The Most Interesting Man In Baseball
April 12, 2019 5:33 AM   Subscribe

Chris Davis is flailing his way to a dubious piece of baseball history, setting records for futility on a fledgling Baltimore Orioles team that will likely find its way toward the bottom of the standings again in 2019. Davis hit a double off James Shields last Sept. 14, but doesn’t have a hit to his name since. He ended 2018 on an 0-for-21 slump, and entered Thursday at 0-for-29 in 2019. The 0-for-50 for Davis is the longest hitless streak by a non-pitcher in major league history. posted by chavenet (61 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
About last night: Chris Davis extends hitless run to a record 61 PA
posted by chavenet at 5:36 AM on April 12


I know "hey these pro sports athletes are rich" is about the stalest hot take in history, but still, phrases like these from the Wikipedia article linked above make it hard for me to feel too bad for the guy:
...7-year, $161 million contract to stay with the Orioles, the richest contract in Orioles history...
posted by duffell at 5:42 AM on April 12


It seemed like a good idea at the time!
posted by timdiggerm at 5:44 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]


I am a Yankees fan. I do not care how much money he is making, I feel badly for the man. If I were an opposing pitcher, if we were ahead or behind by a lot, I would groove him one.
posted by AugustWest at 5:49 AM on April 12 [17 favorites]


...7-year, $161 million contract to stay with the Orioles, the richest contract in Orioles history...

This contract is going to be the go-to talking point for ownership when baseball's inevitable labour stoppage happens (next year?).

Baseball players are grossly underpaid both as minor leaguers and during their first years in the majors. The whole idea was that you'd eventually get that big money in the end, even if you were being paid for past performance, so the vets who made it to that point weren't too interested in shaking up the status quo.

But now the front offices are realizing that the older players aren't performing up to those 8-figure/yr contracts and are cutting back on signing vets. Chris Davis' contract is going to be talking point A for their whole side of the debate.

Cutting down on signing less effective vets would be fine if that money redistributed itself down to the younger, more productive players but there's no agreed to percentage of income that goes to the players (like in the NBA). So no big contracts for second-tier stars like Chris Davis. And someone like Ozzie Albies, a young star in Atlanta who just signed an extension and is worth something like 9 wins more than Davis over the past 3 years (and is a decade younger) is going to be paid as much in the next seven years of his contract as Davis will make in the next two.
posted by thecjm at 5:59 AM on April 12 [12 favorites]


past the Mendoza line, beyond the yips, lies ... the Davis line
posted by octobersurprise at 6:14 AM on April 12 [11 favorites]


Down the road from Baltimore, Nationals relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal was also putting up statistics for infamy, failing to record an out in appearance after appearance. He failed to retire any of the first ten batters he faced in 2019! When he finally got a batter out on Wednesday night (the manager let him pitch in the 9th inning while holding a 15 run lead), his season ERA was briefly 192. After finishing the game, his ERA is 72.

The "beltway series" between Baltimore and Washington isn't until July - would love to see Rosenthal pitch to Chris Davis.
posted by exogenous at 6:20 AM on April 12 [9 favorites]


It's too bad for him he has to wait until July to get some ABs against the Nationals bullpen; they'll cure it for him if nothing else will.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:21 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]


It's too bad for him he has to wait until July to get some ABs against the Nationals bullpen

My guess is the streak will end the next time they play the Red Sox.
posted by terrapin at 6:28 AM on April 12 [5 favorites]


Baltimore is known for getting the best out of people.
posted by josher71 at 6:29 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]


One of the great things about baseball is that the interaction between a pitcher and hitter is kinda unique compared to a lot of other (especially american) sports moments.

Hitting a baseball is quite difficult in the realm of human activities. Alternatively and seemingly paradoxically, getting big league hitters out is also really hard.

So you have this thing where if, for whatever reason, an athlete slides down the performance curve (which is hyperbolic for these two things) you can get really extreme and often hilarious outcomes. That's why there's so many great books about historical baseball anecdotes (that and it used to be played by real cretins).
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 6:30 AM on April 12 [4 favorites]


My guess is the streak will end the next time they play the Red Sox.

YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH!

Look, man, they're just off to a slow start is all
posted by bondcliff at 6:32 AM on April 12 [4 favorites]


So. We were at the Orioles home opener vs. the Yankees. We aren't fans of either team particularly, we were in Baltimore for a vacation and thought it would be fun to go. Tailgating = fun. Game day atomsphere = fun. Pregame fanfare = fun. Winning scratch offs at the Maryland Lotto booth = fun. Cal Ripken, Jr. on the jumbotron = fun. Hearing the home crowd eviscerate Chris Davis = not fun.

I get it - he's paid alot and he's really sucking and it's the classic armchair (drunk off their ass) athlete who can't walk and chew gum at the same time jeering an actual athelte phenenom, but damn. It was rough. My husband commented he hoped Davis's wife wasn't at the game, cause it would be hard to hear a stadium full of people with that kind of venom for your spouse.

They weren't even as hard on the pitcher who gave up 4 runs in like 10 minutes to blow the lead.
posted by domino at 6:37 AM on April 12 [7 favorites]


I assume he's good enough as a [checks Wikipedia] first baseman to make up for being a bad hitter, otherwise they would have sent him to the minors, no?
posted by ardgedee at 6:38 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


Even with the paycheck, it would crush me psychologically to get caught up in a streak like that. I don’t understand how high-level athletes function (and this is coming from someone who wouldn’t mind never attending a sporting event again). I hate that anyone is booing Davis. I hate the clips of people booing Bryce Harper (it’s business, not personal, people!).
posted by sallybrown at 6:41 AM on April 12 [4 favorites]


Any time any one complains about salaries in sports they are cheering for capital over labor.
posted by JPD at 6:51 AM on April 12 [16 favorites]


Granted, there is a lot of really bad luck at work here, turning a really shitty performance into record-breaking terrible. And when that slump finally breaks, his performance will merely be really shitty again.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:54 AM on April 12


I assume he's good enough as a [checks Wikipedia] first baseman to make up for being a bad hitter, otherwise they would have sent him to the minors, no?

I suspect you don't know what a deliciously wry joke you just made. Forgive me if I'm baseball-splaining here...

First base has historically been the easiest position to play on the field, so consequently usually has the best hitters, since a slug who can hit can still play a passable first base. Davis last year was hitting like a pitcher, and pitchers face no selection pressure on their hitting prowess or lack thereof. This year he's hitting like I would. (Shortstop or catcher would be the traditional place teams would accept lousy offense for defensive ability, but of course there have been great hitting shortstops and catchers too.)

They haven't sent him to the minors because paying him these rates to do that would be even more embarrassing for the team, because they are in fact awful and don't have anyone worth giving a shot to at the moment anyway, and also because as a veteran, he could refuse the assignment and become a free agent. He'd still get paid in that instance, and if any other team signed him they'd only have to pay him the major league minimum while the Orioles picked up the rest of the contract. And what would be most embarrassing would be for the O's to pay him $161 M for some other team to notice "he just needs LASIK, idiots" and return him to semi-competence.
posted by stevis23 at 6:54 AM on April 12 [8 favorites]


As an O's fan I'm upset about Davis and also about the booing, which I think of as something Orioles fans just don't do. It has ended, and in the most recent home games, as Davis continues not to be able to find the ball, he has been cheered every at-bat. He did a lot for this team and everybody hates seeing what's happened to him.

So what's happened to him? I truly don't know. This is not a normal decline, not something the Orioles should have taken into account as within the reasonable range of outcomes of the contract. This is more like what happened with the big Albert Belle contract; we signed someone who was one of the best hitters in baseball and something happened to his body that made him simply unable to play the game. The difference is, the Orioles' insurance covered a lot of the costs of Belle's contract after the injury. Without a clear cause for Davis's collapse, I don't think that will happen this time.
posted by escabeche at 6:55 AM on April 12 [4 favorites]


Am I the only one thinking that his previous success (to afford him the fat contract) was PED-reliant?
posted by kuanes at 7:07 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


This is not a normal decline, not something the Orioles should have taken into account as within the reasonable range of outcomes of the contract.

