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Khris Davis leaves powerful mark on A’s history

One of the greatest home run hitters Oakland has ever seen

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s traded away Khris Davis on Saturday. He had struggled mightily at the plate for two straight seasons, and the team cut bait on the final year of his hefty salary in a swap with the Texas Rangers.

The move made sense for both sides, allowing the A’s to better allocate their payroll resources and giving Davis a new home where he’s more likely to find the playing time he needs if he’s ever to break out of his long-term slump. But his legacy in Oakland is so great that, even though his bat was no longer helping the club and it makes complete sense to trade him away, it’s still sad to see him go.

Let’s take a moment to remember the good times, and recognize his place in A’s history.

The A’s acquired Davis from the Brewers ahead of the 2016 season for a pair of prospects. He already had a reputation for power, earning him the nickname Khrush in Milwaukee, and in Oakland he stepped it up even further and became one of the top sluggers in the game.

In each of his first three seasons in green and gold, he hit at least 40 homers, making him just the 25th player in MLB history ever to string together three such campaigns — and the second A’s player along with only Jimmie Foxx, though Mark McGwire came close. During that span from 2016-18, Davis was the best home run hitter in baseball, leading the majors in that department. He was also the most consistent hitter in the sport, delivering exactly a .247 batting average every year to go with his annual allotment of long balls.

In 2017 he received a downballot vote for MVP, and the next year he finished in eighth place for the award. His 136 wRC+, 48 dingers, and 123 RBI in 2018 were one of the better performances in franchise history, and they earned him the Edgar Martinez Award as the league’s best DH. The A’s were emerging from a rebuild at the time and he helped lead them back to the postseason that year, and then he went deep for the club’s only runs in a Wild Card Game loss to the Yankees.

Davis, 2016-18: .247/.323/.534, 129 wRC+, 133 HR, 8.1 bWAR, 7.6 fWAR

Along the way he put up some memorable highlights against the very Rangers team that just acquired him. In 2016 against Texas he hit three homers in a game including a walk-off grand slam, only the second time anyone has ever done that.

In July 2018 he struck twice in a row. First the A’s made an eight-run comeback in Arlington to tie it up, and Davis homered in the 10th inning to win it. Then the very next day, with Oakland down to their last strike in the 9th, he launched a two-run dinger to turn it into a lead and an eventual victory. That was part of a stretch in which he hit six homers in four days, tying an Oakland record. He owned the Rangers.

It all came to a crashing halt in 2019. Davis hurt himself fielding a fly ball in the outfield, and he never really returned to his previous form at the plate. His numbers tanked, and they are still yet to recover, and it’s a fair question if they ever will. It’s been heartbreaking to watch such a beloved player struggle so hard, though he did give us one final happy sendoff by swatting three homers in the 2020 playoffs.

Davis’ time as Oakland’s star slugger had long since passed, but seeing him leave the organization entirely applies a sense of finality to his chapter in the franchise books. On the bright side he gets to search for his bounce-back in Texas, where he’s done his best hitting, though in a cruel twist of fate they just moved out of the stadium he dominated and into a new ballpark.

It wasn’t the ending any of us envisioned for Davis’ Oakland career, but the good times are what we’ll remember. For years he awed us with his unbelievable power, often at the clutchest moments, and twice he was our Athletics Nation A’s MVP as he guided a young squad into their next contention window. He goes down as one of the best at what he did among anyone who’s played for our team, alongside the likes of Reggie and the Bash Brothers and Giambi. He’s eighth in Oakland history with 158 homers, and has the third, sixth, and eighth most prolific single-seasons.

We’ll remember each salute to the third-base coach during his trot around the diamond, and all the times he jump-shot his helmet toward his teammates waiting at the plate to celebrate his walk-off. The excitement he sparked in us during a drab rebuilding era. The way he confided in fans about the mental block that obstructed his throwing, and the humble, quiet interviews about how he didn’t want attention and just wanted to hit homers and win games.

That last part probably means he wouldn’t want a whole post written about his great career, so, whoops. Let’s wrap this up.

So long, and thanks for all the dingers.