The Baltimore Orioles first and third baseman, Chris Davis, has been suspended 25 games for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy. Davis tested positive for Adderall and will miss the teams final 17 regular season games and eight post-season games, if they make it that far. For those that do not know, Adderall is a powerful physical and psychological stimulant.
Last season, Chris Davis had a therapeutic waiver to use Adderall. That waiver did not carry forward into this season. For all of you that say he used it once and got caught, you would be mistaken. Remember, under the terms of MLBs drug policy, the 25 game suspension is the second offense. His first stimulant violation would have resulted in follow-up testing. So, to be suspended 25 games means he was popped not once but twice. It also means that Davis knew he tested positive and knew he was facing additional testing above and beyond the norm but continued anyway. It sure smells like Chris Davis has a problem that he needs to resolve. I sure hope he uses this time to get some counseling or finds other paths to solve this issue long term. He did release a statement about the suspension via the MLB Players Association.
“I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization and especially the fans. I made a mistake by taking Adderall. I had permission to use it in the past, but do not have a therapeutic use exemption this year. I accept my punishment and will begin serving my suspension immediately.”
What does this mean for the Orioles in an otherwise impressive season? With an 11 1/2 game lead at this point in September, there is little to no chance that they lose the American League East or miss the playoffs. In fact, they were chasing the Angels for the best record in the American League but now they will probably finish as the number two seed.
Impact Going Forward
The Davis suspension is just another in a long line of issues for the Orioles in 2014. They have been without their star catcher, Matt Wieters, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Manny Machado, their uber talented third baseman, is out for the remainder of the season while recovering from knee surgery.
To date, the Orioles have been able to power through and keep World Series aspirations alive. But is the additional loss of Chris Davis just too much? You have a team that will be without one of the cogs that make their offense run for the first eight games of the playoffs, which is a best case scenario. While it is true that his sub .200 average is abysmal, he was still second, behind Nelson Cruz, in home runs with 26 and third in RBI with 72.
Is he matching his tremendous 2013 campaign? Of course not, but let’s take a quick look at the combination of players that will be filling in for Davis and Machado for the rest of 2014. The dynamic pool of players that will strike joy in the eyes of opposing teams include Ryan Flaherty, Kelly Johnson, Jonathan Schoop, and Jimmy Paredes. All of them are serviceable in a pinch but to expect them to hold down the hot corner in the first two rounds of the American League playoffs is asking more than a lot.
Remember the Orioles have scored 50 percent of their runs via the long ball this year and losing Davis, even in a down year, is a huge blow to that offense. Their ability to score runs will be impacted above and beyond the loss of numbers supplied directly by Chris Davis. Gone is the protection that ensured Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones would see quality pitches. Pitchers can now pitch around Cruz and/or Jones (depending on the day) without fearing impending doom with Davis behind them.
The Davis suspension just might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The Orioles will win the American League East and baring a dramatic turn of events, will finish as the number two seed. With that in mind they will most likely face either the Kansas City Royals or Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series (the wildcard play in game is round one). The Tigers have scored a plethora of runs in 2014, sitting second in the American League in runs scored. The Royals are a much better team than people will admit in public. They are led by veteran James Shields, who comes with playoff experience.
If the Orioles manage to get through that match up they will have a date with some combination of the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners or Los Angeles Angels. While all winnable, none of these proposed matchups look great for an Orioles team that will be missing both Chris Davis and Manny Machado. Can they still win without them? The organization and fan base will give you reason after reason why this can be overcome but the hill just became much steeper. For the sake of the Orioles fan base let’s hope it works out but overall their chances of making to the World Series have been cut in half, at a minimum.