The Baltimore Orioles are having an amazing season. They are going to win the AL East; an endeavor that many thought unlikely at the beginning of the year. However, it is remarkable that they will accomplish this feat with minimal contribution from the 2013 MVP candidate, Chris Davis. Today, news broke that Davis would be suspended 25 games, including the first eight of the playoffs for testing positive for amphetamines. As it has become routine, Adderral was quickly the culprit for this positive test to which Davis had “an exemption” to take in 2013 – the year he bursted out with monster power numbers and had a remarkable .336 Batting Average on balls in play.
This season, Davis has walked more, 11.4% of the time, and struck out at about the same rate as last year. Therefore, Davis is begging the question from us all, did his use of a banned substance, a substance that WebMD says can “help to increase the ability to pay attention, concentrate, stay focused, and stop fidgeting,” contribute to his 2013 campaign?
In a Fan Graphs article from 8/1 Jeff Sullivan posits that Davis is facing a much higher rate of off speed pitches. In 2013, Davis murdered off speed pitches. In 2014 his overall batting average on balls in play is 94 percentage points lower (visit here for an in depth look into Davis’ change). Davis is being wildly thrown off balance by opposing pitchers’ off speed pitches and has been unable to adjust. Sullivan concludes his article, which he posted before the news of the positive test, “With a season like Davis’ 2013, the easy thing to say is it was a career year, driven by noise and a small sample. I prefer to think it was driven also by talent, but now pitchers are working Davis differently and forcing him to repeat his performance differently, in turn. Chris Davis adjusted to make himself good once. The best players never stop adjusting.” It is reasonable to conclude that he simply was seeing the ball better, making better contact, and adjusted to pitchers better last than he has this year. However, what if his at bats were being aided by a performance enhancing drug? A PED that is prescribed to children to improve their focus. An amphetamine that college students use to zero in on assignments for 12 hours straight at a library. A substance that ESPN’s Mike Wilbon said on PTI, “Is this the new enhancing drug of choice in sports?”A drug that in an article on CBSsports.com Dr. Richard Lustberg, a New York State Licensed Psychologist said, “It’s cheating. It does provide you with energy that you wouldn’t normally have.”
I don’t want to stir up another controversial conversation on cheating and PEDs in baseball. Even though all publicity is good publicity for MLB – especially approaching the playoffs. All I want to bring up is that all sports, not just baseball, are facing a critical moment regarding ADD and ADHD prescribed drugs. Additionally, we must consider that of course the great success of the Orioles in 2014, is great, but was the great success of Chris Davis in 2013, really that great?