"Jody, Jody, Jody!"
Fans of a certain age, that being those who can remember almost any of the '80s (the middle, in particular), remember that chant raining down at Wrigley.
The popular and durable Cubs backstop debuted in 1981 in a part-time role at age 24. He took over the Cubs' catching duties full-time the following season and held those duties from 1982 until youngster Damon Berryhill pushed Davis to a part-time role, and eventually off the team, in 1988.
Davis was known mostly as an offensive catcher, a reputation earned mostly through power. As the Cubs full-time catcher, he had seasons of 12, 24, 19, 17, 21, and 19 home runs. He consistently provided solid value, putting up 3.0, 2.6, 2.6, 2.4, 4.2, and 1.9 WAR in those seasons. Those are all numbers you would take without hesitation out of your catcher in that era (setting aside that nobody was paying attention to WAR back then).
What's most interesting to me is that the advanced metrics don't really back-up Davis' reputation. He posted just one season in excess of 100 wRC+ (110 in 1983). And FanGraphs shows a lot of his value coming from his defense. It took a lot of work for Davis to overcome the defensive struggles early in his career. The Wikipedia entry notes Davis worked hard on his defense to become a very strong backstop, even capturing a Gold Glove in 1986 (FanGraphs agrees, as Davis earned 29.6 defensive runs and 4.2 defensive WAR that season).
Of course, any discussion of Jody Davis as a fan favorite would have to look at the 1984 season we all look back on with fondness. Davis hit .256/.315/.421, 93 wRC+, with 19 homers and 94 RBI while posting 2.6 WAR in the first of his two All-Star seasons (the other being 1986, Davis' most productive season) for the NL East champion Cubs. And Jody certainly did his part to try and push the Cubs to t. He smacked seven hits (including a pair of doubles and pair of homers) in 18 NLCS ABs for an OPS of 1.202 for the heartbreaking five-game series against the Padres.
Davis still makes appearances at Cubs functions, which adds to the memories for the fans who ache for the Cubs to be that close again.
As a footnote in history, Davis was dealt to his hometown Atlanta Braves in what simply has to be one of the latest in-season trades in MLB history. The then 31-year-old Davis was dealt on September 29th, 1988, for a pair of Kevins (Blankenship and Coffman). He played in two games for the Braves in the 1988 season as the Braves finished the year with the second-worst record in the big leagues. He would go on to play a part-time role for the Braves in 1989, then was released by the team in May 1990, ending his big league career. He signed with the Detroit Tigers organization, but played just three games for the Toledo Mud Hens before hanging up his gear.
He finished with a 10-year career and a slash line of .245/.307/.403 with 127 homers and 490 RBIs and a value of 17.6 WAR (hurt a lot by his last two seasons, when Davis was worth a total -0.9 WAR).
They are different players, no doubt. But I think we'd all take it if Welington Castillo turned into a modern day version of Jody Davis. Maybe this season we call some of the echos with chants of "Wely, Wely, Wely!"