ARLINGTON, Texas – There’s no taking the Texan out of Chris Davis even though he hasn’t played for the Rangers for nearly two seasons.
The Texas native still lives in the Dallas suburb of Lewisville and following his first-ever trip to the All-Star Game, Davis returned to Texas, spent Wednesday night in his own bed and Thursday filled up on barbecue and sweet tea.
While the Longview native has always been comfortable in Texas, that doesn’t mean he would have ever been a perfect fit for the Rangers, who traded Davis to Baltimore nearly two years ago. Davis no longer wonders about that anymore, especially as he rides high during his breakout season with Baltimore.
“I felt like there were a lot of obstacles to overcome here,” said Davis, who was drafted by the Rangers in the fifth round of the 2005 draft. “As many times as I failed and kind of got labeled as an all-or-nothing guy, I think it would have been really hard to kind of reverse those opinions. I think the change or scenery was good. I got away from a place where I knew everybody and everybody knew me. I had grown up, had so much history really around the Dallas area. I think it was nice to get away from that, go up to the Northeast where nobody knew where I was.”
Everyone knows who Davis is now, as the Baltimore first baseman begins the second half of the season as a MVP frontrunner with a major-league high 37 home runs to go along with 93 RBI.
Diehard Rangers fans always believed Davis was capable of having the kind of impact he is now. He did it with the Rangers in stretches. Dominant in the minors, he came up in 2008 and hit 17 home runs in just 85 games to raise what were already sky-high expectations for the organization’s minor league player of the year in 2007.
But he followed that up by hitting just .238 in 2009 with 150 strikeouts and spent nearly two months in the minor leagues. He got off to another slow start in 2010 and bounced back and forth between Oklahoma City and Texas and didn’t make the team’s playoff roster for the Rangers’ run to the World Series.
By the time 2011 started, Davis opened the season in the minors and had fallen behind Mitch Moreland in the pecking order. The club also had Michael Young, Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre to play the corner infield spots. Out of options with the Rangers, he was sent to Baltimore on July 30 with Tommy Hunter for Koji Uehara.
It wasn’t the ending Davis envisioned in Texas, but one that he knew had to happen for his career to succeed.
“At the beginning of the 2011 season, whether you want to call it clicking or figuring something out, I felt like I had that moment of clarity where I was ready to compete every day,” he said. “That was probably the toughest time for me because I was coming off the bench as a utility guy. I wasn’t playing every day obviously with Napoli and Mike Young and Mitch at first and then Adrian at third. I knew I wasn’t going to get the chance to play every day and I felt like I was ready for it. So that was when I kind of starting praying for a trade, just hoping I would get a chance to play in the big leagues as an everyday player somewhere else.”
Texas manager Ron Washington isn’t surprised by the success Davis has had. He said a lot of it has to do with his confidence. Washington said the Rangers couldn’t wait for Davis to perform any longer in Texas.
“I felt like I ran him out there,” Washington said. “It just came a point where we had to make a decision. If we would have waited another year and a half, maybe we would have gotten it.”
The Orioles were willing to take a chance on Davis, who would have been out of options following the 2011 season.
“We know it’s there (talent),” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. “There’s nobody on the field tonight that probably had a better minor-league resume than Chris Davis, every level. I’ve talked a lot about Penn State being Linebacker U. Texas (Rangers) should be first baseman U. There’s no such thing as a bad decision there. Moreland’s a helluva player, and we were fortunate. We gave up pretty dearly for it.”
When Davis returns to Texas last year as a member of the Orioles, he said it was an emotional time. But he felt like that passed after the Orioles eliminated the Rangers from the playoffs in the wild-card game.
Friday’s series opener vs. the Rangers marked Davis’ 266 game with Baltimore, the same number he played with the Rangers. The Northeast seems to agree with him so far as Davis has 30 more homers, 67 more RBI and his hitting 38 points higher in 99 more at-bats.
While coming back to Texas means sweet tea and a high ticket demand (14 for Friday’s game), playing the Rangers is now just another obstacle in Baltimore’s bid to get back to the postseason.
Whether or not it can do that could depend on the broad shoulders of Davis, who must now attempt to follow up his monster first half with all eyes on him. He may not have been up for a challenge like that when he was with the Rangers, but he thinks he is now.
“I think anytime you’re having success you don’t really need to change anything,” Davis said. “A lot of people have thrown a lot of their expectations at me lately and I think that’s something that you constantly have to remind yourself of – what your expectations are and what your goals are, and as long as I’m shooting for, I don’t think you can really fail, and that’s something that I’m going to kind of try to do to keep everything in perspective and really remember why I’m here.”