I attended the funeral of a relative this weekend; as somber of an occasion as that was, it’s always a joy for me to see extended family and friends. (And for the record if conversations that I had with so many of them are any indication of the mindset of the rest of the fan base, there’s A LOT of excitement about the Baltimore Orioles this year!) When I attend these types of functions – be them happy or sorrowful – I always return and take pause for a few days to “digest” seeing so many people that I used to see much more frequently. It’s almost discombobulating in a sense, but you’d have to know and understand our family to get that!
I’m not trying to outline my entire family history for you – I promise! However my point is that there are events that do in fact give us pause. Adam Jones has left the Orioles to join Team USA for the WBC. Regardless of how things go for the USA in that tournament, how will Jones react when he returns? First off let me say that I’m a huge proponent of events such as the WBC, because I think it’s good to compete on an international level in any sport. I might question the timing of the event (during spring training), but I suppose it would be tough to justify doing it at any other time. I might submit that it could be in November, however I digress. Major League Baseball has been decent enough to lengthen Spring Training this year to compensate for the WBC, so in effect most players will still get the number of spring reps that they normally would.
However my point is whether or not Adam Jones will jump right back into the fray, or will he take pause to “digest” whatever happened in the WBC? Having observed Jones a lot over the past couple of seasons and seeing the type of work ethic he has, I would submit that both will be true. I think that he’ll do everything in his power to try to get right back to where he was when he left. After all, the Orioles are “his team” now, which means that he has to lead by example. There’s nobody that’s more aware of that than he. However I’m not sure that it’s possible to simply jump right back into the swing of things given the circumstances. Jones will be participating in an event that might at times have the feel of September or October baseball, or at the very least not feel like Spring Training. So again, it’ll take time for him to get back to Sarasota and re-acclimate himself to “the grind” of spring training and being with the Orioles again.
Here’s the catch to this question however; a lot of spring training for hitters is getting at-bats and getting your timing up to speed. Jones will still be doing all of that when he’s playing for Team USA and manager Joe Torre. I suppose that depending upon where Torre hits Jones in the lineup he might find himself in cases where the situational hitting might be different than what he would see hitting fourth (or third) for the Orioles, however the fact is that he’ll be getting at-bats in games. That bodes well for the Orioles.
Certainly I think a lot of Orioles fans are a bit concerned that Jones will miss some time with the team, and that’s very justifiable. But the O’s aren’t the only team that will have this problem for sure. Furthermore, if Jones were a pitcher I feel that there’d be more cause for alarm. Again, spring training is about getting at-bats (and Jones will be doing that). However it’s a bit more technical for pitchers in terms of getting themselves stretched out for the endurance that’s necessary to pitch six or seven plus innings in a game throughout the season. So the Washington Nationals should be more concerned about losing Gio Gonzalez than the Orioles should Adam Jones.
Again speaking from experience, throwing a hitch into your normal giddy-up will often give one pause and leave them in a bit of a trance when it’s all over. That’s how I am in many situations, and I don’t think that’s too uncommon. Orioles fans just have to hope that Adam Jones doesn’t “take pause to digest” the events of the WBC over a long period of time. If his past and his work ethic are any indication, I don’t think he will. More importantly than anything else, Adam Jones appears to care deeply about the Orioles, the fans, the city of Baltimore, and his teammates. I have no doubt that he’ll do everything in his power to ensure that he isn’t doing unnecessary harm to any of those things by not being ready for the season.