Thursday, December 07, 2006

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Crash Davis For Being Stuck In The Minor Leagues

ESPN Classic viewers enjoy regular installments of the Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame… series, hosted by Brian Kenny. As noted in two of my previous columns, the series is overly focused on real-life sports figures such as Bill Buckner and Chris Webber. To address this issue, I expanded the approach to take a deeper look at the perceived athletic shortcomings of fictional characters. Previously I chronicled the top 5 reasons you can’t blame Apollo Creed for losing to Rocky Balboa and the top 5 reasons you can’t blame Charlie Brown for his sports futility.

Today I will turn my focus to Crash Davis. Featured in the 1988 film Bull Durham, Davis was a highly respected veteran catcher. However, all his years in the minor leagues only led to one 21-day stint with a major league ballclub. Ever since those three weeks of glory, Crash continued to bounce around the bus circuit with the desperate hope of returning to The Show. However, those major league dreams never again materialized.

A closer examination reveals that numerous factors beyond his control kept Davis out of the big leagues. I may not change your mind about Crash’s role in his fate, but at least I hope to provide material to make you think – without hurting the ballclub. Before I get to the top five reasons you can’t blame Crash Davis for being stuck in the minor leagues, here are reasons that did not make the list – the “Best of the Rest”:

Ron Shelton: The Bull Durham writer/director based the film on his experiences as a minor league ballplayer. If Bill Mazeroski had written and directed the movie, Crash Davis would have won the World Series with a home run.

Playing Too Early: Crash was named Best Picture at last year’s Academy Awards ceremony. Crash was also a hit 1996 album for the Dave Matthews Band. However, in the 80s it was not yet trendy for a Crash to be rewarded.

Home Run Chase: Before retiring, Davis broke the all-time minor league home run record. During home run record pursuits in the major leagues, Roger Maris had his hair fall out from stress, Hank Aaron was bombarded with racist letters, and Barry Bonds is being dogged by steroid allegations. But Crash got his record in the minors, so no one bothered him at all.

And now, here are the top five reasons you can’t blame Crash Davis for being stuck in the minor leagues.

Reason #5: Davises. Crash was the victim of a numbers game by playing during the 1980s. In that decade, numerous prominent players named Davis entered the major leagues. The list included Alvin, Chili, Eric, Glenn, Jody, Mark, Mike, and Storm Davis. The major leagues simply would not allow another Davis to enter their ranks. As a result, not only was Crash Davis kept out of the big leagues, but so were Geena, Bette, and Ann B. Davis.

Reason #4: For Love of the Game. Baseball has been a common theme in Kevin Costner’s movies, having portrayed a fan in Field of Dreams and a retired ballplayer in The Upside of Anger. For Love of the Game, in which he played a Detroit Tiger pitcher, was the one film besides Bull Durham in which Costner portrayed an active player. The results were utterly forgettable, proving that Costner characters are much more compelling when in the minors.

Reason #3: Durham. Playing in Durham does not bode well for success at the highest level. The Bulls were a Single A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves when the Braves were annually awful. After Atlanta became consistently good, the Bulls switched over to be the AAA affiliate for the inept Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Also, the Duke basketball program has only produced one player who went on to win an NBA championship. And some members of the 2003 San Antonio Spurs still do not believe that Danny Ferry was on their roster.

Reason #2: Annie Savoy. Crash pointed out to his Bulls teammates that in The Show, “the women all have long legs and brains.” However, it was in Durham that he found a beautiful, horny woman who understood the intricacies of baseball. Sure, she was a bit nuts when she talked about things like breathing through your eyelids. But any guy will put up with some “crazy” to land a hot chick who can explain the infield fly rule.

Still not convinced? C’mon Meat, there’s just one reason left.

Reason #1: Big League Front Offices. Crash Davis was a switch-hitting catcher with frequent home run power who handled pitchers well and helped the wildly undisciplined Nuke LaLoosh take full advantage of his talent. You would think that general managers would regard such a prospect as Jesus with a mitt. So it boggles the mind that they didn’t have a spot for him on a major league roster. Reportedly, many GMs were scared off by the instances when Crash helped opposing batters to homer after telling them what pitch was coming. The front offices were apparently fearful that Davis would make a habit out of this activity while placing bets on the opposing team. Also, in terms of the homework they did on prospects, many of those GMs were just lollygaggers.

So there you have it. Maybe I’ve changed your mind about Crash Davis, and maybe I haven’t. But I hope I’ve at least given you some new perspectives to consider. In the meantime, I’m just happy to be here - hope I can help the ballclub.