First baseman's final game cut short in fourth due to sprained left wrist
BALTIMORE -- For Chris Davis, it's as simple as being able to wear his hat backwards in the clubhouse without backlash, a simple comfort that's one of many reasons why the 27-year-old first baseman has flourished since coming to Baltimore, turning in a historic 2013 season.
Prior to Sunday's regular-season finale vs. the Red Sox, Davis was recognized for that as the obvious choice for the Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole Award, an honor voted on by members of the local media who cover the team on a regular basis.
"To be honest with you, I got sick and tired of seeing Adam Jones win it every year," Davis, one of the Orioles' most gregarious personalities, joked. "So I figured I'd do my best to get him out of there."
It was a heck of an effort.
Davis, who was recognized on the field prior to Sunday's game, hit a club-record and Major League-leading 53 home runs and 96 extra-base hits. His 138 RBIs were most in the Majors and fourth most in Orioles history, and his 370 total bases were a new club record.
Davis also ranked in the top three in the American League in slugging percentage (second, .634); on-base plus slugging percentage (second, 1.003); runs (tied for second, 103) and doubles (tied for third, 42). Davis is only the third player in baseball history to have at least 50 home runs and 40 doubles in a season, joining Babe Ruth and Albert Belle.
"You know how I tell you guys I always keep my goals to myself? My goal was actually to hit 60, so I'm a little disappointed this year," Davis joked again. "No, I couldn't have [imagined this season's numbers]. I've said that before. I think growing up, even in the Minor Leagues when you start to get a sense of what player you are going to be and what you are capable of, I always thought 40 was a big number. Never dreamed of hitting 50 home runs, much less breaking the single-season record.
"But it's one of those things where if I didn't have the guys in front of me and behind me in the lineup, I would have never been here. We all know how much I like to swing. It makes it a lot easier to hit when there's guys in scoring position."
Davis' season ended in the fourth inning, as he exited with a sprained left wrist. Jacoby Ellsbury hit a dribbler in front of the plate, and when Davis went to field the throw from Steve Clevenger, he collided with Ellsbury.
Davis, who was examined by head athletic trainer Richie Bancells, was moving his wrist around, but he came out of the game in favor of Ryan Flaherty, with the crowd at Camden Yards sending him off with a standing ovation.
The top vote-getter in this year's All-Star Game balloting, Davis earned his first selection to the Midsummer Classic as the AL's starting first baseman and tied Reggie Jackson's AL record with 37 home runs before the break. He also became the first player in Major League history with 25 doubles and 30 home runs before July 1.
Slated to be the Orioles' starting first baseman this season, Davis' season started off strong and he took home April's Player of the Month honors after batting .348/.442/.728 with eight doubles, nine home runs and 28 RBIs in 27 games. He also earned two AL Player of the Week selections (April 1-7 and May 27-June 2) and had an MLB-record 16 RBIs in his first four games of the season, becoming just the fourth player with homers in each of their first four games.
"I really, really struggled for two years. I'm talking below .200, striking out every at-bat," Davis said of how he developed into a premier power hitter, with several up-and-down seasons in Texas before a midseason trade in 2011 brought him to Baltimore.
"I just got to the point where I quit worrying so much about the result, started looking at the work and preparation that went into it. I can't say enough about what it's meant to come in here and play every day. Not only that, but to be able to wear my hat backwards in the clubhouse and not have somebody look down your nose at you. To be myself. ... When you have a clubhouse you can go to every day and really relax, feel like you are part of a family, it makes it easier."
The MVO Award is named in honor of the late Lou Hatter, a former sportswriter for The Baltimore Sun who covered the Orioles for 27 years. Balloting for the Most Valuable Oriole Award is conducted with voting on a 5-3-1 basis, with Jones getting one first place vote and finishing second. Manny Machado finished third with Chris Tillman also getting votes.
Davis was also active in the Orioles community, making appearances at local Christian Youth Athletics events and donating $100 for each home run he hit to Luke's Wings, a non-profit military organization dedicated to the support of current and former service members who have been wounded in battle. He donated $5,000 to bring underprivileged children to Orioles games through the OriolesREACH Gameday Experience Program.
"With the last couple years, this has been a place I've really been able to call home," Davis said. "The fans have been awesome. [My wife] Jill and I, every time we go out, we see somebody [out] there and they are very complimentary. They're just good people -- and there's a lot to be said for that. I know it was tough to be a fan here for a long time, and I hope the last couple of years have really restored the faith of the fanbase and given them something to cheer about. I couldn't think of a better place for me to hit for the rest of my career.
"I've always loved orange and black. I always pictured myself, not necessarily in an Orioles' uniform, but wearing orange and black. And obviously I got traded over here and now it's become like my first and second favorite colors. It's one of those things that I guess it was foreshadowing in my mind before it even happened. ... I've had so many good memories in two years. You know I'd love to extend that for a number of years."