As baseball grew into the American pastime it was all about being as close to the game as possible. This was achieved by actually attending a game or meticulously following the action through the flowery accounts of newspapers. Fans swore allegiance to specific teams and individual players that represented their community or because they liked how they conducted themselves on the field. It was all about the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, and getting as close as possible to experiencing it all first-hand. This is no longer the case, as baseball is now primarily consumed from afar. (more…)
Well after a few days off, a few spring training games, and a little rest on my brain, I am very excited to preview the 2012 American League Central Champion Detroit Tigers….I know I may be jumping the gun a little early, but hey….who we kidding here? The Tigers are the elite team in the Central division and will run away with the title! Manager Jim Leyland was quoted as saying “It should be a fun year”, well no kidding….the fact that they have one of the most feared lineups in the Majors, an arsenal in their pitching and one hell of a closer! Lets take a look at the off season moves the Tigers did this past winter. (more…)
Well after a few days of watching some Spring Training baseball, I’m back to preview the 2nd place finishers in the American League Central…the Cleveland Indians. Like I’ve said all along in my Central division previews, it’s going to be a crap shoot for the final four spots in the division behind the Detroit Tigers.
The Indians seem like they are the most suited to finish higher than Kansas City, Minnesota and Chicago. They had a busy off season, only loosing a couple guys but adding quite a few. Cleveland has a pretty decent lineup with the likes of Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo and a few others. Their pitching rotation isn’t great but its not bad which includes Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson and Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona). Cleveland is a low budget team who is trying to be competitive, like the Twins or White Sox, and if things work out they should be competitive for years to come. I believe the Cleveland Indians will finish the 2012 MLB season with a record of 82W-80L.
The Houston Astros have a new owner. That’s a good thing. Jim Crane has been doing and saying all the right things so far in his new capacity. He is lowering ticket prices to stir fan interest. He is looking at the team’s uniforms to breathe new life into the franchise. He has hired good people for the front office. The future of the Houston franchise certainly has to look better than its present and recent past. But now Crane is talking about changing the team name. What!?
Certainly, the “Astros” moniker isn’t perfect. It reminds you of the Jetson‘s dog on an old animated cartoon series. Whenever something wrong happened with the team, it was hard not to say comically, “Rut roh!” But the name made sense from the Houston area. The city has had the Oilers and the Rockets, all team names that define Houston somewhat. The Astros were a retrofitted name from the days when the franchise opened the Astrodome in 1965. It seemed natural for the Colt 45′s to change their name to the Astros upon entering that place. It all fit since Houston was the business hub of all things in the NASA glory years.
Major League Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement is bringing about some big changes to the game. The sport is now assured 21 straight years of peace. That means no lockout or strike. To help get a grasp of all the changes and the effects, here are some links from around the web.
- MLB Trade Rumors takes a quick look at some of the highlights of the CBA and then goes into greater detail on the CBA here
- Baseball America does a great job discussing the changes to the MLB Draft
- Jim Callis talks about how the “Draft Cap May Not Be So Harsh” at the Baseball America Draft blog
- Dave Cameron analyzes how the new CBA hurts the small market teams at Fangraphs
- Jim Duquette talks about the HGH testing at MLB.com
- At Sports Illustrated, the limit on the use of tobacco is discussed.
- Ken Rosenthal discusses the effect of the deal on Free Agents
MLB reports: The Astros come into 2011 as a rebuilding team. After trading away franchise icons Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, this year’s edition of the Astros operates without a known identity. After years of gutting the farm system, poor drafting and development, Houston finally decided wisely last year to blow the whole team up and start again. For fans of the Astros, this means an education as to who will be the future stars of the team. Is there any hope for the Houston Astros in 2011? Judging on its 1-5 start, Houston is exactly where most prognosticators picked them. Only the winless Red Sox and Rays have worse records. Whereas the law of averages will even out Sox and Rays records soon, the Astros may not be so lucky. In what will likely be one of the toughest seasons in team history, lets take a look at some of the faces behind the ‘Stros and find if there are any players currently on the team worth keeping an eye on.
Brett Myers: Houston’s top starter has no record in his first two starts, with a sparkling 2.03 ERA. A strong season a year ago, the Astros will lean on Myers to carry their young team and pitching staff. His 6/4 BB/K ratio is a concern early on, as well as a lack of run support. Myers should be able to keep his team close in most games this season, but a shaky bullpen and lack of offense means a low win total. If Myers keeps up his strong pitching, the Astros would be wise to move him by the deadline and continue to replenish their bare farm system.
