Orioles slugger Davis looks like the real deal

You never know, but this bid for 62 home runs seems like one baseball can celebrate

NEW YORK — Note to the truly naive: Another baseball slugger is going to get caught messing with his testosterone level or buying bull semen off the Internet, probably sooner than later.

When it happens, his reputation will be thrown into the frying pan alongside those of Ryan Braun and the other Biogenesis guys. That's going to happen. It's the world we live in, and anyone who thinks Commissioner Bud Selig can control it hasn't been paying attention the last 15 years.

Major League Baseball's worst fear is that Miguel Cabrera, who has a legitimate shot to become the first player to win back-to-back Triple Crowns, is caught using a banned substance. The second worst fear, at this moment anyway, is that Chris Davis proves to be too good to be true.

It could happen, you know. It could turn out that he's cut from the same cloth as Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. But listening to him, listening to others talking about him, I believe the Orioles first baseman is being honest when he says he has hit his 37 home runs in 95 games this year because of what hitting coaches including Scott Coolbaugh and Brant Brown taught him and what he figured out about diet and the right mental approach.

"It never crossed my mind to think about taking (steroids),'' Davis said Monday afternoon, before participating in the Home Run Derby. "I've always been a guy who enjoyed working out, always been a guy who had power. I'm proud of the year I'm having.''

He should be proud of himself. Nobody has hit more than 58 home runs since MLB's testing program grew fangs in 2004, three years after Bonds hit 73 homers to complete his revenge on Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Davis is on pace to hit 62, with nine home runs in his last 15 games before coming to Citi Field as a first-time All-Star.

"Somebody needs to wake him up,'' White Sox lefty Chris Sale said. "Man, he's amazing. It seems like he hits a home run every game. I was fortunate to watch Adam (Dunn) hit 41 last year. It seems like he was hitting a homer every two or three days. This is more than that, and that's tough to even imagine. He seems like a very humble guy. He seems like the right guy to be carrying that right now.''

Until a couple of weeks ago, there was an awkward tap dance being played between Davis and the reporters who covered him about the PED issue. Then ESPN's Rick Reilly picked up on a Twitter exchange between Davis and a 17-year-old from Michigan. Reilly wrote a high-profile column about Davis' matter-of-fact no to the question, "Are you on steroids?'' and just like that the awkwardness evaporated.

Davis told the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly last week that he believes Roger Maris' 61 still is the real record. He was a kid growing up in Longview, Texas, when baseball's unpoliced steroids problem reached critical mass.

"When McGwire and Sosa did what they did in 1998, it was awesome to watch,'' Davis said. "And then when all the stuff came out with the PEDs and all of that, it was really disheartening."

Davis reiterated his view about 61 on Monday, saying he'll celebrate if he gets there.

"I'm sure (Bonds) celebrated 73,'' he said.

When Bonds set the record, there was little joy in Mudville. Selig came west for the climax but never made the trek from his suite to the clubhouse to congratulate Bonds.

A year later, Selig got the players' union to agree to tiptoe into a testing program. It was put in place because rank-and-file players wanted an even playing field with less temptation, and it has evolved into one that World Anti-Doping Association director general David Howman recently called "robust,'' saying it is one "many team sports might usefully replicate."

While mass suspensions are coming from Biogenesis, which could affect playoff races, Selig said Monday that "this sport is cleaner than it's ever been."

It has worked overtime to get where it is after giving ground to the brilliance of union lawyers for too long. Rodriguez, Braun and the rest of the Biogenesis guys won't be the last to get caught cheating, but you shouldn't hold that against guys like Davis and Cabrera.

I'm hoping Davis keeps going, if only to see if Selig joins him in celebrating 62. I bet he would. He might even pose for pictures.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers

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