In an appearance on ESPN’s Mike and Mike morning show Friday, Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis, who is currently on pace to hit 60 home runs this season, made it very clear that he believes the record he’s currently chasing for homers in a single-season has always belonged to New York Yankees legend Roger Maris, despite being passed by Barry Bonds (73 - 2001), Mark McGwire (twice) and Sammy Sosa (three times).
“I do and the reason being, he was the last guy to do it clean,” Davis said on ESPN's Mike and Mike morning show (via baltimoresportsreport.com). “There's a lot of things that have been said about the guys who have come after him and have achieved the record, but I think as far as the fans are concerned they still view Maris as being the all-time home run record [holder] and I think you have to. There's no doubt that Barry and Mark and any of those guys had ridiculous seasons and had some great years, but I think when you get to the root of the record, I still think it's Roger Maris'.”
It's interesting to hear Davis make this statement not long after the legitimacy of his 2013 breakout season was also called into question by Chicago Sun-Times writer Rick Telander. Perhaps this is his way of getting out ahead of the speculation by placing himself in a strong position against PED use, perhaps it wasn't, but Davis did make sure to add a denial. Or at least he mentioned that he gets tested like every other player. I believe that counts as a denial.
“I think the biggest thing for me to remember is you know as long as I continue to do things the way I’ve always done [them] you know can’t really rely on what other people are going to say,” Davis added on Mike and Mike. “We get drug tested just like everybody else, we have the strictest drug testing policy in all of professional sports and I actually think in a way it’s kind of a backhanded compliment.”
That is one way to look at it. The speculation certainly carries an acknowledgement along with it that a player is performing and producing at a high level. But the fact is people still don't trust the players or the league, and whenever someone breaks out to this level, it will be questioned. It's the exact same thing that Jose Bautista went through back in 2010 when he finally put it all together for his breakout season. He hasn't slowed down a bit since, and he also hasn't failed any drug tests.
Davis is a similar player in that he came up through the Texas Rangers farm system viewed as a prospect with massive power potential. That never developed in Texas — partially due to Davis striking out at an alarming clip and partially due to the Rangers losing patience — but it has obviously developed as he's gained experience and grown more comfortable making adjustments.
Sometimes players just progress at a slower rate, sometimes they don't progress at all, but it is possible for it to happen and happen quickly. As Matt Snyder of Eye on Baseball points out, Roger Maris was another guy that would fit into that category. That'a great comparison because it's true, and it also brings this story full circle.
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