Wandy Rodriguez: Every year people jump on the Wandy bandwagon and every year I sit and watch in disbelief. The thirty-two year old Dominican left-hander has shown glimpses of good ERAs and WHIPs and even won fourteen games in 2009. When Wandy is on, he is lights out. But in just as many games he tends to be off and can be extremely frustrating to watch. The Astros just handed Rodriguez a nice contract, which will hopefully look good in the books of another team by season’s end. I don’t expect Rodriguez to be taking the Astros to the Promised Land anytime soon…thus a move for prospects is also in order. The only other pitcher worth watching in Houston is J.A. Happ, who will also be taking lumps and showing growing pains. Another inconsistent pitcher, Happ will definitely miss the run support in Philly. In a year or two, Happ should become a solid number two or three guy in the rotation.
Brandon Lyon: I will insert firstly a disclaimer that I am a huge Brandon Lyon fan. I heavily respect the man and wish him well. But there is something about Lyon being the “man” in the bullpen that doesn’t seem to work well. Looking at his year thus far, he got tattooed in his first outing to the tune of 0.1 Inn, six hits and three runs. Ouch. A solid clean outing in his second outing and two hits given up in a runless inning in his third time around. When a team relies on Brandon as their closer, they are playing with fire. With a team for nothing to play for, the Astros are willing to take their chances on Lyon for the next two seasons. I feel bad for the Houston fans as they will need to sit nervously through most ninth inning leads to Lyon pitching. He is an ok stopgap at best. Hopefully the Astros will discover a young flamethrower that will eventually take over the role. In the interim, be patient Astros fans. Be patient. Sifting through the rest of the Houston bullpen, I find little if anything to get excited about.
Hunter Pence: The current face of the Astros, Pence now twenty –eight is coming off three straight twenty-five home run seasons. With pop in his bat and spring in his glove, Pence now has to jump to the next level to be successful. With little protection in the lineup, I expect to see Pence getting fewer quality pitches to hit. This will either lead to more walks or strikeout as a result. My hope that it is the former rather than the latter. Pence’s development is up to him, if he wants to remain a decent outfielder or rise to a superstar. Patience is key and with patience will come additional power. I remain skeptical as to whether Pence can jump to the forty home run club, as I see him unfortunately plateauing at his current levels. Maybe he will prove me wrong…only time will tell.
Brett Wallace: The next big thing in Houston, Wallace had the first base job handed to him and hopefully he will run with it. One of the purest hitters in the minors, I see his bat translating well in the bigs. My only reservation is that he has mighty big shoes to fill after the departure of Berkman. Hopefully the pressure does not crash this talented young player, as the sky is the limit given his potential. Wallace will need a full year in the majors to get himself going, but I am expecting big things from him come 2012.
Carlos Lee: As the final Astros position player of note, the soon to be thirty-five year old Panamanian is the poster child for failed big contracts. With age tends to come decline and in the case of Lee, the evaporating skills are showing. Still showing decent pop, reports indicate Lee’s defense is much below par. He would be a DH if playing in the AL but with Wallace entrenched at first, there is no where else to hide him in the field but left. While the Blue Jays hit the jackpot by unloading the Vernon Wells contract on the Angels, the Astros are not going to be as lucky to find takers for Lee. The hope is that Carlos can continue to be a leader in helping the younger plays learn the ropes and hit enough to compensate for his lack of defensive skills.
Besides Pence, Wallace and Lee, I really could not find any other positional players worth discussing. While Jason Castro was finally supposed to breakout in 2011, his season ended prematurely before it even began with injury. An unfortunate occurrence but ironically fitting for a team that has hit rock bottom. To all of the Houston fans, there is hope. You still have a beautiful park and the promise that your team is finally investing in scouting, draft picks and developing players. You do not have to look far but see Cincinnati and what they went through to rebuild into the power house today. With some luck and good scouting, hopefully you will get there yourself in a few years. Good luck on the season…you will need it.
