Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles answers question only a fan could ask
On Sunday, a fan named Michael Tran popped a question to Chris Davis, via Twitter, that no member of the media had dared to ask:
Davis didn't have to answer the question but he did. Despite his reply, along with 25 doubles, is unlikely to satisfy any doubters out there. That's because if we were to describe the relationship status between baseball players, fans and the media on a dating website, it would read "it's complicated".
It's hard to be surprised by such a question at this point, especially after witnessing baseball's escalation of drug testing failing to stop scandals such as . Especially because in the not too distant past we've seen the games statistical pool sullied .
Last season was a breakout year for Davis – he hit 12 more homers than his previous high while playing in 139 games, also a career high. This season he nearly matched his 2012 home-run total by June, and has eclipsed his OPS by close to 200 points. That is a colossal spike and in 2013, in the minds of many observers, fairly or unfairly, colossal spikes equal potential PED use.
That's not Chris Davis' fault at all, but rather , Alex Rodriguez', Barry Bonds', Mark McGwire's, Sammy Sosa's, Rafael Palmeiro's and plenty of others'.
Are we so jaded that we can no longer appreciate a player, a little farther into his career than we may believe to be "normal", explode in a major way? I would certainly hope not, but I would venture to guess that a large portion of fans who follow the Orioles slugger, who leads the league in homers, slugging percentage and OPS, have thought or mentioned, even as a lighthearted joke among friends, that he may be using. But there is no evidence to back up such casual claims, and as we saw, Davis steadfastly denied it.
Some fans and media are fighting the temptation to jump to conclusions. On Tuesday, appearing on WFAN radio in New York, Peter Gammons was asked about fans sudden interest in Davis' medicine cabinet. He said:
Chris Davis is the same age figuring out his strike zone that was when he figured out his.
Perhaps he has a point. Chris Davis is not David Eckstein. He is a big man who plays first base, who showed power in the minor leagues – 1.029 OPS over 77 games in 2008 at AA and AAA ball. A year later he hit 21 homers with Texas in just his second season. Incidentally, before last season, that 2009 campaign was the last time he played more than 100 games, so staying healthy and getting an opportunity certainly figures into his power surge and improved batting average. As Gammons points out, it's Davis' eye for the ball and baseball brain that's shown improvement, something that PED's are less likely to help.
Perhaps the most interesting element of all this is how the question many wanted to ask was asked by a fan rather than the press – who, at least in theory, adhere to the idea of having some sort of evidence before asking that question. The fans, empowered by social media and buying the tickets, are freer to do what they like – rightly or wrongly. Even if players are suspended for 50 or 100 games, or are (or were) never caught, it's the court of public opinion where most baseball trials are truly played out.
Papelbon pops off
Jonathan Papelbon had something to say about the prospect of making the The Phillies closer told MLB Network Radio:
The guy's got a month, I don't even think he's got a month in the big leagues. Just comparing him to this and that, and saying he's going to make the All-Star team, that's a joke to me.
Puig has taken Los Angeles and the baseball world by storm, getting off to what could be the best start to a career in the history of the game. After another three hits on Tuesday, coming a triple short of the cycle against the Rockies, he's put up seven hits in his last 10 at-bats. His batting average up to .443 thru 27 games, along with eight home runs and an OPS of 1.218.
It's just really what happens in baseball when … to me it really does an injustice to the veteran players that have been in the game for eight, nine, 10-plus years. It kind of does them an injustice because they've worked so hard to stay there.
That's true, and I understand where he is coming from. I do, really. However, Papelbon should understand this – what we are watching right now is one of the greatest month-long baseball shows we've seen, ever. The All-Star Game is for the fans, whether or not, and if Puig, who is not on the ballot right now, can impress fans enough to vote him in via a write-in or a late-stage fan vote, then that's their business. The All-Star Game is full of injustices and those sort of conversations about who deserves to be there will always take place. Papelbon should know better.
Streaky is as streaky does
The Cleveland Indians are in first place. You read right, they woke up on Wednesday morning, , and saw themselves a half game up on the Detroit Tigers, who despite having a great deal of talent are in the midst of underperforming in the regular season for the second straight year. Last year Detroit struggled until pipping the White Sox at the post. In 2013, it's the Indians who are taking on the role of AL Central pests, while also becoming one of the streakiest teams – if not the streakiest team – in baseball.
So far this season, they've had three three-game winning streaks, two four-game win streaks, two five-game win streaks and one six-game win streak. They've also had a pair of three-game losing streaks, two five-game losing streaks and an eight-game losing streak. Right now they're on a five-game winning streak, in the midst of winning 15 of 20 games, beating Kansas City 6-5 on Wednesday and improving their record to 45-38.
One reason for their success is an 18-7 record in one-run games, taking advantage of Detroit's faltering in tight ballgames – they're 9-12 after beating Toronto 7-6 on Wednesday. The Indians were in a , when they eventually finished under .500, but this revamped Tribe team, headed by Terry Francona, has a somewhat improved pitching staff, a new bench and a high-octane offense that's top-five in the AL. Most of all, they have shown an ability to bounce back from some serious spirals. Whether or not they can keep this up and fend off the heavily favored Tigers remains to be seen, but they'll take their shot , when they host Detroit. Perhaps a big series like that will bring out fans, who despite the early season success still rank dead last in attendance.
Bryce Harper was back in action on Monday, after missing more than a month with left-knee issues. No doubt he was a welcome sight to fans, even if he's now donning a knee brace, one that allegedly won't prevent him from playing in the all-out style we've grown accustomed to watching. Harper took the second pitch he saw from Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo and put it into the bullpen in left center – his 13th home run of the season.
