Here are some things you may not know about J.J. Hardy: His father was a tennis professional, and he’d rather watch the finals of the U.S. Open than the opening week of NFL games. As a teenager, he was a paid mentor to a child, making sure his afterschool hours were filled with activities. And, you’ll never see him getting pied after a game.
J.J. Hardy doesn’t call attention to himself, but never hides. When some of the Orioles biggest stars shunned the media after a tough loss, Hardy was always there.
Hardy is one of the most quietly knowledgeable of all players. In a quiz of obscure rules in June given by ESPN’s Jayson Stark, Hardy got seven of 10 questions correct. Only six of the 25 players, managers and coaches answering got a higher score.
He’s realistic. In mid-August, Hardy discussed the Orioles playoff chances clinically—and not emotionally. He knew the team would have to win two of every three remaining games as the Cleveland Indians ended up doing.
And, he’s really, really good.
In three years of watching Hardy, manager Buck Showalter has said dozens of times: “I never realized how good he was.”
This season, fans and peers realized it. For the first time, Hardy was named the American League’s starting shortstop in the All-Star Game, ascribing his popularity to his dad voting for him the maximum 35 times.
It seems from afar that Hardy has few weaknesses. He did make 12 errors, but half of them came in games the Orioles won, and I don’t recall ever having to ask him to explain a bad play in the field.
He doesn’t walk a lot. Hardy had 38 walks, which helped boost his .263 batting average to an unimpressive .306 on-base percentage.
On the other hand, in 2013, he cut down on his strikeouts. A year ago, he had 22 home runs and 106 strikeouts, In 2013, 25 home runs and 73 strikeouts.
Hardy’s best numbers came batting seventh, where he batted .276 with 18 home runs in 89 games. In 2012, Hardy almost always hit second, and Showalter vowed in spring training to move him down in the order.
Showalter kept his promise, and Hardy delivered. Playing a career-high 159 games, Hardy had 69 fewer plate appearances, and much more production.
Midway through his first year with the Orioles, Hardy signed a three-year, $21 million extension. That deal will end a year from now.
Showalter would love to Hardy stay with the Orioles, and the feeling is mutual. Last time around, Hardy potentially left millions of dollars on the table by eschewing free agency.
He’s shown no bitterness toward that decision and is clearly comfortable with the Orioles. He’d like to stay, too.
Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has already said he would explore contract extensions for Chris Davis and Matt Wieters, both of whom can’t be free agents for two more years. Perhaps Hardy will be added to the list.
Hardy will turn 32 next August, and another three-year extension is not out of line. That would assure that Hardy and Manny Machado would continue to play together and quiet the silly talk that Machado would move back to shortstop.
If Hardy isn’t re-signed by this time next year, it’s possible that the New York Yankees will be looking for a Derek Jeter replacement, and it would annoy the Orioles terribly to see Hardy at short in the Bronx come 2015.
While Davis and Wieters are priorities, the Orioles should add Hardy to their to-do list.
NOTES: In his first two games with the Surprise Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League, Jonathan Schoop is 0-for-8 with two walks. Henry Urrutia was 3-for-4 in his first game on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Eduardo Rodriguez allowed two runs on three hits in three innings, striking out three. Frederick catcher Michael Ohlman was 2-for-3 with a home run and a walk on Wednesday.
Surprise has won its first two games and plays Thursday night at Glendale. The Saguaros’ manager is Gary Kendall, Bowie’s skipper. AFL play continues through Nov. 14.
-Adam Jones continues his broadcasting odyssey with another night on TBS. He appeared on Wednesday night, complimenting Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen. “He is the most dynamic player in the game of baseball, or at least top three,” Jones said.
-Brian Bass, who pitched 53 games for the Orioles in 2008 and 2009 and ended his professional career with a 2-10 record for the Independent League Camden Riversharks this season, has returned to Baltimore. Bass will be the pitching coach for Stevenson University in Baltimore County.