Please e-mail me at MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback. You can follow us on Twitter @MLBreports, on Facebook at http://facebook.com/mlbreports and please bookmark us at http://themlbreports.com
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis | Tagged: Astros, baseball, Brandon Lyon, Brett Myers, Brett Wallace, Carlos Lee, Fantasy, Hunter Pence, J.A. Happ, Jason Castro, Lance Berkman, mlb, Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez | 10 Comments »
MLBreports: If you love, like or know of baseball, chances are that you have played some form of fantasy baseball in your life. Heck, you are probably drafting players or scouting magazines for your league as you read this article. The fantasy baseball obsession is felt throughout the baseball community. A great book was written by Sam Walker on the subject which I highly recommend, “Fantasyland – A Season on Baseball’s Lunatic Fringe.” Fantasy baseball magazines line the wall of bookstores. The game is everywhere. Now that it has engulfed you, let’s discuss some tips on how to win your league and claim the coveted fantasy championship:
I cannot emphasize this tip enough. Too many people research last minute for the draft and/or miss their draft and end up choosing a team on auto-pilot. These moves are considered fantasy baseball suicide. Purchase 1-2 good magazines that you trust and start making your cheat sheet lists. I recommend coming into the draft with several items: (a) magazine that lists players alphabetically and by position for easy reference; (b) board with all the roster spots by position labeled so that you can fill in your picks as you make them and know your openings at a moment’s glance; (c) list of your top 150 players ranked (regardless of position); and (d) list of top players, ranked in columns by position (number of players based on position). With these items in hand, you will already be ahead of many of your competitors.
This is a bit of a strong statement, as I generally like to have one solid closer on my team and 2-3 extra closers for emergency hoping 1-2 will pan out. The rest I find during the season. Remember 2 things about closers: they are pitchers (injury prone) and relievers (most likely failed starters, who can lose their jobs at a moment’s notice). New closers emerge throughout the season and 1/3 to 1/2 of teams will have new closers by season’s end. This happens every year. Try to avoid taking a closer in the first 5 rounds…even 10 rounds if possible. Chris Perez and Brian Fuentes could be very valuable to you and will be available to you in later rounds. If you get stuck with only 1 decent closer in the draft, smart waiver-wire pickups will lead to 2 more closers by May/June. Be patient with closers.
See #2. In real baseball, strong pitching will always win out. See the 2010 San Francisco Giants. But this is not real life, this is fantasy. In your league, much like the real MLB, pitchers represent ticking time bombs that can implode at a moment’s notice. There is something about throwing baseballs 50-100 times per game at 90+ miles per hour that seems to destroy pitchers’ arms. We know the names of the pitchers that we depend on but have failed us in the past. Peavy. Sheets. Beckett. Dice-K. The list goes on…and on….and on. I subscribe to the strategy that is hailed by some and condemned by others. Stockpile hitters and wait for the pitchers. A 12-14 win pitcher with a 3.50 ERA can be found throughout the season. An outfielder with 30+ home runs and 90+ RBIs are rarer. In the first 10 rounds you should ideally only draft 2 pitchers with a maximum of 3. Rounds 11-15 are where you will find your ideal pitchers. Go for strong bats and early and often, the pitchers will come.
Unless you are in a form of dynasty league where you keep year-to-year the majority of your roster, try not to fall into the trap of the prospect hype. Every fantasy player I know wants to be the guru who discovers the next big thing. Yes it is exciting to get a player that most people have never heard of and watch them explode. But these finds tend to be rare, as young players take time to develop. A stud rookie pitcher who has a great April will likely be hit hard later in the year as the league gets the book on him. Young hitters often need a taste of the bigs with more time in the minors before finding their grove with the big club. When drafting players, try to avoid players that are too young or likely past their prime. Bryce Harper is great, but unless you can keep him, he will not likely bring you value until 2012 at the earliest. Michael Young, at his age and wear and tear is ready for the sharp Todd Helton decline. Look for players in the 27-32 years old mold that already have 2-4 consistently good years under their belts. You know what you are getting with Jered Weaver, Nick Swisher and Dan Uggla. Consistency builds championships.
5) Walks are your friend and foe
After the age, the next stat that I always check is walks. For hitters and pitchers. Regardless of league, I always favor hitters that take a lot of walks and pitchers that tend to give up few walks. This is a hybrid of moneyball and my own personal take on fantasy. In my estimation, hitters that take walks are more likely to develop power and batting consistency, as opposed to free swingers. Pitchers with low walk totals will likely have low WHIPs and unless they beat themselves, should develop into pitchers with low pitch counts, high wins and low ERAs. This is my theory in a nutshell. It may not work for you, but it definitely has worked for me. When I am on the fence on choosing between several players, I look at their career patterns of walks and try to see the trend and make my selections accordingly.
