depleted even further offensively. He’s hit only .206 in 34 at-bats batting third, but the lineup shift could present an interesting decision for Showalter when Markakis returns — projected to be some time during the next homestand, according to the right fielder.
Should Davis remain around the .300 mark, would you consider keeping him in the third spot and moving Markakis to the No. 2 slot? The move would allow Showalter to drop J.J. Hardy in the order, which would make sense with the shortstop hitting only .253 despite 11 home runs.
Whatever the Baltimore skipper decides, it’s a good problem to have.
For a team suffering its fair share of injuries and not receiving the same power numbers it enjoyed from Reynolds a season ago, Davis’ emergence has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season.
His willingness to do whatever is asked of him reflects the spirit of the 2012 Orioles.
Need someone to pitch? Not a problem.
You want to put me in right field in a National League ballpark, even though I’ve never played there in the big leagues? Sure thing.
Whatever it takes to win.
Much like watching the Orioles, you keep waiting and wondering if it’s going to last, but Davis has given no indication of slowing down any time soon.
And he just might be realizing the potential so many saw in him when he first arrived in the big leagues.
I’ve already used both space on Twitter (@WNST, @GlennClarkWNST) and on AM1570 WNST.net to opine about the significance of the Baltimore Orioles giving CF Adam Jones the richest contract in franchise history.
We now finally know all of the details and Jones is set to discuss those details Sunday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
I won’t be attending Sunday’s press conference. I would, but our WNST.net Ballpark reporter Luke Jones has been denied the right to ask questions at previous press conferences and I don’t want to run the risk of causing a scene at what should almost certainly be a day of celebration.
Adam Jones’ contract extension is as much an event to celebrate as almost anything we’ve seen in the last 15 years of baseball in Charm City. The Birds have perhaps addressed both their present and their future and made a major statement about their willingness to do things differently than they have for more than decade while losing many more games than they won.
I’m aware Jones perhaps took a hometown discount in signing the contract a season and a half shy of free agency. I’m aware the team still appears to need more pitching than they currently have to be an annual contender. I’m aware that the team now needs to shift attention to catcher Matt Wieters when it comes to contracts.
There was something bigger than jumped out at me though.
As I was given more time to dissect what Jones’ deal really means, I thought back to December 1997. For O’s fans around my age, Brady Anderson was about the coolest thing to ever happen to the Orange & Black. He had young female fans worship him and young male fans…well…basically worship him. He had it all. Sideburns, muscles, personality, charm, speed, defense and an amazing 50 home run season.
(I didn’t mention anything about performance enhancing drugs. You do what you want there.)
After Anderson’s 50 home run campaign in 1996 and the Orioles’ run to the ALCS in ’97, young fans like myself lived in fear of waking up one morning to be informed that Anderson had signed a major deal with the New York Yankees or Atlanta Braves or Cleveland Indians.
Anderson was certainly not the commodity at 34 that Jones would have been had he reached free agency at 28, but he still had market interest. He ultimately passed on shorter deals with more per season to accept five years and $31 million from Peter Angelos and the Orioles. Anderson’s best seasons were clearly behind him, but it still meant quite a bit for the franchise to make the move.
I also thought back to January of 2009, when Andy MacPhail locked up OF Nick Markakis for six years and $66 million, the richest contract extension the franchise had given to a player until Jones’ deal. (SS Miguel Tejada had received the overall most lucrative contract in team history until Jones.) While certainly not reaching superstar status, Markakis has given the Birds stellar defense and a mostly consistent bat.
But beyond the significant contracts, there is a more important similarity between the two players whose time has spanned much of the team’s “Rock Bottom Era.” The issue is that neither player was able to use his major contract to help keep the team accountable.
A baseball player with a rich contract is in a unique situation with the franchise paying the deal. Because the money is guaranteed, the player has the right to get away with certain things a player in another league might not be able to. In the case of the Orioles, they’ve really needed a player who has been willing to stand up and say “we need better” as the team suffered through losing seasons after losing season.
Allow me to be fair to the two players involved. Anderson was only part of the club at the very beginning of their lean years, and the team was still making at least some attempts to improve by bringing in the likes of Albert Belle and others. (Anderson however has become a well known defender of the Angelos regime in recent years, which has helped him find his way back into the organization.) Markakis has never been much of a vocal type, but he did publicly question the direction of the organization. His participated in a dinner with Angelos that season to discuss those very issues.
Perhaps there is an argument to be made that Markakis’ 2010 outburst DID lead to accountability, as two years later the Orioles have shown themselves (at least for two months) to be one of the better teams in baseball.
But moving forward, I hope it’s a role that suits Jones well. I hope the fire, drive, passion and determination to win that have made Jones an emotional figure in recent years will translate both on field and off. I hope that if the Birds make questionable decisions, he’ll call them out for them. It doesn’t need to be something he does publicly, just a statement made privately from the player slated to receive more money during his tenure than any Oriole before.
I hope Jones embraces not only the responsibilities of an on field leader and star, but as a bit of a caretaker for an organization that has so desperately lacked the right man for the role. I hope he puts pressure on the organization to make the moves necessary to stay in contention every season. I hope he never takes the easy way out and thinks “Mr. Angelos (or insert future owner’s name here) has made me a rich man. It’s not my place to stand up to him.”
