The biggest story in O’s spring training camp in Sarasota is about a guy who wears the uniform, but doesn’t play the game- he’s manager Buck Showalter who took over last August. Though he doesn’t play, it’s hard to overlook his impact. Many players are admitting Showalter’s no-nonsense style, his resume, his 3-year contract and his attention to detail and accountability have begun to awaken a franchise that’s slogging through a 13-year losing streak. One player recently sounded off about all of the emphasis and attention going to Showalter. When Sports Illustrated writer Ben Reiter approached Adam Jones on the subject of Showalter, the O’s outfielder said, “I don’t want to answer any more questions about Buck. Too much about Buck, honestly. I answered like a hundred questions about him yesterday.”
When I spoke with Jones in Sarasota, he told me he was upset that his comments were misconstrued and he’s being unfairly criticized by those who have the perception that he’s not a fan of his new manager. Jones insists that he’s happy to have Buck on board, but what should not be lost in the excitement over the manager is that no matter how well he prepares and inspires them, or holds them accountable- the players are still the ones who play the game and therefore win and lose the games. So to give Jones a chance to state his case and clear up any confusion or controversy- I offered him the chance to respond to those who’ve questioned his comments. And so nothing is misconstrued, I promised to run his statement in its entirety. Listen for yourself:
My opinion: Jones is not wrong, but his timing may not be right. It’s hard to argue with his premise: players ultimately win and lose the games. If the players don’t execute better than their opposition, the brilliance of the manager is lost. But the fault in Jones’ statements could be found in the timing: O’s fans are truly optimistic for the first time in memory, and their optimism is currently centered on the manager. I’ve always appreciated Jones for his candor. For those of us who cover the Orioles- he will deliver for us some thoughtful, meaningful quotes and opinions. He wants to be a leader, and even though he’s still young- Jones has the qualities to be a leader. His opinion is not wrong, but he may be better served to let Showalter love-fest go unabated for now. Let it play out and if the O’s do win- who cares who gets the credit?
What’s also interesting about the story: Showalter loves Adam Jones and on Sunday told reporters that he’d be delighted if Jones puts up the same numbers he’s put up so far in his career. Showalter is a big advocate of baseball players in general and his players in particular. And he has told me on many occasions (including this spring training) that the attention should not be on him but on the players. When I asked him about his role in changing the culture of a losing club Showalter said, “It’s about the players. It’s about what they want to be about and what they want to accomplish.” That’s part of what makes Showalter an admirable and effective leader: he doesn’t want credit, he just wants his players to win. And Adam Jones would like help make that happen.