“That's 72 unforced errors for Richie Tenebaum. He's playing the worst tennis of his life. What's he feeling right now, Tex Hayward?”

“I don't know, Jim. There's obviously something wrong with him. He's taken off his shoes and one of his socks and...actually, I think he's crying.”
posted by sallybrown at 7:08 AM on April 12 [6 favorites]


Baseball players are grossly underpaid both as minor leaguers and during their first years in the majors. The whole idea was that you'd eventually get that big money in the end, even if you were being paid for past performance, so the vets who made it to that point weren't too interested in shaking up the status quo.

It's really an awful structure for the players, made worse by the fact that the MLB players association doesn't represent minor leaguers so those who vote on the contract between the players and owners are the vets looking to finally get theirs.

The pay your dues culture is wrong for sports and having a player union, but individual agents for player contracts is just dopey. Unlike most industries where seniority carries some sense of being a more valuable worker, professional sports gets the most value from the younger workers, so making players wait to get paid and letting the youngest suffer with less than a living wage in the minors is completely backwards. Far better would be for the players to start sharing in the revenue from their signing and get added paid based on their production as they mature, with some serious benefit packages for those who get injured also included. That would better fit the value the players provide and make keeping veterans more attractive as their salary would decline after their peak, but they'd still be providing value for the team.

It's all made, unintentionally, worse by analytics that help teams better identify the young players who will contribute and can replace the older guys who are about to get paid. The older guys will likely still vote for their interests, making the analytics work against them and for the owners even more.

Albies just got ripped off in signing a contract for far less than he is projected to be worth since, one imagines, he wants to get paid now rather than wait to be a free agent. Some analysis projects his loss in income to potentially be 100-200 million for taking the money now rather than waiting if he didn't get severely injured or fall apart at the plate.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:17 AM on April 12 [5 favorites]


Any time any one complains about salaries in sports they are cheering for capital over labor.

Sure but strictly speaking anytime anyone complains about CEO salaries they are doing the same thing.

posted by mark k at 7:35 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]


that and it used to be played by real cretins)

Hey, I liked the 93 Phillies!
posted by Literaryhero at 7:40 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]


If I were an opposing pitcher, if we were ahead or behind by a lot, I would groove him one.

Yeah. But, I'd underhand it, just to rub it in that I was tossing him a freebie.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:45 AM on April 12 [3 favorites]


Sure but strictly speaking anytime anyone complains about CEO salaries they are doing the same thing.

Athletes aren't bosses (at least in the context of a team), though. They're not making final hiring/firing decisions. They're the ones whose physical labor directly forms the product that the teams sell. It's a very different relationship to capital than CEOs have.
posted by Copronymus at 7:49 AM on April 12 [6 favorites]


Wow, I didn’t realize certain players had the ability to refuse reassignment to the minors, but it makes a kind of sense. But at a certain point it seems in Davis’s best interest to go down and get some hits and take a shot at breaking the mental aspect of skid. Seems better than riding the bench and waiting for the odd punch hitting opportunity.

Didn’t Jason Giambi go down to the minors for a bit as part of successfully breaking a slump during his later yankee years? I seem to remember some “Jason GiAAAmbi” blog post back in the day.
posted by midmarch snowman at 7:51 AM on April 12


He was always a big strikeout-prone power guy, and he barely stayed up in the majors when he was with Texas. He finally had some big HR years with the O’s, and now he’s fallen apart again.

I’d blame the shift, but teams were shifting on him before.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:56 AM on April 12


Any time any one complains about salaries in sports they are cheering for capital over labor.

Sorta true, but there's a difference between what an individual player gets and what players as a collective get. Chris Davis absolutely does not deserve the money he's getting as a player, but since we root for the players as a group over the owners it's chalked up as something like a win for them overall. The money should be better apportioned to players as a whole rather than have Davis' getting paid while Albies' and Acunas get the shaft.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:58 AM on April 12 [3 favorites]


Pull quote from that ESPN article (emphasis mine):

"We won the game and I went 0-for-5, and I knew that the media was going to want to talk about it. For me, that was just such an unprofessional thing to do, to sit there and talk about my own personal circumstances when we had so many things to be excited and encouraged about as a ballclub. I want these guys to enjoy playing in the big leagues. I want them to enjoy playing for the Orioles, playing for the city of Baltimore. I want them to understand that it's a privilege to be able to put on this uniform night in and night out. I want them to do as much as they can to have the best outcome possible, and I don't think it's fair for me to bring all the baggage that I have with me right now and dump it on those guys."

