Chris Davis's eminently successful remedial seven-week course in the art of hitting and the nigh-unprecedented collapse of Hank Blalock have prompted the Texas Rangers to take one final shot at rectifying their most destructive Achilles' heel -- the offensive black hole at first base.
Multiple local media sources, including MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, reported on Sunday evening that the Rangers currently plan to recall Davis from Triple-A Oklahoma City before the outset of a huge three-game road series against the Yankees on Tuesday evening, with Blalock apparently preparing to play out his final 39 regular-season games in a Rangers uniform as a part-time designated hitter and/or benchwarmer as Texas undertakes a long-overdue playing time reconfiguration.
Since riding the Interstate 35 shuttle from Arlington to Oklahoma City back on July 6th after his long-expected demotion to the minors (and sounding half-relieved, half-apologetic immediately beforehand), Davis has worked extensively with RedHawks manager Bobby Jones and hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh in (a) re-establishing his confidence and (b) smoothing out the wrinkles in his hitting mechanics, reportedly entailing a slightly more open batting stance, less head-bobbing action and a cleaner swing plane that have allowed him to inflict .327/.418/.521-caliber damage against Pacific Coast League pitching.
[Incidentally, I don't know whether the dissonance in the teacher-student relationship between Davis and major league hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo has been bred by anything more troubling in nature than a lack of familiarity between the pair, and it's possible, if not probable, that the organization had already identified these glaring issues in Davis's hitting mechanics and mindset before his demotion and felt the minors were an environment more conducive to speedy correction, but whenever the minor league coaching staff fixes something with a player that the major league coaching staff apparently could not fix, you're sort of obligated to pause for a moment and wonder what's going on.]
At the time of Davis's demotion, I wrote that Blalock's "apparent inability to reach base more than 30 percent of the time essentially makes him a glorified version of Mike Jacobs circa 2008, which is suboptimal." In the time which has lapsed since that date, Blalock has hit .238/.263/.405 in 175 plate appearances and .204/.219/.352 in 146 plate appearances since the All-Star Break. That's not merely Mike Jacobs-esque; that's Ben Broussard-esque in the worst way imaginable, with nary a sign of forthcoming improvement, and in a certain respect his downfall is almost inconceivable. You can't be a part of the solution if you're part of the problem.
The single most imperative objective for any hitter is to reach base, and in that sense, Blalock -- and yes, Davis as well -- have been failures of the highest degree in 2009, particularly when taken in the offense-friendly context of their designated position. At this point, however, the 23-year-old "failure" is not only the superior defender, but has also proactively addressed his faults during his minor league stint, done everything from a performance standpoint that the Rangers could possibly ask for and productively channeled his cerebral streak in an active attempt to mold himself into a better ballplayer.
Blalock and Davis are riding adjacent escalators right now, with both steadily moving but one on the ascent and one on the descent, and I don't think it's particularly difficult to discern whom is riding in which direction.