ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Before the Orioles played their final game of a disappointing 2017 season, first baseman Chris Davis requested to speak with a small group of reporters.
Davis, who was hitless in three at-bats in their 6-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays before 16,018 at Tropicana Field, finished a most disappointing season.
He struck out 195 times in 128 games. In their last one, Davis’ team struck out 18 times, equaling a record for a nine-inning game.
The Orioles lost their last five games and dropped 19 of 23 in a horrible stretch that left them in last place in the American League East with a 75-87 record.
So many of Davis' strikeouts were on called third strikes, and Davis called that "inexcusable" and "extremely frustrating."
Davis realizes the game has changed, and he’s got to evolve.
"I understand that it’s getting harder for guys to get hits," Davis said. "But I just feel like as a veteran player you have to be able to make an adjustment, and I did not do a good job of that this year on a day to day basis and it showed."
Davis missed a month with an oblique injury, and before the mid-June injury was hitting just .226 and struck out in 38 percent of his plate appearances. He finished with a .215 average, 26 home runs and 61 RBIs.
"There were so many nights out there when I was just a name in the lineup," Davis said. "I didn’t feel like I had contributed. Maybe defensively, but definitely not with my bat. And I look at the numbers now and the year as a whole and I feel like I’m a better player than that and I feel like these guys deserve a better product than what I’ve been giving them. If you want to call it a chip on my shoulder or motivated or whatever, I definitely have some things I’m looking forward to working on."
Davis has five more years on a seven-year, $161 million contract that's become a lightning rod for criticism. He claims he's not trying to justify his contract.
"I think there was a point in time where I was doing too much," Davis said. “I think maybe there was the injury. Maybe that was one of the reasons that I got hurt earlier this year, trying to do too much, trying to overdo it, but I think I’ve been pretty clear over the years that I have a special place in my heart for our fans.
"They were a lot of the…reason that I was so excited to come back here. I still remember the last day of the season in ’15, the way that I felt, the way the fans embraced me. I do feel a great responsibility to be the player that I know that I’m capable of being. I understand their frustration. I share in their frustration. There has to be something else taking place. You can’t say: 'I understand you’re frustrated,' and not make an adjustment. As far as that’s concerned, I have several years left here and hopefully a lot of good baseball still in front of me."
Kevin Gausman allowed a home run to Curt Casali in the fifth. Right-hander Brad Brach gave up five runs in the eighth.
The Orioles had just three hits to go along with their 18 strikeouts.
"We haven’t been swinging the bats for a while," manager Buck Showalter said. "I’m not going to take anything away from them, but we scored, what, three runs in 27 innings? It’s been a challenge for us here lately, for sure."
It was in all likelihood the final game with the Orioles for some of their higher profile players. J.J. Hardy, who had an emotional farewell in Baltimore a week ago, was at shortstop because of Tim Beckham’s strained hamstring, and their longtime trainer Richie Bancells, who was with the club for 34 seasons, announced his retirement.
A year from now, third baseman Manny Machado will be eligible for free agency, and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said he’d contemplate an extension for him.
"Well, that’s an offseason question," Duquette said. "It’s something that’s under consideration, but I don’t think I have the answer to that question today. But there’s plenty of time where you can discuss that, talk about that."
NOTE: Showalter indicated that he supported the return of all the team’s coaches for 2018. Duquette hedged. "All those things need to be addressed and I think you have to look carefully at them when you don’t have a strong year and see if there are some adjustments that you can make," he said. And we’ll do that over the offseason."