An Adam Jones conversation devoid of numbers might be a good idea for the O’s.
If you think the 2018 baseball season in Baltimore has been horrific, well, that’s certainly no news flash. At last, Orioles ownership and management has gone all in for a much-needed rebuild of this once-storied franchise.
To give you some perspective, my first full season on the radio as Stan “The Fan” was 1983. I was all of 31, and at the end of that magical season the Orioles stood on top of the baseball world, having bested the Phillies in five games.
Thirty-five years later, I am 66 and long-suffering O’s fans have reason to be somewhat cynical about this next phase of Orioles baseball. Our franchise is hurting in many ways. It would be a huge mistake for the new eyeballs running things at The Warehouse to put all their eggs in the “winning will solve all that ails us” playbook that this city’s football team seems to operate under.
A case in point is a discussion of the future of Adam Jones, who was acquired by Andy MacPhail, the O’s former president of baseball operations, just as spring training for 2008 was about to start. MacPhail used Erik Bedard to acquire Jones, pitchers Chris Tillman and George Sherrill and a couple other pieces.
While Jones and his mates didn’t exactly hit the ground running — in fact, the 2008-11 teams all finished fifth in the AL East – he brought a pulse back to the team and — fueled by a couple other shrewd trades, a couple decent picks and a couple OK free-agent signings — set the team up for its unsustainable rise to relevance from 2012 to 2016.
Early in Dan Duquette’s tenure as vice president of baseball operations, one of the smartest moves the franchise had made in years was the 2012 decision to proactively engage Jones in serious negotiations that led to his six-year, $85.5 million contract. As bad as the Chris Davis deal turned out for the Orioles, that’s how good the Jones deal has been.
Look at just about every offensive category in the team’s history — hits (fifth), home runs (fifth), RBIs (sixth), runs scored (seventh), games played (ninth), total bases (fifth), doubles (eighth), extra-base hits (fifth) — and you’ll find Jones somewhere in the Top 10.
But Jones’ value goes far beyond the white lines. He has been a model citizen who shows his face at lots of meaningful events on the city’s calendar.
After Duquette’s spate of rebuilding trades leading up to July 31, he held a telephone conference call with the local media, during which he made it clear Jones would remain an Oriole after the non-waiver trade deadline because he refused to allow himself to be traded based on his rights as a 10/5 player.
When asked more specifically if Jones had any chance of returning to the Orioles in 2019 and beyond, Duquette reverted to the icy-steel version of himself and said, “His contract is up, I don’t know whether Adam will be here or not, but the club is going in the direction of younger ballplayers. I can tell you that.”
Nary a word of praise for someone who has been so special in so many ways. Way to go, Dan.
While the Orioles are showing Jones the cold stare, there seems to be a disconnect between the intentions of signing longtime team icons like Brooks Robinson and Eddie Murray while appearing to be dismissive of Jones’ desire to stay in Baltimore. Jones’ six-year contract ran from 2013 to 2018 and averaged out at $14.25 million annually. Jones is a realist and knows the player he is today, his age (33) and this environment will all conspire to make the numbers a good bit smaller and for a shorter term. But a two-year deal in the $15 million to $17 million range seems like it would be appealing to both sides.
While I get that we wouldn’t want Jones to stand in the way of progress, let’s be real. DJ Stewart may become a serviceable fourth outfielder, but Jones in right field for 125 games next season won’t block Stewart, Austin Hays or Yusniel Diaz. So who’ll get those Jones at-bats if he isn’t signed? Steve Wilkerson, Joey Rickard or Jace Peterson.
Recently came word that Jones heard about the plight of the Mamie Johnson Little League team from Washington, D.C., that became the first team to reach the Mid-Atlantic Regionals in Connecticut, which is one step away from getting to Williamsport, Pa., to compete in the Little League World Series.
Jones reached out and cut a check to help make the trip possible. Upon their return to the area, the Orioles and Jones hosted the team and their managers at an O’s-Red Sox game on Aug. 12. The national media picked up the feel-good story, giving the Orioles a valuable public relations win in their summer in hell.
If Jones isn’t here next year, who’s going to do things like this? The Orioles rebuild is afoot and it should be done with as much haste as possible, with a full-use of scouting and analytics for sure. But let’s not leave out some heart while they’re at it.
Stan “The Fan” Charles is the founder and publisher of PressBox.