6) Be positionally conscience to a degree
When I list my players by position, I note next to each player the range of rounds that I am willing to draft said player in. Inevitably, you will be in a league that at some point in the draft a “run” develops on a position. The 5th round could see 5 second basemen drafted. The 9th round has 7 catchers drafted. Try not to get caught in a run. For example, I never draft a player in the 5th round that I have targeted for the 12th-15th rounds. The player runs is your best chance to nab some steals. While other teams will be focused on positions, there will value picks that you had targeted early which will fall to you. But if a position is starting to dry up and only 1-2 options are left in a position within a round or 2 from your rankings, pull the trigger. There is no worse feeling than starting the year with Juan Pierre as one of your starting outfielders. Draft carefully but play it smart positionally.
7) Watch the waiver-wire
I rarely recommend obsessive and compulsive behavior. But if you are looking to win a fantasy championship, you will need to keep your eye on the prize. As soon as closer pulls an oblique or a catcher breaks a thumb, you have to pick up the back-up as quickly as possible. One year I was watching the Royals and Jays, with a new pitcher by the name of Joakim Soria pitching the 9th for the first time. I had my finger on the pick-up button, waiting to see if he would make the final out. I picked up Soria before the catcher shook his hand and beat 2 other teams to the punch by about 3 seconds each. Yes, you have to be that fast. Finding players as free agents is the best move you can make for your team with little risk. The waiver-wire is your source for closers to be and newly anointed, starting pitching replacements and streaky pick-ups. Strong injury comebacks are often found as well on the waiver-wire, depending on the number of injury spots your league allows.
Every year, I used to set out with the same strategy to employ the best players in my lineup, regardless of preference or bias. It rarely turned into reality. No matter how hot Jose Guillen or Carl Pavano became in my lineup, they would leave on a trade or drop on a moment’s notice. Having a fantasy team with constant additions and subtractions can be both time consuming and frustrating. Having a set lineup that can be used almost every week (injuries excepted) is the goal. Besides making your fantasy life more fun and enjoyable, it will be better for your team in the long run. Fantasy teams are no different than the stock market. Buying and selling stocks on a daily/hourly basis can lead to usually little or no return and becomes a game of chance. Holding onto the stocks for the long-run means weathering the storms and the highs and lows, with a more consistent gain likely based on purchasing the right stocks. Those stocks are the players on your fantasy team. If you place the players that you believe in, trust and have shown consistent performance at the right ages, those players (if injury free) will likely produce the stat lines you expect by the end of the year. When Joe Mauer slots into catcher, Mark Teixeira at 1B and Matt Cain at SP, I know what I’m getting. I put my foot soldiers in every week and let them play on autopilot. Try it…you will agree.
Trades can make you, and trades can break you. We all see ourselves as “Trader Jack” after Jack McKeon, formerly of the San Diego Padres. Many team owners are given grief if they become a “Stand Pat”, after Pat Gillick in his early days with the Toronto Blue Jays. What course should you take? Probably somewhere in the middle. I heard one theory that a team should make no moves in the first month of the season until they know what they have. I agree, but with a twist. My strategy is to view the team that I have right after my draft. I decide which players are untouchable and which I trust. I make a list of players that are expandable and which must go. From there I list off the positions that need to be filled and I start searching the waiver-wire. If strong options do not exist, then I open the floor to trading. I believe in a direct and sharp approach. Review all the teams in your league and their rosters. Find which teams have duplicate players that are expandable and locate the players on your want list. From there, e-mail teams with a demand for the player(s) that you want and offer them to look at your roster and to give you a list of players they want. If this fails, and only if this fails, then start sending out trade offers. By hook or by crook try to fill out your roster and then try to avoid trades until later in the season near the trade deadline. Throughout the season throw out the occasional request or offer if its definitely in your favor and acquires a player you like, but only in those circumstances. You will get offers throughout the year, try to be weary of them. Too many trades, especially early on in the season, can result from panic and poor play. If Ryan Howard or Mark Texeira are hitting .150 in April, its cool. However, if Pat Burrell has 10 home runs in April and someone offers you Matt Latos for him, grab him. Be realistic on your fringe players and stay true to your top players. Few teams in trades are out to help you, so unless a trade really makes sense…the best move is usually no move at all. However, if you are on the cusp of a championship and are 1-2 players away from glory, then grab it. Keeper league or not, a championship is a championship. Even if it makes your future years lean, a trophy lasts a lifetime. I traded Joey Votto when I had him in the minors as part of a deal for Chien- Ming Wang one year. Votto might be an MVP today, but I have a trophy instead.