Class act, right there.
posted by ZakDaddy at 8:13 AM on April 12 [5 favorites]


Look back at Chris Davis' best season. In 2013 he led the league in homers and RBIs, had an OPS over 1.000, was worth 6.5 WAR and came in third in MVP voting. He was paid $3.3m in the first year he was eligible for baseball's adversarial arbitration process that proceeds free agency. After his breakout season, his salary jumped to $10.3m, which is a whole lot of money!

But if he was a free agent? In 2013 baseball teams paid over $7m per WAR for free agents. Davis' worth in that breakout season was something close to $40m if you were looking to replace that performance with free agents. But baseball doesn't work that way. Players get paid for past performance and their free agency is delayed to the point where the vast majority are on the downswing of their career by the time they're up for the truly big salaries.

Again, I get why teams want to cut back on big, long-term contracts to ageing players who won't perform as well as they did in the past. What I hate is that at the same time they doing nothing to actually pay the younger players anywhere close to what they're worth, and not spending the money that would go to just one Chris Davis to do wild things like paying their minor leaguers above minimum wage.
posted by thecjm at 8:32 AM on April 12 [5 favorites]


"The "beltway series" between Baltimore and Washington isn't until July - would love to see Rosenthal pitch to Chris Davis."

The Unavoidable Object meets the Unhittable Force.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 8:50 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]


"Baltimore is known for getting the best out of people."

Baltimore is known for getting the best OUTS out of people.

FTFY
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 8:52 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


My guess is the streak will end the next time they play the Red Sox.

YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH!

Look, man, they're just off to a slow start is all


I'm trying some reverse psychology!
posted by terrapin at 8:54 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]


I think I understand the still-surviving appeal of Professional Sports... it's the last profession in America where the workers make more money than the owners.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:03 AM on April 12


oneswellfoop....how do you figure?
The great value of a team comes when the team is sold - that money is going to the owners, not the players.
posted by kokaku at 9:06 AM on April 12 [4 favorites]


it's the last profession in America where the workers make more money than the owners.

. . . this is not true? like at all?

Nothing radicalized me more than the minor league minimum wage exemption that was passed (bi partisan yay) last year.
posted by Think_Long at 9:12 AM on April 12 [3 favorites]


Read the Ricketts saga for how much money they expected to make. Also the cubs have gained 2 billion dollars in value since they bought them.
posted by Carillon at 9:24 AM on April 12


> it's the last profession in America where the workers make more money than the owners.

That's not true and has probably never been true. Ten current owners are billionaires
posted by ardgedee at 9:24 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]


...the rest are worth hundreds of millions, and all (aside from corporate owners like Liberty Media) lead businesses, manage major investment portfolios, or are heirs of billionaire families.
posted by ardgedee at 9:28 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


I don't want Davis's hitting career to be over. But, if his hitting career is over, I hope he spends a few years in the wilderness, retools, and makes a full return to the bigs as a starting pitcher. Baseball should have a Reverse Ankiel.
posted by suckerpunch at 9:43 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]


I'm a lifelong Red Sox fan - have a deep and abiding antipathy for all the other teams of the AL East. The Orioles ownership gets no love from me for putting out an intentionally lousy team to start with, but man, poor Mr. Davis. I can't imagine booing him during this streak even if he's on the O's and playing the Sox. I rarely understand booing, even if I did used to boo Jose Canseco when he played for the Sox, because.. Jose Canseco.
posted by drewbage1847 at 9:47 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


Technically, should be called the "Beltways Series", as each city has its own Beltway.
posted by jindc at 9:55 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


But, if his hitting career is over, I hope he spends a few years in the wilderness, retools, and makes a full return to the bigs as a starting pitcher. Baseball should have a Reverse Ankiel.

