Crush Grooves

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. A tale of two cities? No. It’s a tale of two Davis’. Two designated hitters both named similarly and headed in different directions. One on the right coast enduring a professional nightmare. The other on the left coast continuing an assault on powerful heights that is years in the making. Both men have come to know feast and famine in the major leagues and have come to manage it all quite differently.

Much was made of the stretch of futility Chris “Crush” Davis had over the first couple of weeks this season. From last September to just a few days ago Davis didn’t get a hit in 62 consecutive plate appearances. Those that paid attention to Davis’ performance prior to the futility streak weren’t as surprised as others. The Texas native only managed a .168/.243/.296 slash line in 2018 and looked absolutely lost at times. A far cry from his days as one of the American League’s most feared power hitters. In 2013 Davis broke out with a league-leading 53 home runs, 138 RBI’s and 370 total bases. At the time the lefty slugger attributed his near-legendary productivity to being permitted to take Adderall which allowed him to think clearly and hone his focus at the plate.

The following season Davis did not have permission to take the medication renewed and he struggled to 26 HR, 72 RBI’s and a .704 OPS. Undaunted, the Orioles first baseman got through the red tape to secure the medical clearance and returned with a vengeance. His 2015 totals were 47 HR, 117 RBI’s and a .923 OPS. Then, the decline began. Davis’ home run totals cascaded downward from 47 to 38, 26 and then just 16 last season. The real decline was in OPS which dropped almost 400 points from 2015 to 2018. Then the precipitous fall culminated in the kind of streak every ballplayer tries not to ever imagine. And the pressure will not relent as “Crush” sits smack in the middle of a seven-year, $161M contract that includes deferred payments through the year 2037. Even as the hapless streak has been broken, Davis will no doubt hear its echoes for at least the next nineteen years.

Across the country there is a tale of quite the opposite fortune unfolding every day in Oakland. Khris “Khrush” Davis has become a power hitting phenomenon unlike anyone in the present day game. The Lakewood, California native came up with the Brewers in 2013 and socked 60 home runs over three seasons. Then a trade that is still powerfully lopsided took Davis to Oakland in exchange for Bubba Derby and Jacob Nottingham in February of 2016. Derby reached AAA last season and has amassed a 6-6 record with a 4.59 ERA thus far at that level and Nottingham, a catcher, had a rough cup of coffee with Milwaukee last year and is currently hitting under .200 for AAA San Antonio.

Meanwhile, Davis has surged into top shelf status since 2016 with 143 HR’s which leads the big leagues for that period. He’s also tied for second in RBI’s with 355 and is fourth in extra base hits with 228 over that time frame. The right-handed slugger has become a fixture in an A’s lineup that has fueled the team’s ability to exceed expectations and contend for playoff spots including their 97 win 2018 season.

The former seventh round pick in the 2009 draft has been both an escalating power threat and a remarkably consistent presence in the Oakland lineup. From 2014 through 2018 Davis’ home run totals rose every year from 22 to 27, 42, 43 and finally 48. His OPS also escalated each of those years beginning at .756 and reaching .874 last year. And those ever-rising totals were produced within a .244 batting average in 2014 and .247 in each of the last four seasons. And it seems that Davis has yet to find his ceiling as he currently leads the big leagues with ten home runs just two weeks into the 2019 schedule. With just under six months left in the current campaign, Davis is well on his way to reaching and exceeding the fifty home run mark so rarely visited in baseball history.

With success unequaled by anyone in MLB, “Khrush” had been seeking a contract extension to stay in Oakland before becoming a free agent at the end of the 2019 tilt. The famously financially-strapped A’s franchise has been unable to hold onto its star players throughout the Billy Beane era dating back to the days when Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon left for greener pastures. This time, however, the A’s stepped up to secure the services of their rare power hitter for two more seasons with a reported $33.5M extension just this week. This answers the question of what it would take to compel Oakland to offer a contract to a star player that they truly intended to keep for its full length.

Khris Davis and Chris Davis are legitimately the MLB versions of the best of times and the worst of times. The “Khrush” feast rages while the “Crush” famine ravages. One thing is for certain in that both players will be notable figures from this era of baseball for decades to come. Two players connected by identically sounding names and separated at the two polar opposite ends of the fortunes of the game.

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