It was May 2012.The Orioles were getting better, and Adam Jones was nearing free agency.
The Orioles didn’t want to lose Jones and certainly didn’t want to trade him, not with the club showing significant promise for the first time in his five years in Baltimore.
The team ponied the funds for a six-year, $85.5 million extension. It was the largest contract in Orioles history. As Dan Duquette, still new in his job as the team’s Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations put it: “The dude rang the cash register every time he hit a home run.”
Before the extension was agreed to, the team’s owner, Peter Angelos consulted with manager Buck Showalter. Jones wouldn’t let up after he signed the extension, Showalter assured him.
A year into the deal, it looks like a good one for both sides.
Jones batted .285 with career highs in home runs (33) and RBIs (108). He benefited from batting mostly in front of Chris Davis, but sometimes in back of him.
Perhaps envious of Davis’ bigger numbers, he could have pushed a bit too hard at times to equal them, but late in the season with the team on the edge of contention, Jones tried other things. He bunted. He stole bases, and played an excellent outfield.
Early in the season, Jones’ defense suffered. First base coach Wayne Kirby said that during the three weeks Jones normally works on fundamentals in spring training, he was away at the World Baseball Classic.
After a few weeks of drills, Jones’ defense wasn’t criticized again.
Jones won Gold Gloves in 2009 and 2012. Last season he committed eight errors. This year, he made just two, none after mid-May.
His throwing was much more accurate from center than it’s ever been. Jones stole 14 bases and was thrown out just three times, the best ratio of his career. The lessons that Quintin Berry, his high school teammate and Red Sox outfielder, has shared with him are paying off.
There is room for improvement at the plate. During spring training, Jones vowed to be more selective at the plate. Hitting coach Jim Presley tried to preach the virtues of an occasional walk. One more walk a week would do wonders for Jones, Presley told him.
Jones barely got a week’s worth of walks all season. After long droughts, Jones ended up with just 25 and struck out a career high 136 times. Without a doubt, Presley will try next spring to preach selectivity again. A strikeout to walk ratio of more than 6:1 is hurting him.
Earlier in the year, Jones purchased a home in Baltimore County, and he’s spending more time this offseason here. He still makes his home in San Diego and probably will spend time there, too.
He’s just as involved with charity and community organizations as he has been in the past. Jones is the Orioles’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. This year, he held three separate screenings of “42,” the movie about Jackie Robinson, one for his teammates and two others for children.
Jones was an analyst for both the MLB Network and TBS on Division Series games, and he’s even finding time for one of his other pastimes, eating. The other day, he tweeted that he ate steamed crabs with former Raven and current FOX broadcaster Tony Siragusa.
He’ll get in some football watching, too. He’s holding a charity event before the next Ravens home game on Nov. 10.
When Jones signed that extension, he was joined by J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis as well as two players who are now gone, Robert Andino and Jake Arrieta.
“We’ve got the guys,’ Jones insisted.
The Orioles were still more than four months away from their first playoff spot in 14 years, let alone their first winning season.
Since then, Davis has shown off his power, Manny Machado arrived, and Chris Tillman, who came from Seattle with Jones in 2008, has proven his worth as a quality major league pitcher.
Jones still rushes out to eagerly pie a teammate who’s being interviewed and remains a most popular Oriole among fans.
His contract was a wise move and sets the stage for possible long-term extensions for Davis and Wieters.
Showalter was right. Jones is an extremely hard worker. The day after the team was eliminated from postseason consideration, Showalter reluctantly broke Jones’ streak of 322 consecutive games.
Jones had jokingly talked of challenging Cal Ripken’s record, but Showalter may be more apt to rest him occasionally in 2014. Then again, Showalter may reconsider. When he had Jones as the designated hitter, he drove the manager nuts on the bench.