It’s hard to imagine that players in Major League Baseball could still be getting caught using illegal substances, but here we are, weeks away from the playoffs, and Baltimore Orioles’ power hitter Chris Davis has been busted. Thankfully, he hasn’t been using any kind of illegal steroid, but instead he tested positive for Adderall. As is the ruling agreed to by the MLB and the players’ union, use of amphetamines warrants a suspension only after the first offense. Which means that yes, Davis had already been caught once before.
It must seem absolutely ridiculous to Davis’ teammates that he could be so reckless—maybe even selfish—when the playoffs are right around the corner. He received a 25-game suspension that started when the team had only 17 games left in the regular season. With a sizeable lead, though, it would take a serious meltdown in order to cough up the American League East title. But the suspension does not just end when the regular season does. Davis will have to keep riding the pine eight games into the playoffs, given that the Orioles make it that far. 11.5 games up on the Toronto Blue Jays and only three wins away from clinching, the Orioles are considered to be one of the sharpest contenders for the World Series title. What does this suspended slugger mean to this team on fire? I would say, not much.
Davis came almost out of nowhere last season, blasting 53 home runs and driving in 138 RBIs, where in the season before he only hit 33 home runs and drove in 85 RBIs. Not too shabby, but compare those numbers to his previous four seasons and the transformation is momentous. This means that Davis should be a huge asset going into the Fall Classic, right? Wrong. Even last year in his breakout season, Davis only batted .286, which for a long ball hitter is solid, but not always sustainable.
Well, guess what? It wasn’t. Finishing up his regular season at .196, with only 26 home runs and 72 RBIs, Davis has not proved to be as much of a vital part of the Oriole offense as last year. With these numbers, it wouldn’t be surprising if you heard a couple sighs of relief when Davis was ordered to take 25 games off. He does serve as enough of a threat to pitchers to help those who bat around him to get some better pitches, but for the most part the Orioles are better off without him. In games where the Orioles have Davis this season, they are 72-55, but in games where Davis is on the bench, they Orioles actually have a much higher winning percentage at .778 (14-4). Sure, it’s a small number of games in which he has not played, but taking some time off before the real pressure of the playoffs begins could give him the time he needs tweak his approach and come back raking in October.
The playoffs always prove to be a completely different animal in comparison to the regular season. Teams that seem hot are swept up by the unsuspecting and any kind of edge over the competition can be crucial. Unfortunately, Davis will not be able to compete in at least the first round of the playoffs, but with the numbers he has put up this year, this could be the slight change that takes Orioles from Division champs to World Series. I don’t want to say that the Orioles should leave him out the rest of the way—he’s shown high performance before—but maybe at this point before the regular season officially closes out, the Orioles can look to see if some lesser-known talent could surface and be right push in the attempt at a World Series title. Or hey, maybe Davis will come back more focused than ever and once again be the fuel the Orioles’ tank. Either way, a little change in Davis’ routine can’t do much harm to the O’s.