Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has already topped his personal record for home runs in a big league season and tied the American League mark with 37 before the all-star break.
He led all major leaguers in all-star votes, and you can hardly visit a baseball Web site these days without the big lug’s mug smirking back at you.
So, as the second half begins Friday, what’s next for the man nicknamed Crush?
Will Davis hit at least 14 more home runs and, ultimately, shatter the franchise record of 50 set by Brady Anderson in 1996? Will he surpass Roger Maris’s 61 homers in 1961, which some – including Davis – believe is still the true, single-season record due to the sport’s performance-enhancing drug scandals?
Or can things get really crazy? Will he step up the pace and have a chance to get to 70 homers like Mark McGwire in 1998, or 73 like all-time record-holder Barry Bonds in 2001?
Davis stays off those speculative questions like they were biting sliders in the dirt.
“I don’t think there is any [specific number] that’s set for me. The most I’ve ever hit in a season is 40. And that was between Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues [in 2008],” Davis said. “And I thought that was a lot. It felt like I was hitting a home run every other game.”
Davis did have a home run goal at the beginning of the season, but he’s not revealing it because he says there’s no reason to add to the outside pressures.
“I don’t want other people’s expectations to determine whether I am successful or not. That’s why I think it is important to really set your goals personally and then go after them,” Davis said. “Anything else is extra. If I hit 40 and drive in 120 and we don’t make the postseason, it doesn’t mean anything. So the pressure is what you make of it.”
Perhaps no current player understands more about shedding relative obscurity to chase home run history than Toronto’s Jose Bautista, who hit 54 homers in 2010 – the only player to hit more than 50 since the 2008 season began. Bautista thinks Davis seems to be concentrating on the right things.
“It’s tough to enjoy during the season, just because it seems like it is more important to everybody else other than you,” Bautista said. “But he’ll get to enjoy in the offseason and I’m sure it will be more enjoyable for him if they end up going to the playoffs and winning more games. So that’s why I think if he keeps his focus on helping his team, it’s going to be the best of both worlds for him.”
Just how incredible is reaching 37 home runs at the break considering the climate of today’s game?
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto tried to put it in perspective at the All-Star Game. One of the most feared hitters in baseball, Votto’s career high for a season is 37.
“For the whole season, in 2010, when [baseball writers] voted me the MVP,” Votto deadpanned.
“I’ve seen [Davis] hit a homer every day,” Votto joked. “I mean, it seems like every day. He misses balls and they still go out.”
With 37 homers through his club’s first 96 games, Davis is on pace for 62.45 – even without the .45, he’d have enough to pass Maris, who had 40 homers through his club’s first 96 games. Bonds had 42 homers through his team’s first 96 games in 2001.
Anderson had 31 through 96 games and needed a flurry of nine longballs in September, including four in his last six games, to reach 50.
Now the Orioles’ vice president of baseball operations, Anderson has a front-row seat for Davis’s assault of his record.
“Chris and I are really close. We talk about everything. We watched films together,” Anderson said. “Nobody would be happier than I would be if he broke it.”
Davis has the sport’s attention. And everyone wants to know just how many he will hit before the season ends September 29.
“I don’t know what is possible, but I know I’m going to root for him to do well,” said Arizona all-star Paul Goldschmidt, who has 21 homers at the break. “It’s fun to watch and it’s good for the game of baseball. I’ll be rooting for him — except when we play him in August.”
— Baltimore Sun
Sun writer Daniel Gallen contributed to this report