Back in 2008, the Orioles, the perpetual bottom dwellers of the AL East, made a trade. The Orioles sent starting pitcher Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners for a five players: Kam Mickolio, Tony Butler, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, and a top prospect, 22 year old Adam Jones.
At the time, results were mixed on who got the better end of the deal. Baltimore had shipped a homegrown talent & their ace (though a bit injury prone) to Seattle for five unproven prospects. Five years later, however, two of those prospects, Tillman & Jones, are on the 25 man roster and making a major impact. Bedard, now with Pittsburgh, is pitching for his 4th team and has yet to rediscover the stuff that made him successful in Baltimore.
While doing some research, I came across something interesting. In 1988, the O’s made a very similar trade, sending an ace to another team for two up and comers. The O’s sent their former 20 game winner Mike Boddicker to the Red Sox for Brady Anderson, who would go on to become the starting center fielder in Baltimore for 14 years & future Hall of Famer Curt Schilling, whom they promptly shipped to Houston 3 years later. Anderson is still with the organization, promoted to Vice President of Baseball Operations in February.
Since arriving in Baltimore in 2008, Jones has 104 home runs and 361 RBIs. That’s an average of 20.8 HRs and 72.2 RBIs per season, averages almost identical to Brady Anderson‘s nine-year stretch from 1992-2000 (21 home runs/70 RBIs). Anderson was the leadoff man, while Jones bats in the 3 spot, just behind Manny Machado and just in front of Chris Davis. Anderson was on a team of sluggers with names like Roberto Alomar, Cal Ripken, Bobby Bonilla & Rafael Palmeiro, so the team was able to utilize his speed at the top of the order. Jones is on his own team of sluggers, especially this year. Baltimore is at the top of the MLB with 68 home runs, with Chris Davis leading the team with 16. Davis made the news at the start of the season when he homered in the first 4 games on his way to being named AL Player of the Month for April. Jones is on his own tear, especially during this past series agains the Blue Jays. He homered in every game (upping his season total to 10), with last night’s solo shot being the difference in the O’s 6-5 win.
I profiled this earlier in the season, but the O’s don’t have a lot of “big talkers.” By that, I mean Ray Lewis-type talkers, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They do, however, have leaders, Adam Jones being one of them. Other than Jones, only Nick Markakis, Jim Johnson, and Brian Roberts have been with the team longer. It is clear Jones takes his role as a team leader seriously, he cheers for every home run as hard as he bucks up any teammate after a tough at bat. His Twitter feed is full of statements like, “A lot to be proud of. A lot to be hot about. We never quit on each other so I’m one proud O #stayhungry” and “That was a huuuuuuge comeback. I told u this team never quits. We’re not perfect by any means but we have cojones and heart #stayhungry”.
This is a “time to back it up” type of year for the Orioles. There needs to be proof that last year wasn’t a fluke. Manny Machado grows into a better & better player with each at bat and he continues to make “He’s only 20, how did he know to do that” plays in the field. But he IS only 20 & will have to figure out how to deal with the inevitable slumps he’ll experience. Chris Davis has dropped his strikeout number tremendously, while being the consistent power threat the O’s have needed for many seasons.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy seems to have found his swing that disappeared in the playoffs against the Yankees last year, while he successfully deals with the revolving door that has been 2nd base from his post as a Gold Glove shortstop. Matt Wieters continues to be lights out behind the plate, even if he hasn’t been as lights out at it. But for Adam Jones, this is an even bigger year. He’s the multiple time All-Star & Gold Glove winner whose face the public sees. He believes in the team, but I sometimes wonder if he forgets he doesn’t need to swing for the fences every time he comes up to the plate. The power is there, teams have seen it, fans have seen it, it’s harnessing it that will take him from good to great & from great to the best. His name is Mr. Jones, he plays for the O’s, and it is on his power, skill, and positive attitude that the Orioles will continue to grow and succeed.