Fantasy baseball is much like life. Sometimes everything will go right and there are times that it seems like nothing will go your way. Some fantasy years you will lose ½ your team to injuries and some years you will have no injuries until August. It happens. There is no use about worrying about things out of your control. The best that you can do is make your system and stick to it. The best gamblers in Vegas have their system and never deviate from “the plan”. Make sure you have your plan and follow through on it. Occasional mistakes will happen which can be a good thing, as they become learning experiences. You will find over the course of a season and several years what will work for you and what strategies will maximize your results. Just be sure to never make a move, trade or decision out of panic. Always calmly assess where you are at and where you want your team to go. I have seen too many teams drop star players at 3:00a.m. and make blundering trades in the 2nd week of the season for no reason. If you are not feeling good about your team, close the computer and walk away. Time heals all wounds and managing your team with a fresh mind and spirit is the best course. Its supposed to be fun, remember that!
Given the different types of leagues and scoring systems that are out there, unfortunately I could not tackle every form of issue that you will encounter. This article should assist most, if not all fantasy players, regardless of your format. 2011 is the first year that I am not participating in fantasy baseball, my first year off in close to 20 years. This was a difficult decision, but at the end of the day I knew that I could not devote the time, energy and spirit that fantasy baseball in its purest form requires. My time this year will be spent continuing to write, analyze and debate everything baseball. But the flipside is that my time away has encouraged me to write this piece and share my thoughts and fantasy wisdom with you, the readers. Not all of the tips I have listed will work for everyone, but hopefully most will serve you well. I look every day at my 2 fantasy championships with pride and I hope each of you can enjoy the same feeling in your winning seasons. With the MLB season upon us, good luck in your drafts and seasons! Have a great fantasy baseball year .
Please e-mail me at MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback. You can follow us on Twitter: @MLBreports as well as Facebook: http://facebook.com/mlbreports and please subscribe to our blog: http://themlbreports.com
MLB reports: It is not every day that I have the opportunity to correspond with a Gold Glove winning major league all-star, but over the last couple of weeks I got to do just that with Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles. Getting to know Adam and hearing his thoughts on the game, his career, and team was fascinating to say the least. The story begins as follows.
Adam, one of the most fan friendly MLB stars on twitter, started to converse with me on my usual favorite topic, baseball. I was instantly drawn to his easy going personality and zest for life and the game. After some messages back and forth, I brought up my blog and the interview articles I prepare on MLB reports. Being the cool cat that he is, Adam suggested he would love to help out a young writer and agreed to be interviewed for this profile piece. After some research, back and forth emails, and analysis, here we are today.
We covered a range of topics on the career of #10, which I am about to jump into further. Discussing topics ranging from the baseball influences on his career, his greatest accomplishments, goals, and areas of improvement, Adam did not hold back in his answers. Considering Adam was both an All-Star and Gold Glove recipient in 2009, it was astounding to find that he did not have an ounce of attitude in his answers. This is a player that is still humble at the age of 25 and works towards improving every facet of his game. The combination of baseball skills, work ethic and positive outlook, I believe will translate into a limitless future for one of baseball’s young bright stars.
One of the first questions that I asked Adam was to name the baseball player he most idolized growing up and patterned his game after. Born and raised in San Diego, California, to no surprise Adam named Tony Gwynn. However, the reasons behind his response did perk my curiosity. Baseball was not a sport that Adam “followed too strongly until approximately the age of 12” and only then, Gwynn was more a player that Jones had heard of than followed. When asked to expand, Adam explained that “I’ve hit with TG [Gwynn] for a few off-seasons now since I’ve been drafted. We have a tight group that hits together at San Diego State University.” As far as the influence Gwynn had on his game, Adam indicated that “what I’ve learned is myself. I’m not the hitter that he [Gwynn] was and that’s not my mentality. We’ve just had discussions of thought processes and having the ability to take a step back and let the ball come to you.” When breaking down the comparisons between Jones and Gwynn as players, his response becomes even clearer.
