The demands of stardom hit a crescendo last week for Chris Davis who, as the leading vote-getter for the 84th All-Star Game, became the target of a long list of media outlets at home and across the country.
Adding to his busy schedule — which, by the way, includes doing actual baseball activities — were requests from reporters covering a not-so-conveniently timed four-game series against the team that traded him away.
The past week has been a hectic one for one of baseball’s newest superstars, suddenly so popular that ballots with his name were cast more often than even reigning American League MVP Miguel Cabrera and the wildly popular reigning MVP of the National League, Buster Posey.
Davis insists that he’s the same person now in light of credentials that have made him a star player as he was when he couldn’t completely figure out how to realize his potential with the Texas Rangers.
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That’s the team with whom the fairy tale of his career was supposed to take place. Think about it: A native Texan hitting home runs at a record pace and blossoming into an All-Star for the team he grew up cheering.
But it didn’t happen that way, and he and the general manager who dealt him to Baltimore don’t think that it ever was going to happen at Rangers Ballpark.
“I think it would have been hard, just because of the fact that I had struggled so long there,” Davis said Wednesday at Camden Yards.
“Would it have been different in Texas? I don’t know. It’s too hard to say. After you’ve been there long enough and you’ve struggled enough, certain opinions are formed about you and it’s hard to shake those, and rightfully so. I’m sure they saw the caliber of player that I could have been on multiple occasions, but they also saw me struggle quite a bit.”
Davis, from Longview, ended the first half of the season batting .315 with a baseball-leading 37 homers. His 93 RBIs are second to only Cabrera. Only Barry Bonds ever hit more home runs before an All-Star break (39 in 2001), and Davis’ homers and RBIs are already a career-high through only 95 games.
In his past 162 games, Davis has 56 homers and 138 RBIs.
“It’s pretty impressive to see the type of numbers he’s putting up,” Rangers outfielder David Murphy said. “I’m proud of him for persevering. For the most part, his big-league time here was inconsistent and frustrating.”
Davis, 27, will participate in the Home Run Derby on Monday night at Citi Field in New York and take the field Tuesday for his All-Star Game debut. He seemed destined for the Midsummer Classic much sooner than this year, though.
The Rangers’ fifth-round pick in 2006, Davis ravaged minor-league pitching in 2008 and was summoned for his major-league debut in late June. He swatted 17 homers and batted .285 in 80 games, and was the Rangers’ first baseman in 2009.
But his strikeouts mounted and his contact rate dropped until he was finally sent to Triple A on July 5 that season with a .202 average and 114 strikeouts in 77 games.
He came back in late August and finished strongly enough and had a good enough spring to open 2010 as the first baseman, but posted only a .188 average over 15 games before losing his roster spot to Justin Smoak.
“Fifteen games into the season, I was like, ‘Wow, these guys are really giving up on me pretty soon,’” Davis said.
Later that year after Smoak was shipped away in the Cliff Lee deal, Davis fell behind Mitch Moreland in the pecking order at first base, and, in his last option year in 2011, was shipped to the Orioles along with Tommy Hunter for reliever Koji Uehara the day before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.
“I’m not going to play the blame game because, ultimately, I’m the one to blame because I didn’t produce when given the opportunity,” Davis said. “Now, could I have gotten a longer look? Maybe, but I was certainly given a number of looks.”
His numbers with the Rangers in 266 games, from June 26, 2008, to July 30, 2011, ended up at a .248 average (219 for 882), 42 homers, 124 RBIs, 302 strikeouts, a .300 on-base percentage and a .455 slugging percentage.
His numbers with Baltimore in 265 games, since his first game July 31, 2011, through Sunday: .286 average (281 for 981), 72 homers, 191 RBIs, 318 strikeouts, .345 on-base percentage, .564 slugging percentage.
The trade is biting the Rangers, but GM Jon Daniels is bothered more by the “short-sighted” Adrian Gonzalez trade after the 2005 season than the Davis deal while trying to win a World Series.
“I don’t want to pretend like I don’t want him back. I’d love to have him on the club,” Daniels said. “But we had just come off the World Series. We had arguably the best team and a need in the bullpen. Chris was struggling, Mitch was performing well, and Chris was going to be out of options.
“There were real questions about whether he could figure it out in that environment, especially without a set role. We knew at the time that he had that kind of ability and athleticism that he could really catch on in a big way. We talked about that, but we made a deal to help ourselves. I’m genuinely happy for Chris.”
That’s the prevailing sentiment throughout the organization for a player who has finally realized his potential in the major leagues. It would have been a fairy tale for it to happen with the Rangers, but his story has taken quite a turn.
“There might have been times I was down and times when my confidence was low, but I never believed I was an awful player,” Davis said. “I always thought that as long as I keep working, eventually it’s going to click.
“Would I have liked for it to click in Texas? Absolutely. I was born and raised there. It would have been a dream. But I understand that everybody is on a different path, and sometimes the path that we think we’re on is much different than the one we actually take.”