Jim Palmer vs. Chris Davis

Tyler Young
May 25, 2018 · 5 min read

The Hall of Fame pitcher dished out some harsh criticism on the Orioles struggling first basemen. The thing is, it was totally deserved.

Let’s lay this all out:

Chris Davis is having an awful season. Through 44 games, the slugger is batting .154/.230/.253 with four home runs and a 36.5 percent strikeout rate. On top of that, he will make $23 million this year, according to Baseball Reference. This all makes him an easy target, but there are also some fundamental flaws in his game.

On Wednesday night, Davis went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Par for the course, really. Davis had struck out at least once in the previous seven games and had just two hits in that same span.

Palmer does most of the color commentary for MASN, the Orioles local TV broadcaster. Following the game, as is customarily done, the studio crew kicked back to the stadium, where Palmer was waiting to offer his take on the first baseman’s continued struggles:

Palmer’s full quote:

“You know, he’s struggling. He’s in one of those, ya know, paralysis by over-analysis. He wants to do good. Buck [Showalter] throws out the fact that ‘Hey, ya know, he’s got a big contract.’ He’s not the only guy in the major league’s that’s got a big contract. That’s a given. If you’re playing nowadays, you’re gonna make a lot of money…Ya gotta throw that away. You gotta make some adjustments. I don’t see anything. I don’t see a wider stance. I don’t see a closed stance. I don’t see him dropping [his] hands. I don’t see anything, and we’re seeing the results. He’s just in it for a long slump…They say he works hard. Eh, ya know, he told everybody in Spring Training that he worked with Scott Coolbaugh. So, I asked Scott. In Spring Training I said ‘Hey, ya know, you must have really put in a lot of work.’ He goes ‘we didn’t work.” So, ya know, I don’t believe anything. I can just look at what’s going on. He’s slumping. He’s really, I mean he’s killing this club. He’s not the only guy doing that. This is not all on Chris Davis…He’s gotta get back on track, and he’s gotta make some adjustments…Chris has gotta do something. It’s gotta change. Whether it will or not, we’ll wait and see.”

That’s 1983 World Series MVP Rick Dempsey piling on as well at the beginning of the video. So, that makes it two Orioles legends questioning Davis’ effort and inability to make adjustments mid-season. On top of that, Palmer basically calls Davis a liar for telling people around the club that he had been working with Baltimore hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh during the off-season.

It goes without saying that this is a pretty damning statement. Palmer is well informed and knows people all around the organization. He may not have used the highest of journalistic ethics by telling on Coolbaugh there. The hitting coach almost certainly didn’t expect those comments to be made public. But Palmer is clearly upset and annoyed at what he’s seeing on the field.

Of course, Baltimore’s local beat crew picked things up from there on Thursday and asked Davis, Coolbaugh and Showalter about what’s going on. Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun has all of the quotes you will need. Here are some of the highlights:

From Davis:

“I mean, it’s obviously the way things are going right now, the last thing I want to hear about is someone within the organization questioning my work ethic. But that’s where we’re at.”

How much did he work with Coolbaugh?

“How many times? There’s five days in a week. There were three days a week when he wasn’t out of town. If you’re looking for an X-number of workouts to validate me working hard, I hit four days a week, from about the third week of the offseason until spring training. Sometimes, Scott was there. Sometimes, he was out of town.”

From Coolbaugh:

“I saw Chris three times, and I threw to him, and that was it. It wasn’t anything that I physically [did] with him, or used the offseason with any one-on-one sessions to change something.”

So, not three days a week like Chris said?

“That had been in years past, not last year. Not this past one.”

From Showalter:

“I’m going to be supportive of Chris in this because Chris works hard at his trade. And I think people, a lot of time, because he’s not screaming and yelling and wearing emotions on his sleeve — he cares to a fault. Don’t think for a second that he’s just, [oh] well. I can tell you a lot. I’m there personally seeing a lot of work that Scott will do. Which day and what’s considered enough or not enough or whatever?”

Finally, from Palmer again:

“I stand by what I said. I just had a casual conversation [with Coolbaugh] because I read an article on January 5 in the Sun Paper that Ed Encina wrote. I said, ‘Chris is frustrated. He struck out looking 73 times last year out of what, 195 strikeouts? He’s got to make some adjustments.’ The first day of spring training, ‘I say, “I hear you worked a lot.” He goes, ‘No, we didn’t.’ You just heard the hitting instructor. Again, this is not a he-said, she-said, or Buck Showalter, who was kind put in the middle of it in the locker room today because didn’t know what I said. This team plays a lot better when Chris Davis plays well. He’s not playing up to his capabilities. He’s not making a lot of adjustments. That’s the point I made. We saw him looking at the third base coach when strike three came over. There’s something going on. He needs to some changes, and I’ll tell you what. Scott Coolbaugh, he had him in the minor leagues and he said he was the last guy that would leave the ballpark at night. I think he has to get back. It just doesn’t happen at this level. It doesn’t matter how much money you’re making. It’s not about how much money, how long your contract is. Are you doing the work to get better? I think that needs to improve. I’ll stand by that. I hope he does it and I hope he has success, because he’s a better player than he’s showed.”

The Orioles went onto win Thursday’s game against the White Sox, with Palmer again on color commentary duty. Davis went 0-for-2 with two walks and one strikeout. Interestingly, he made a slight adjustment.

Palmer then got onto Twitter for his own wrap up of the series in Chicago, showing support for the team, offering a slight apology to Coolbaugh but only encouragement for Davis.

It’s tough to disagree with anything Palmer has said here. Davis has been, arguably, the worst hitter in baseball this year. What reason does Palmer have to lie about a conversation with Coolbaugh? Even more, neither Coolbaugh nor Davis sound too convincing that they worked together much in the off-season. As for Showalter, he said as much publicly as he needs to. He defended his two employees without disrespecting a team legend. However, some of this ire could be deflected to Showalter soon enough if he continues to bat Davis in the fifth spot of the lineup, when he clearly does not deserve that position based on his current performance.

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