Tony Gwynn, a 2007 Hall of Fame inductee, played in 15 All-Star games, was the recipient of 5 Gold Gloves and 7 Silver Slugger Awards. Gwynn also ended his career with a .338 lifetime average. Jones, at the age of 25, brings a different game to the table. Gwynn is a difficult, if not impossible, player to emulate and Jones is realistic in this regard. The Gold Glove and All-Star appearance are already there with the promise of more to come. Adam’s batting average has slowly risen every year of his career to a high of .284 in 2010. With the right approach and discipline, .300 + is well within his reach. Like Gwynn, Jones does a bit of everything, including hitting for power and stealing the occasional base. Similar to Gwynn, Jones’ on-base percentage is dependent more on base hits than walks. The more I compare the players, the standard that Gwynn set for his career is one that I feel that Adam can strive towards. The bottom line on Gwynn is that the man could just plain hit. Jones, working his way up the major league ladder, could follow in the Gwynn’s footsteps, even if Adam does not implicitly try to do so.
My follow-up question asked Adam to name the current MLB star that he most admired. Based on Adam’s statistics and game style, I would have bet the answer was going to be Torii Hunter. Guess what? I was right. But again, the reasons behind his answer threw me. According to Adam, “there aren’t enough good things to say about him [Hunter]. But my favorite attribute about him has nothing to do with baseball. That what he does for a living. It’s his character. He [Hunter] is a true leader on and off the field and is highly respected.” My correlation between Adam and Hunter centered on their similar statistics and abilities on the field, in contrast to Adams’ vision of Hunter as a person and leader. Hunter, a 4-time All-Star, 9-time Gold Glove winner and a Silver Slugger recipient, as a youngster in many ways mirrored the player that we see in Jones today. In his breakout year in 2001, Hunter had a batting line of 27 home runs, .261 average, 82 runs, 92 rbis, .306 obp and .479 slg. Jones, in his 2009 campaign had a line of 19 home runs, .277 average, 83 runs, 70 rbis, .335 obp and .442 slg. Although not entirely the same, as hitters Jones and Hunter showcased several similarities in those respective years. The following is Hunter’s average season in the major leagues: .275 batting average, 25 home runs, 89 runs, 95 rbis and 17 stolen bases. Considering what Adam has accomplished to-date, these numbers are surely attainable and possible for him to exceed.
Adam indicated that he knew Torii very well and some of his favorite characteristics of Hunter was that “he plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played”, “not a guy that makes any excuses.” Adam mentioned Hunters’ upbeat attitude, and that his’ “favorite thing is that he smiles all the time. He shows he is happy doing what he loves to do.” Hunter’s personality has definitely rubbed off on Adam in a positive manner and reflects in his attitude and demeanor on and off the field. If I had to include a caveat, however, it is the holes that Hunter has in his game that Adam would be well served to avoid in his own play. Although Hunter is a strong home run hitter and has the ability to score and drive in runs, he has traditionally not hit for a high average or been able to get on-base at a consistent clip. By working with Tony Gwynn, Jones should focus on raising his own level of base hits and batting average to compensate for a lack of walks. At this stage of his career, it will be interesting to see if Adam becomes a high average and/or home run hitter as he progresses.
With the above comparisons in mind, I asked Adam what he considered to be his greatest baseball skill(s) and aspects of his game he most wished to improve. Rather than name a specific on-field capacity, Adam named his “lack of fear” as his greatest trait. Adam believes that, “others should be a better evaluator of my skills. I just play.” This answer fit well within his stated areas of improvement, whereby Adam indicates, “I really want to improve on everything. I need to steal more bases or be more aggressive. I need to play better defense. To get better judgment at the plate. The best part about baseball is that there is always something to improve on.” A star player that believes he can improve in every area of the game. How refreshing. When I pinpointed particular areas in his game, Adam responds by mentioning that he’s, “never been a high home run guy or walks or stolen bases. I’ve always played my game and that’s got me to where I’m at now. Adjustments are needed to be made in order to stay at this level so I am constantly trying to improve on something.” Whereas Gwynn, known as “Mr. Padre” and “Captain Video” for dedicating enormous amounts of time to studying video and his approach at the plate, Adam indicates the danger in thinking too much. While he does video, it can often lead into over-thinking and therefore Adam tries to avoid “thinking about hitting when in the batter’s box.” Let the instincts take over. An interesting and old-school mentality as a player, rather than trying to work on specific components, Adam works hard at improving all aspects of his game.