Jason Lane mostly played in the minors while he attempted a comeback as a pitcher, but he did make it back up in 2014, 7 years after his last MLB season.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 10:13 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]



I think I understand the still-surviving appeal of Professional Sports... it's the last profession in America where the workers make more money than the owners.


I know I'm not the first to reply to this but - really? Seriously? Do you really think that the owners of a business that is valued in the billions are somehow taking home less than even their best-paid employee? Even if an owner is a legacy owner, even if their dad bought the team for, I dunno, $18m in 1972, and even if the team is taking a loss every year and the owner isn't drawing any sort of salary, they're still the OWNER OF A BILLION DOLLAR PLUS ASSET!?!?!?!
posted by thecjm at 10:38 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


I have never, ever heard a fan of any professional sport complain about the amount of money the owners make. I have heard people complain that their team’s owner isn’t spending enough on players to help the team win, which kind of contradicts the whole “the players get paid too much” thing, but either way any reduction in profit on either side is not going to result in more money in the pockets of you, the fan.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:34 PM on April 12 [2 favorites]


Scott "But I've only ever played catcher."

Billy: "Ah, first base is easy. Tell him, Wash."

Wash: "It's incredibly hard."

In all seriousness, I expect we'll see Davis placed on IL (Injured List if you're nasty) with a previously undiscovered injury if this keeps up much longer. That gets him some time off to find his mojo and a face-saving stint in AAA on a rehab assignment.
posted by East14thTaco at 12:46 PM on April 12 [1 favorite]


So, for what it’s worth, the NBA designs their cap/tax system based on what percentage of “basketball related income” the players get. This has varied over the years, but it’s currently 50%. The salary cap is set at a level to do this, and there are measures in place to adjust the payouts either way if the actual amount differs from what was projected.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 12:46 PM on April 12 [1 favorite]


The NBA also has a salary floor. So if a team has an extremely low payroll, all of the players will see their individual salaries increase so the team can meet the minimum payout.

The highest payroll in the NBA is double the lowest. The highest payroll in MLB is four times as large as the lowest.
posted by thecjm at 2:01 PM on April 12


Has he tried bunting.
posted by clavdivs at 6:34 PM on April 12


Has he tried bunting.

I've read that he's all but refused to adjust his approach at the plate—including attempting a bunt down the third base line.
posted by synecdoche at 6:45 PM on April 12


Sure but strictly speaking anytime anyone complains about CEO salaries they are doing the same thing.

Kind of ignores the fact that excess executive comp is a result of management captured boards, where boards (in the US, where the problem is most acute) exist to represent capital.
posted by JPD at 5:57 AM on April 13


Good news--Rick Porcello is taking the mound today.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:29 AM on April 13


My guess is the streak will end the next time they play the Red Sox.

Ok, fine, the second time they play the Red Sox.
posted by bondcliff at 10:18 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


The streak is over! I just happened to be at BWI watching the game on a bar tv, and a rousing cheer went up. Cheers, Mr. Davis.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:22 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


I'm a lifelong Red Sox fan - have a deep and abiding antipathy for all the other teams of the AL East.

We may have been booing Davis, but I can't recall any recent incidents where Os fans were shouting racial slurs at opposing outfielders. A Boston fan harping on about fan conduct is rich.
posted by codacorolla at 10:44 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Video of the event.

good news
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:50 PM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Davis 3-4 today with two doubles and 4 RBI, raising his slugging percentage a hundred and thirty points in a single game.
posted by escabeche at 4:15 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


AugustWest: "I am a Yankees fan. I do not care how much money he is making, I feel badly for the man. If I were an opposing pitcher, if we were ahead or behind by a lot, I would groove him one."

I guess no one had to groove him one, he just needed to play the Red Sox.
posted by AugustWest at 8:44 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


My guess is the streak will end the next time they play the Red Sox.

Ok, fine, the second time they play the Red Sox.


*grins*
posted by terrapin at 6:24 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


But now the fourth time they play the Red Sox—that’s the real winner.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 11:59 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


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