Adam Jones is the man in Baltimore. He is the $85 million man signed through 2018 and he is now the longest-tenured Oriole. He has made his home here. His wife is from here. His son was born in Baltimore. The Orioles' ascension from the depths of the American League East with Jones taking his game to another level. As the team has rattled off three straight good years, Jones has been the best player in that time.
All of which made it surprising and just a little bit worrying when Jones fired off a frustrated-sounding tweet into the Twittersphere in February: "Im just going to start going to Peter. Screw the middle men"
It didn't take much of a leap for that to be concerning, a fairly obvious reference to Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Jones being unhappy about something. But what? Who are the middle men who had him so displeased? That is what we did not know and, not knowing, it was better to pretend that nothing had happened at all.
The Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck got to the bottom of the mystery in an article posted to the Sun's website on Tuesday evening. The Orioles, as you know, didn't do a whole heck of a lot in the offseason and, in the process, they let the previous longest-tenured Oriole, Nick Markakis, head elsewhere in free agency. The two played together for seven seasons. No surprise that might have contributed to some frustration on the part of Jones.
"If you say I'm the face of the franchise, I think I would like a little bit of information about what's going on instead of being surprised by every move made," Jones said, according to Schmuck. He wanted "to be able to talk," and it seems like he made an effort to engage Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette that was not returned.
On the face of it, it's hard to come up with a good reason for why Duquette wouldn't have returned Jones' phone calls, although at the same time, there's no telling whether star players in other cities have tried to do the same thing. If David Ortiz could find a phone near his person that he hasn't destroyed, would he use it to call Ben Cherington up and ask why the Red Sox didn't re-sign Jon Lester? If he did, would Cherington call back? Are we really talking about this? This whole thing is stupid.
Without ever specifically addressing why he didn't get around to returning Jones' attempts to reach him, Duquette said he'd "be happy to discuss things with Jones." Though it seems he had a different philosophy back in November or December or whenever it was. Schmuck offers the dot that Duquette keeping a low profile as the Blue Jays situation played out could have been "misconstrued" by Jones, although that dot doesn't connect to anything said in a direct quote.
One thing the team has lacked in this run of success is stupid tabloid drama. We can only hope that won't change as a result of all of this. The last thing Orioles fans need is a slow start for the team that launches a thousand columns about whether Jones is disgruntled, or whether the clubhouse is missing the leadership of Markakis, with Derek from Dundalk, Earl from Essex, Frank from Federal Hill, and all of their friends jamming up the phone circuits of Baltimore sports talk radio with calls about how Duquette still has his eyes on the Blue Jays job and so he isn't doing everything he could to help the Orioles win.
For their part, both Jones and Duquette downplayed the notion that there was any kind of lingering discontent between the two men. Asked directly about whether there was a rift between them, Jones replied that there was not.
"I love the work our GM does," Jones said, according to Schmuck. "He has done a damn good job of getting players over here that have something to work for, have a hunger in them." We know how Jones loves those who stay hungry. "I just want some communication," he concluded.
In typical Duquettian fashion, the O's GM remarked of Jones, "I appreciate his passion and I also appreciate his opinions." There are probably more diplomatic ways he might have expressed the thought, but there are less diplomatic ways too. That's Duquette for you.
Have they really both buried the hatchet? At this point, there's no way to know for sure. They sound like they have. That counts for something. If the Orioles do well as the season goes along, we'll forget all about this, especially if some combination of Travis Snider and Alejandro De Aza or whoever else the O's stick in right field are outperforming what Markakis is doing in Atlanta. Nothing said in the offseason or spring training will matter, just like spring training games don't matter.
Outside of this little kerfuffle, Jones sounds plenty confident in the strength of this team, at least if what he said to ESPN's Jayson Stark in a recent visit to O's camp is any indication, rejecting the validity of predictions that don't consider the Orioles a quality team.
This whole thing has not hung like a cloud over the Orioles training camp. It hasn't been a daily topic of discussion even though spring training has been underway for over a week. Let's hope it stays that way.