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FJM Style: Rick Reilly on Chris Davis

Rick Reilly is: a) history's greatest monster, b) the cause of my pounding headache, c) a distrustful void for joy, d) all of the above.

"Heh, sure, heartwarming.  I bet that towel is FULL OF STEROIDS."
"Heh, sure, heartwarming. I bet that towel is FULL OF STEROIDS."

Maybe you've heard about this Chris Davis guy. He's playing some okay baseball recently, with homers in his last four games, 37 on the year, and he has a yearly line of 315/392/717. I mean, that's fine I guess.

As a result of his prodigious hitting -- resulting ostensibly from a documented change in his swing -- Davis has been the subject of many vicious steroid rumors, and less vicious but more ubiquitous steroid whispers. You may actually have heard of the fairly precocious tweet by 17 year old Michael Tran, in which he asked Davis if he uses steroids. Here's Davis' hilarious response: "No". I'd have linked the tweet, but the steroid rumors have caused Davis to delete his twitter. Sad.

Good news, though, because Rick Reilly heard about the tweet and did a follow-up! Certainly, a respected member of the media would be careful and kind and sensitive to such a deeply touchy subject with one of baseball's premiere sluggers. Oh wait, haha, I'm sorry, my mistake -- Rick Reilly isn't respected by anybody. Let's jump to the main event and actually look at the article a bit; if you don't know how this works, here's some reading material. We'll begin with Rick:

I hated Twitter. Now I love Twitter.

I hated schlocky shock journalism. I still do, but that's only because I'm not as open to change as Rick Reilly. Guy is a savant!

Because the most cover-your-mouth-and-howl things happen on it, things that make me wonder why we need sportswriters at all.

Hear hear, I second the motion! What other redundant stuff can we get rid of? Maybe the plastic caps under the plastic caps on ketchup.

Take, for instance, Chris "Crush" Davis, the Baltimore Orioles first baseman who's suddenly hitting like he was bitten by a radioactive spider.

I'm not sure why the ultra-predictable Spiderman reference here, when there's a million high end DC Comics references Rick could have used instead. Also, Chris Davis is obviously the Goon, so it's moot.

He has 31 home runs. That's two fewer than his career best, and it's not even the All-Star break. Entering Wednesday, he's hitting .329. That's 59 points higher than his lifetime average. He's on pace to double his best RBI season. And in a contract year, no less.

Nice, some baseball stuff, though it's not really a "contract year" for Davis -- he won't hit the free market until 2015. Still, like I said above, Chris Davis is killing baseballs. I'd cavil with Reilly a bit here, however -- a single season average that is 60 points higher than career average is remarkable, but not so crazy as to defy belief. And let's throw out the RBI numbers just cause. But the HR numbers are pretty unbelievable. He's really doing something special, and the best thing to do is to appreciate the manifold beauty of baseball and its random--

So say it with me: "It's gotta be the steroids."

...oh no. Oh no, that's not where I was going at all. Rick, please, the point would be to say that--

Which leaves baseball beat writers craning their necks to see if there's any new "vitamin" bottles on Davis' shelf, any new "doctors" meeting him in the hotel lobby, any new convention of pimples on his back.

Good Lord, baseball writers sound like insufferable pricks.

"So, Chris, you're having a pretty good season, huh? Great swing, sweet home run tonight."

"Well thanks, you know, I just trust in myself and my swing, and do my best."

"Oh yeah, it shows. Mmmmmind if I look at your back?"

"Come again?"

"Got any supplements I can borrow? Creams? ...HGH?"


"I'm just saying, if there are doctors meeting in your hotel'd let me know, right? Pal?"

But now, with Twitter, fans like 17-year-old Michael Tran of Kelloggsville, Mich., can just flat-out ask him, which he did Sunday.

"And that boy can count himself lucky to have basically written my column for me! I looooove twitter!"

Now, if I went up to Chris Davis in the clubhouse and asked that, he'd stomp out, leaving cleat marks in my forehead as he went. I know. See: Sammy Sosa and me, 2002.

Remember this nonsense comparison for later. Let me just at this point say: no one ever claimed Sammy Sosa was a nice dude, but Rick Reilly gave him a sheet with a drug testing clinic on it and asked him to get tested. I don't care if Sammy Sosa is a regular Chris Davis -- Reilly deserved to get yelled at. Is this imaginable in any other field besides sportswriting?

"Hello Senator. I'm sure you're aware of the massive embezzling charges pending against you, so I've brought this app where you can just log in to your bank account and show us if you have any illicit savings. Senator, why are you...who are you calling? The police? ...yes, well that seems fair."

But, in the age of Twitter, Davis simply answered him:

@MichiganMagic1 No

- Chris Davis (@ChrisDavis_19) June 30, 2013

And that's that, right? You'll just keep the chip on your shoulder about Sammy, but celebrate this honest and refreshingly curt dialogue, right?

This caused a twitter twunami.

/head explodes

Twunami!? Twitnado? Twiclone? Rick Reilly is this generation's James Joyce.