I was curious as to what Jones considers his greatest accomplishment to-date in baseball and what goals he had for the 2011 season. His 2009 Gold Glove ranks as the top accomplishment, because as Adam says, “it was decided by my peers.” For the upcoming season, Adam is focusing on, “playing harder than I have. For me in sports, I feel that if I play every day, the numbers take care of themselves.” I didn’t get the sense that Adam is the type that checks the box score every day to break down and categorize his own statistics. This is a player that is driven to play as hard as he can every day and simply focuses on helping his team win. Plain and simple.
Playing under Buck Showalter should only serve to further Adam’s approach to the game and lead to big things for him and the Orioles as the year approaches. Showalter, a 2-time MLB Manager of the Year, has a career 916-856 record in 12 seasons. Dissecting the numbers even further, in his 2nd year as a manager at each of his three stops, Showalter attained 88 wins with the Yankees, 100 wins with the Diamondbacks and 89 wins with the Rangers. Going into year two with the Orioles, Showalter will work to bring the same strong attitude and success to Baltimore as he has achieved in each of his previous stops.
As far as what Showalter brings as a manager, Adam indicated that, “accountability was number one. We held ourselves responsible for how we played. I believe what he (Showalter) wants is for you to give your best effort and play the game.” By having a similar mentality with his manager, I envision Jones growing into a leader on this young Orioles team. In his humble response, Adam considers that, “when it comes to the young guys, I’m still a young guy myself. But I always try and associate myself with my teammates in the clubhouse or the field. I want them to know that I got their backs.” That being said, Adam throws in a caution. “I want to be a leader, of course. But I’m not going to force the issue with that. You never want to cross the veterans on the teams and I try and show it (my leadership) with my play. This season we have added veterans that have won and been leaders of their respective squads. I think we have the possibility to have multiple leaders.” A very healthy attitude for a budding superstar growing as both a player and leader on his team. The Orioles bolstered their lineup for the 2011 season with the additions of Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee, J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds, in addition to Justin Duchscherer and Kevin Gregg joining the pitching staff. A veteran team almost overnight, Jones will have many experienced players to learn from in Baltimore as he continues his rise to the top of the MLB ladder.
Reflecting on the 2010 season, Jones felt that the Orioles as a team, “all tried to do everything possible and we couldn’t do it. We have to play as a team and have the faith in the guy behind you to get the job done.” With all the additions to the team and a new season ahead, Jones states, “I want to play baseball with them all. I am excited to get in the locker room and see my (new) team.” Considering the Orioles teams of the past that Jones has played for, it has been quite the journey for the 37th overall pick in the 2003 draft. Originally drafted as a shortstop by the Seattle Mariners, Adam was traded on February 8, 2008 to Baltimore as part of a package for then top of the rotation starting pitcher Erik Bedard. “My first reaction when I found out I was traded to Baltimore was ‘dang,’ I’m going east.” But then I thought to myself that I was going to have the opportunity to go and show that I can play this game at a high level.” For a team and player on the rise, the marriage between the Baltimore Orioles and Adam Jones couldn’t be a better fit.
With many bright years ahead of him, Adam took the time to reflect on what he would most want to be remembered for when it was time to hang up his spikes. “When its over and done, I want people to know that I played my behind off and loved the game that has treated myself and so many people well.” When you think of Adam Jones, do not look for the next “Tony Gwynn” or “Torii Hunter”. Consider Adam Jones as himself, the player that he his and the player that he is striving to become. Adam works hard and has a strong understanding of his strengths and areas he needs to improve. Behind the #10 jersey there is no hype, attitude or ego – just the baseball player we will always know as “Adam Jones”.
***A special thank you to Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles for his time and effort as part of being interviewed for this article. A thank you as well to Peter Stein, my editor in helping to prepare this piece.***
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis, Down and Dirty - Interviews | Tagged: Adam Jones, Derrek Lee, Erik Bedard, J.J. Hardy, Justin Duchscherer, Kevin Gregg, Mariners, Mark Reynolds, mlb, Orioles, Tony Gwynn, Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero | 1 Comment »