I feel as though Jones can be a significant part of the solution for the Orioles. I hope he’s up for everything that comes along with the task.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. –Demetrius Hartsfield finished with 12 tackles, including two for loss and a sack, to lead the Red Team to a victory over the White Squad Saturday in Maryland’s Red-White Spring Football game.
The Red Team was the Terrapin defense and outpointed the White (offense) 67-53 in a modified scoring system. The defense could score points with plays such as sacks, turnovers, tackles for loss and drive stops. The offense earned points for long plays, first downs and regular scoring plays.
“The guys had a lot of fun out there today, and they had the chance to go out there and play the game again with their teammates,” head coach Randy Edsall said after the two-hour game which had four 15-minute quarters, but a running clock in the second half. “Overall I thought we’ve had a really good spring. I thought they guys have done a really good job since January, getting started doing all the things we need to do to be better come August [for the start of preseason camp].”
Maryland’s offense generated three scoring plays in the game.
Brandon Ross scored on a 1-yard run late in the first quarter, capping an 18-play, 67-yard drive. On the next offensive possession, backup quarterback Ricky Schultz hit freshman Nigel King with a 9-yard scoring pass, finishing a 75-yard drive that included a 43-yard pass from Schultz to Ryan Schlothauer.
After a punt on the next possession, Michael Tart hit a 48-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.
Junior quarterback C.J. Brown, who is expected to get the starting nod in the fall, hit 17 of 33 passes for 199 yards. Schultz threw for 146 yards on a 13-for-19 day.
Justus Pickett was the game’s leading rusher, gaining 70 yards on 18 carries, with Ross gaining 46 yards on 14 rushes.
Tight end Matt Furstenburg had five catches for 53 yards, with freshman receiver Levern Jacobs also getting five receptions for 44 yards.
The defense, aided by a one-hand touch rule on the quarterbacks, had 13 sacks in the game, including two each by L.A. Goree, Nate Clarke and Justin Anderson. Goree had eight tackles for the Red Team, while Dexter McDougle had seven and an interception and Bradley Johnson also had seven tackles.
Team Captains: The Terps announced team captains for the 2012 season on Saturday. Wide receiver Kevin Dorsey and quarterback C.J. Brown will represent the offense, while defensive lineman Joe Vellano and linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield will be the defensive captains. Vellano will be a team captain for the second-straight year.
Season-Opening Game Time Announced: Maryland will open the 2012 season at home against William & Mary on Saturday, Sept. 1. Kickoff has been set for 3 p.m.
Players to Lift for Life: The Maryland Chapter of Uplifting Athletes will hold its third annual ‘Lift For Life’ event on Saturday, April 28, as part of the Maryland Day activities. The fundraising strength and conditioning competition begins at 10 a.m. and will feature members of the Terrapin football team who have chosen to help fight cystic fibrosis, a rare disease that affects near 30,000 Americans. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic rare disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. For more details, go to: http://www.umterps.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/041612aad.html
Edsall to Play in Chick-fil-A Challenge: Randy Edsall and former Terp quarterback Stan Gelbaugh will compete in the sixth annual Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge charity golf tournament which is scheduled for April 29 – May 1 at the Reynolds Plantation resort on Lake Oconee outside Atlanta. They will vie for shares of the $520,000 scholarship purse for their respective universities.Edsall and Gelbaugh are teaming up for the second straight year. For more details, go to: http://www.umterps.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/041212aab.html
A nationally-televised game against the Detroit Lions at M&T Bank Stadium highlights the Baltimore Ravens’ 2012 preseason schedule.
In the preseason home opener, the Ravens will host the Lions on Friday, Aug. 17, at 8 p.m. in a game broadcast by FOX-TV. This marks the third preseason meeting between the teams, with Baltimore owning a 2-0 series advantage.
The Ravens open preseason play at Atlanta on Thursday, Aug. 9. Baltimore holds a 5-3 preseason series edge over the Falcons, including last year’s 21-7 victory at the Georgia Dome. The Ravens have played six of the eight preseason contests in Atlanta.
Following their game against Detroit, the Ravens will host Jacksonville on Thursday, Aug. 23, in their first-ever preseason matchup against the Jaguars.
Baltimore closes out its preseason schedule at St. Louis on Thursday, Aug. 30. This will mark the Ravens’ third all-time preseason game against the Rams – all of which have been scheduled in St. Louis.
Two of the Ravens’ four preseason opponents – Atlanta and Detroit – earned playoff berths during the 2011 campaign. Baltimore is 38-25 all time in preseason play. Under head coach John Harbaugh (2008-11), the Ravens have compiled an 11-5 record in the preseason.
2012 Ravens Preseason Schedule
Thursday, Aug. 9 at Atlanta Falcons
Friday, Aug. 17 vs. Detroit Lions (FOX-TV National, 8 p.m.)
Thursday, Aug. 23 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Thursday, Aug. 30 at St. Louis Rams
(Times for three of the Ravens’ preseason games will be determined at a later date.)