Hundreds of people decided this meant Davis was innocent. Hundreds decided this meant Davis was guilty. One guy said that because Davis didn't have a period after the "No" he was admitting he'd done something.

"Reporter misinterprets casual humor, makes weird assumptions. Story at Ten."

It was a milepost in player/fan history, the modern-day equivalent of "Say it ain't so, Joe."

Or maybe, just maybe, it was a funny conversation that was interesting on the internet for a day and then passed in the aether. At least probably it's not the equivalent of a disillusioned boy learning that his hero had helped to rig the World Series.

By the way, the drinking game of this article requires you take a shot every time Reilly passive aggressively accuses Chris Davis of being totally guilty of taking steroids. Take a shot.

And it raised two questions:

1. Where did the kid get the guts to ask?

"Really, I wrote it just as a joke," says Tran, who will be a high school junior this fall. "I never, ever dreamed he'd respond back."

"No, no!" screamed Rick Reilly, "It's too normal, too easy! The kid has to have a chip on his shoulder, or feel betrayed! It can't just be a simple has to be a gutsy question!"

2. Why did Davis answer him?

"I was scrolling through and happened to land on that one," says Davis, 27. "It was the first time I'd really seen anybody just ask me. I mean, I've seen a lot of people accuse me, say stuff like, 'Ah, he's GOTTA be on steroids.' But at least this kid was asking me. And I get it. I remember, when I was a kid, being disappointed in players later on. You know, [Mark] McGwire and Sosa. So I understand."

"Curses!" Reilly screeched, "The story gets worse and worse! Davis cannot merely find human decency in simple curiosity! Where is his Sosian rage? Where is his liar's denial? Where is his ever present threat to sue!?"

(By the way, remember how I told you to remember the Sosa thing -- Davis basically comes out here and says, "Gosh, I wish someone would just ask about the steroid thing instead of assuming stuff about me." Rick Reilly wrote this whole article and still believes that, if he asked Davis straight, Davis would punch him out. Marvel, for a second, at the kind of deep delusion needed to work that logic. It's masterful.)

But since Michael couldn't ask any follow-ups, I did.

Oh hi tonal non-sequitur.

Really, the audacity of Davis not to answer follow-ups, though. I'm sure a 17 year old had a list of them! And he dodged them like the dodger he is (not; he's an Oriole). Reilly knows that the only way to get follow-ups is through careful questioning on the record through traditional avenues; after all, twitter does have that rule where you can only ask one question at a time, and any follow-ups are subject to punishment by incarceration and massive fines. Tran couldn't risk that, and Davis knew it.

You said you weren't on steroids, but have you ever done any performance-enhancing drug, period?

"I have not," Davis said, simply. "I have not ever taken any PEDs. I'm not sure fans realize, we have the strictest drug testing in all of sports, even more than the Olympics. If anybody was going to try to cheat in our game, they couldn't. It's impossible to try to beat the system. Anyway, I've never taken PEDs, no. I wouldn't. Half the stuff on the list I can't even pronounce."

Okay, look, this is an expected response, but that doesn't make it a bad response. It's open, it's understanding, and there's some humor in there too. Chris Davis is just human, guys. Chris Davis can't pronounce words sometime too. Chris Davis even understands your continued, albeit insulting, curiosity. Chris Davis.

Which is a great answer. And carries less power with me than a mosquito's burp.

If this isn't the most pompous thing I've ever read, it's really damn close.

Rick Reilly is not Woodward or Bernstein; there is no great coverup here, and no one, no one should care about if Davis' answer "carries power" with Reilly. Chris Davis gave an answer; testing is in place; we won't ever know for sure and we should probably just learn to take people at face value until we find proof or have even a solid suspicion that they're lying. Because we live in a society, and compulsively doubting everyone "just because" is nonsense.

Also, mosquitos can't burp.

I've lived through the entire steroids era. I've heard every impassioned denial from every accused baseball superstar since the Reagan Administration.

"It was my wife's!" "He's lying!" "I don't speak English."

Most of them wound up being liars.

"You liar! I know you speak English!"


"I never thought I'd find so many liars in Spain!! A nation, a continent of frauds!!"

Also, haha, the Reagan Administration. SERIOUS CACHE.

And yes, Davis has passed all three drug tests he's taken this season, he says. But Barry Bonds passed every test he ever took. So did Lance Armstrong. Tells me nothing.

Oh wow, great point! Better stop testing altogether -- we clearly can never derive knowledge from it! Rick Reilly, Philosopher King, has decreed it.

Okay, this is what bothers people about sportswriters: past experiences don't negate data. You can't just ignore data because "in the past, data was misleading!" Most times, we see this when a sports writer says things like "They don't make 'em like Jack Morris anymore!" but that's a similar thing. Just because you've seen things in the past, Rick Reilly, does not mean that the future has to correspond with that past at all. Chris Davis can be telling the truth even if Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong didn't. And guess what -- we have data to support that he is!

That's not fair to Chris Davis -- who can prove a negative? -- but it's what baseball deserves.


You're right, Rick, that's super unfair to Chris Davis. Because Chris Davis just gave you a straight answer and you twisted it into a confession (drink!). Is the focus of this sentence the mean thing you did to Chris Davis?

