If you have been following major-league baseball this year, then you probably know a little bit about Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, the guy with 37 home runs at the All-Star Game break. If you wish, you can check him out tonight in the All-Star Home Run Derby (while pondering the question of whether Texas Ranger fanatic Bobby Ross Jr., will cheer for Davis or against him).
Now, here are a few basic facts that are highly relevant to the Twitter trouble that surrounds "Crush" Davis.
Davis is 6-foot-3-inches tall and weighs about 230 pounds. Those numbers have been roughly the same during his years in the minor and major leagues and, throughout that time, he has been known as a guy who could hit the ball about 450 feet without working up a sweat, while striking out at an even more rapid clip. He has always been a high contact-to-damage-ratio guy.
There are reports that Davis came into camp this year 10 to 15 pounds lighter and it certainly appears that he has improved his speed on the base paths, as well as his ability to hit baseballs that are pitched down and away. He has, as a left-handed hitter, developed quite a knack for hitting opposite-field golf shots (as opposed to monster blasts) into the first few rows in the stands. He is no longer trying to tear the cover off the ball during each and every at bat. His strike outs are way down and he's batting .315.
What does this have to do with religion?
Actually, these are the kinds of numbers that matter when a slugger is being accused of using steroids. It is rare, you see, for people to lose weight and gain speed while using steroids that allow them to hit moon shots.
The religion angle -- tune in any Baltimore talk-radio station or hit Twitter -- is that @ChrisDavis_19 is a Christian who, especially since he got married a year or so ago, has become quite outspoken about his faith and even the possibility that he could end up working in some form of ministry.
Religion and steroid chatter? That's a volatile mix.
As a Baltimore guy who closely follows the Orioles, I find it interesting that the religion angle of this story is EVERYWHERE when it's addressed by the public, yet the key news story addressing this topic in The Baltimore Sun did not include any references to faith. Is Davis lying? Is his faith a sham? If one assumes that he is using PEDs, and some people do, then this would also mean that this born-again slugger is a hypocrite or worse.
It's impossible to separate these issues. Right? However, The Sun team managed to completely skip the religion angle. Here's the opening of that story:
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis understands that there are going to be whispers, and that those will grow louder if he continues his torrid home run pace.
He is, after all, a muscle-rippling power hitter with video-game home run totals. He knows the steroid accusations are inevitable and will accompany his pursuit of home run records this season.
“I think it sucks that guys in our day and age have to answer for mistakes that guys have made in the past. But it is part of it,” said Davis, who has 33 home runs in his first 92 games for the Orioles this season. “That’s what happened when Major League Baseball started addressing the issue. We knew we were going to have to deal with it.”
So Davis is dealing with it. He’s been asked by some national media types. He’s been asked on Twitter. He was asked again Thursday to address performance-enhancing drugs, and he addressed it at length.
“I have never taken them. I have no reason to. I’ve always been a power hitter. With me, I think the biggest thing was the consistency of the contact,” said Davis, who also hit 33 homers last year in first true full season in the majors. “When I was making contact, I was always hitting for power. I’m a guy that likes to work out a lot. I’m a guy that used to eat whatever I wanted to, but I started getting into my mid-20s, I’ve been seeing that change. So I’ve been taking better care of my body. I have a pretty strict diet. But I’ve never taken [performance-enhancing drugs]. I haven’t felt the need to.”
Read the whole story and you can almost sense people dancing around the religion angle. On local talk radio, it is also clear that critics think the stakes for Davis -- in terms of lost reputation -- are higher because of his many public statements about his faith. And now, it appears that his scripture-laced Twitter feed has vanished.
In liberal Baltimore, people will talk about things like that.
Meanwhile, it's hard to ignore a man who is the talk of major-league baseball, yet one who also insists on talking about faith and his need to be a good role model.
So the serious Sun news story avoided religion content. But this wink-wink piece in the newspaper's style section, in which readers, believe it or not, are told that one lesbian thinks he's hot?
For his part, Davis is happy with his public persona.
"It's something that every guy should be aware of -- what you're portraying yourself to be, not only to the public, but especially to the kids," he said before Wednesday night's game against the Rangers. "For me, I want to be known as a guy who is obviously very adamant about his faith. I want that to speak volumes about me. Also, I want to be the guy that parents aren't afraid to tell their kids to look up to and to model themselves after."
Fans love "Crush" Davis, the home-run hitter. But there's something more about the guy, something beyond the ballpark. Fans like the way he carries himself, like the way he comes across a little goofy, like his steady demeanor and the ways he seems to take neither himself nor his success seriously. ...
So, to sum up: People like Davis because he's a good guy, he's easygoing, he's humble, he's safe for the kids. And, oh yes, he's cute.
"Oh God, those gorgeous eyes," said Athena Kostro, a 26-year-old bartender at Canton's Tavern on the Square who had a specially made Chris Davis jersey (child size large) ready for this year's Opening Day. "His eyes are just piercing. And whenever he swings, the muscles in his arms are so defined."
Etc., etc. You get the picture.
In the end, there is a good chance that -- like the Robert Griffin III phenomenon -- there is no way to deal with the content of this man's life without mentioning his religious beliefs, especially since Davis keeps saying that he believes he is maturing as a man, a Christian and a player, all at the same time.
At the heart of the steroid whispers are questions about his integrity and honesty. How can journalists address that story without mentioning the facts about his faith? Why would they even want to try?