The Nationals struggled without Harper but also struggled with him playing early in the season, failing to come out of the gate strong after racking up 98 wins in 2012, the most in Major League Baseball. Now the run-starved lineup will look to Harper to help provide what was missing from a pitching staff that isn't as good as last season but is still – run support. The Nationals rank 13th of 15 NL teams in runs scored, down eight places from a season ago. After putting up 10 runs against Milwaukee on Monday, Washington were shut out on Tuesday.
Down in Tampa, reigning AL Cy Young Award winner David Price , shutting down the Houston Astros for seven innings while striking out 10. We all know the Astros will never be mistaken for the 1927 Yankees, but before missing 44 games with a left biceps strain Price had struggled, much as the vaunted Rays staff has all season long. Perhaps that turns around now, with Price flashing a 96mph fastball, Matt Moore putting together three solid starts and Alex Cobb hopefully returning from a concussion after the All-Star break. It also doesn't hurt that Evan Longoria will avoid the DL after a flare-up of plantar fasciitis. Despite a staff that has performed way below expectations, the Rays are 45-39, 5.5 games behind Boston in a highly competitive division that's wide open. They also have five more games against Houston and home games against the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins over the next 12 games – a set against minnows that could see them leap from third to first place.
Close quarters in the NL West
There's lots of talk about just how tight the American League East is, and deservedly so – just nine games separating the penthouse from the outhouse. Rather incredibly, the National League West is even more crowded.
Heading into Wednesday, just three games separate the first place (42-41) with the last place San Francisco Giants (39-44). So how do we handicap this awful and ugly division, mostly filled with below average ballclubs as we reach the halfway point of the season? Let's take a quick look.
Favorites: Dodger and Giants
Surprise! The team with the $200m payroll and the World Series champs still have be ranked ahead of the western field. Los Angeles are four games below .500, a position that would put them 12 behind the surging Pirates in the NL Central and 9.5 behind Atlanta in the NL East; but out west, they got em right where they want them. Despite losing Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett for the season and Ted Lilly and Zack Greinke for extended periods, not to mention large chunks of Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, who was tearing up AA while Dodgers fans lined up to jump from windows around Los Angeles, they are making their move, winning nine of 10. Now they've made a move to to try to shore up their pen as well, hoping a change of scenery will help Carlos Marmol succeed in the Dodgers after acquiring him from the Cubs for Matt Guerrier and a , a move that generated much protest from LA's team mascot community.
Look for them to also add a starter and perhaps a second baseman, rumored to be Chase Utley.
Meanwhile, the Giants have their issues. Their outfield is weakened by the loss of spark plug for three months, after he tore a hamstring, but even so, offense is less of a problem. Of the starting pitching triumvirate that served San Francisco so well last season, only Madison Bumgarner is putting up similar numbers in the first half. Ryan Vogelsong was getting hammered before fracturing his right hand and is a month away. Matt Cain has recently recovered from his poor start, putting together five straight quality outings. Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum, who many fans believe , have ERA's hovering in the mid-fours. The bullpen is still a relative force, and should the starters get on a roll, don't count out the Giants, even if they have the worst record in baseball (four wins in 16 games) since 15 June and have now been no-hit to boot. I've learned my lesson by now.
Best of the rest: For a team that spent 53 days in first place, the Diamondbacks get little respect – and don't expect that to change, especially after starting off their 10-game road trip with a 1-8 record. We all know the D'Backs can hit, but pitching is another issue. Like the Dodgers they have blown 16 saves, and besides Patrick Corbin, who suffered his first defeat (9-1) to the Mets on Wednesday, and Wade Miley, the team has some real problems. Trevor Cahill has given up 16 runs in his last two starts and is heading to the DL, Daniel Hudson is out for the year, Brandon McCarthy is also hurt. Now what? It's up to the bats, featuring future all-star Paul Goldschmidt and his over .900 OPS, to put up some major runs until the staff comes around. It's a long shot.
Meanwhile in Colorado, the Rockies are hanging in despite losing, their all-star shortstop, with a broken rib. One season removed from 98 losses, the Rox have watched Dexter Fowler develop and will now watch him sit, losing the surging center fielder to a wrist issue until after the All-Star break. Not good news. Nor is the way Josh Rutledge has hit in the first half. Still, Rockies fans have to be happy how Michael Cuddyer hit in 27 straight games (he's played in 63 games this season, failing to hit in just eight), a streak broken up by the Dodgers on Wednesday, and the performance of starters Tyler Chatwood, Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin, not to mention closer in waiting Rex Brothers, who has an ERA nearly under 0.50, which is ridiculous. They still need another arm if they are going to get serious, and that could mean dealing Fowler once he gets healthy. There's a lot to like here, and they are possibly better than Arizona, which is still not saying a whole lot. If it weren't for the Dodgers ability to do whatever they want, they might consider taking a flyer on another starter and going for it.
Bringing up the rear: It's never a good thing to drop three of four games to the Miami Marlins, but before that debacle the Padres were holding their heads relatively high. They started out the season 5-15 and have are 35-29 since, which is a mighty fine recovery. It's a mixed bag in San Diego, but overall things are looking up for the long haul. Just not right now, not with Luke Gregson and Huston Street stinking it up in the pen while Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard suffer through June, as did Mark Kotsay, who had all of four hits during the month. Chase Headley has disappeared as well. Despite all of this the Padres are … but their fans shouldn't get greedy, yet.