Oh wait, em dash! So, here's some inessential information, grammatically a digression, in which Rick Reilly asks us "who can prove a negative?" Indeed -- a great and profound question. Also a really badly asked question. Does he mean that you can't prove the absence of something? Because obviously you can -- there's no air in space; there's no free lunch; there's no proof of steroid use for Chris Davis. Does he mean that you can't prove a negative statement, as opposed to a posited one? Dialectically speaking, we might accuse Reilly of being a bad Hegelian in this opposition, as to posit a thing is to simultaneously bring its negative into being.

I think what he means is that you can't prove anything when your accuser (i.e. Rick Reilly) refuses to consider the basic empirical validity of your hard evidence. You know: facism.

Oh, but the em dash ends, ending the sentence. Let's take it out and see what Reilly means: "That's not fair to Chris Davis, but it's what baseball deserves." ...what? Chris Davis must do penance for baseball? know, someone else already did this part better, but holy shifted subject, Batman. Judge baseball if you must, but leave the slugger out of it!

So many players cheated, so many trainers looked the other way, so many suits left holes in the testing process, that anybody who has an out-of-the-blue season makes us all go, "You figure it's the cream or the clear? The HGH or the Deca? In the butt or under the tongue?"

THOSE DAMN SUITS. Businessmen and execs always putting profit above the integrity of the game -- definitely a reporter never held back suspicions because their boss told them to. Also, do you think it's in the butt? I don't think that's a strange question, because I am Rick Reilly and I ask it of my friends whenever I see an exceptional baseball performance. My two cents? In the butt; definitely not under the tongue. It's never under the tongue, in my experience. At least not since the Reagan Administration!

Davis can explain everything, of course. He says he went from Bernie Williams to Ted Williams because "I'm just making more consistent contact," he says. Also, he switched to a bigger bat. And he fixed a couple of holes in his swing.

"Blah, blah, blah -- who cares about actually plausible explanations? Bring on the speculation!"

By the way: first, that "of course" -- totally deserves a drink. Also, Bernie Williams' career line: 297/381/436, with 287 career HR. Yes, Ted Williams hits with more power than Bernie, but really, Chris Davis was Bernie Williams? Chris Davis hit last year, in what was a career year, 270/326/501. How do those two players look alike? Is it the 55 point difference in OBP, or the 65 point difference in SLG? Did Rick Reilly throw away any analysis for the sake of a Williams/Williams joke?

The answer may surprise you.

But this is a guy who's spent most of his career bouncing from the bushes to the bigs. In fact, in four seasons of facing Triple-A pitching, he hit only 54 home runs. Now, in one major league season, he's on pace to hit 62? That must be some new bat.

Drink! Also, as the previously linked article notes, Davis hit 54 home runs over 975 plate appearances. That's a home run about every 18 plate appearances. That's a 31 home run pace. Yeah, he's made a change, but come on -- he had exceptional power before. He's actually not swinging through so many of those balls now.

"I know, I know," Davis shrugs. "I have to take the heat for other people's mistakes. I guess it's kind of a backhanded compliment. If people accuse me of steroids, I must be doing something right."

"He said as he reeled back to hit me in the face for just asking what everyone was already thinking."

Or something wrong.


Also: drink!

Which is why Michael Tran and I will wait 15 or 20 years to see if anybody comes forward with used syringes, injection calendars or photos of him licking Chinese deer antlers.

Oh, so it's okay because you're for the kids, right? I don't think Michael Tran gives a damn -- I think he thought it was fun to ask an athlete a question, he got an answer, and he either accepted it or not. He doesn't think he was shut down or not allowed to ask follow-ups. He doesn't stay up nights wondering about Chris Davis. He sent out a throwaway tweet, and you scraped together an article about it, and now I am making fun of that article.

The difference between us? You think that you're doing something important.


If nobody does, then congrats to Chris Davis. See you in Cooperstown!

Everyone please remember this if Chris Davis makes it through his career spotless of steroid proof. Please hold Rick Reilly to voting Chris Davis, regardless of career numbers, into the Hall of Fame (or maybe meeting him in Cooperstown and going to the Baseball Hall of Fame with him; maybe that's what he means). Because I AM SURE that Rick Reilly has a staunch code of ethics that he would never forget about this promise. He'll admit he's wrong. Because he's a big guy with a bigger heart. Yes, that's totally what I believe. No, I'm not familiar with the concept of sarcasm. Is that a Greek word?

In the meantime, I'm hanging around Twitter to see what young Michael comes up with next.

"Hey, Kim Kardashian, is that really your baby?"

And laaaand the article with a timely pop culture reference. Rick Reilly, you fucking genius.

We've been here long enough, so let me conclude with this: if you think casually questioning a piece of celebrity gossip is equivalent to calling a man's entire career into question, then there's no convincing you. There's only sweet, sweet mockery.

Finish the bottle and erase this awful, miserable waste of server space of an article from your brain. You just won the Rick Reilly drinking game (and forgot how to use fractions)!