Calling the Pen: Oriole fans get cold splash of business, try not to take it personally - BaltimoreBaseball.com
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Calling the Pen: Oriole fans get cold splash of business, try not to take it personally

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

It was a 30-minute swim, but when it was over, there were ripples throughout the Baltimore baseball community. My wife, Barb, got in the water just before 4 on Tuesday afternoon to do laps while I sat near the pool on my laptop, checking for player movement as the non-waiver trade deadline approached. When Barb finished her swim, I told her the Orioles had traded Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day. “That makes me sad,” she said.

The speed with which those trades were announced reflected the past couple of weeks in the Orioles’ rebuilding project. Gone are Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Schoop, Gausman and O’Day. It’s business, and yet it’s deeply personal.

Adam Jones represents both sides. And Oriole fans can relate. Their team, as bad as it is, has been leveled. In its place might be the building blocks and the money to construct something better. Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette made it clear that this wasn’t a Fixer Upper.

For now, we’re left with the hope that Duquette and his project managers know what they’re doing with their business. The personal feelings are our own.

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When Machado hit a home run in his final at-bat of his first home game as a Dodger, Schoop wasn’t there to greet him for their signature celebration. I missed seeing the two of them together, sharing the joy of playing a kids’ game.

Like Machado and Britton, Schoop acknowledged it was sad to leave the organization in which he’d grown into adulthood and stardom. It’s the business, but it’s personal.

Later, Gausman held back tears while practically apologizing for not being better as an Oriole. “You liked him, didn’t you?” Barb said. I did, but I was critical that his performance was uneven, especially because his talent didn’t match the results. Now, I was discovering he was critical of himself, and probably hard on himself.

In a different position, sat Adam Jones, possessing 10 years in the majors and five with the Orioles. He could say no to a trade, and did, refusing a deal to go to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Among his many fans were those who wanted him to have the opportunity to play for a contender, those who thought they knew what was best for him.

Jones thanked them for wasting their personal time, making it clear that it was a decision that he and his family needed to make. Period.

That’s where the business and personal feeling intersect in a way that’s hard to explain. The Orioles are a big business, but that’s not how most fans think of them. They form bonds with the players, develop favorites, and make a substantial emotional investment. These aren’t simply business transactions but people we think we know and for whom we want the best.

Of course, we also criticize them in ways that might shatter us if we faced that kind of scrutiny on the job. It’s a passion play, and we get to sit in the audience of live theater, cheering or booing the players depending on their performance. It’s a business, but it’s personal.

Now, we’re left with a lot of players to whom we’re not as strongly attached in a season that took a deep dive from the start. As manager Buck Showalter pointed out, it’s an accountability business, and this makeover wouldn’t be taking place if the team had played better.

He also said how difficult it has been to say goodbye to the six players the Orioles have traded. The accountability business is deeply personal, and on Tuesday Oriole fans were drenched by that reality.

Editor’s Note: After observing David Watts, one of Woodcroft Swim Club’s owners, making time to talk with members, I asked if he enjoyed it when the conversations became critiques. “Absolutely,” he said. “If they don’t share, they don’t care. I would never want that.” For some who attend every day, the pool feels like a home away from home — a place where they can suspend reality for a time. They understand that business is personal.

Jack Gibbons spent 46 years in sports journalism, including a chunk of that time as sports editor of The Baltimore Sun. Now retired from full-time work, Jack serves as the lead editor and writer for BaltimoreBaseball.com’s “Calling the Pen,” a periodic feature that highlights baseball essays written by the community. If you would like to contribute to ‘Calling the Pen,” send a 750-1,200-word, original piece via email to [email protected] for consideration.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. DiamondJim

    August 4, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Adam Jones demonstrated how flimsy was his talk about wanting to get a ring. With a re-build clearly being initiated, the Orioles’ management presented Jones with an opportunity to realize a career goal that he and his teammates in Baltimore were not able to make happen. But what was his response? A veto of the opportunity because, as he flippantly told reporters, “it’s my career and I have earned the right” to make such a decision. Well, I hope the Orioles’ management exercises its right to provide Jones with a seat on the bench for the month of September so that the young players who need to audition can be in the lineup.

    • TxBirdFan

      August 4, 2018 at 4:45 pm

      Adam goes out and plays hard everyday, leads the Orioles in hitting, is respected by virtually every other player in the league, gives back to the community, and has a desire to win that is trumped only by his family needs. Wow – you can’t sit a guy like that! He’s a role model that the younger players can aspire to be. The Orioles are fortunate to have him and should treat him with the same kind of integrity that he gives them every day.

      • Mau

        August 4, 2018 at 8:27 pm

        Amen. How can anyone criticize a player for wanting to remain on their team despite all odds? Not just any player either. Really starting to wonder about Earth when people can criticize something like this. AJ contributes to the community and plays his ass off.

    • Jack Gibbons

      August 5, 2018 at 1:02 am

      DiamondJim, You say what’s on your mind with the same straightforwardness as your namesake, or with the directness of Adam Jones. Although we might not understand Jones’ decision, or might not like his explanation, I appreciate all that he has done on and off the field. He’d give the Orioles a better corner outfield option than they have now, and the young players would benefit from his experience.

  2. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    August 5, 2018 at 10:50 am

    I think these trades were harder on fans because 4 of the 6 traded were drafted/signed and developed by the Orioles. Out of those four all are relatively young players with Britton as the oldest. Baltimore fans went through a long period – 14 years of losing and frustration. These players and others helped turn this team around and were playoff contenders from 2012-16. Now with that core of young players gone its hard for fans to connect with these new acquisitions most of which are prospects. I thinks some fans like myself feel if they focused on international talent, resigned Cruz, and extended Manny. This rebuild would not be happening. Now the hope is moving forward to develop the minors through better drafting and signing international talent. Hopefully this new way of doing business reverts back to the days when the Orioles were perennial winners with a solid minor league system.

    • Jack Gibbons

      August 6, 2018 at 9:58 am

      All good points; agree with everything you’ve said, Grand Strand. Watched Britton work the seventh of last night’s Yankees-Red Sox game, which was a classic. Was pulling for him in pinstripes.

      • Mau

        August 6, 2018 at 9:25 pm

        First time in my life I’m rooting for a Yankee. I feel so dirty.

  3. DiamondJim

    August 5, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    Dan Duquette was recently asked if Adam Jones (after his veto of the trade to Philly ) was a part of the club’s future in the re-build. Duquette’s answer was, “I can’t answer that question but I can tell you that we’re going to be auditioning a lot of young players.” To me, that was about the most delicate way that Duquette could indicate that Jones’ career with the Orioles is history after the 2018 season. The point of my initial entry was to say that while Jones has the right to veto any trade and remain with the Orioles, it serves the Orioles no good, especially if Jones takes at bats away from aspiring talent from the minors who will be called up to the major league roster in September. If the Orioles are going to audition the players of the future in the remaining weeks of the season, as Duquette indicated, Jones should not play. And if he doesn’t play, what good is he doing even for himself as a free agent in the off-season? The business reality of what is happening with the Orioles is this. The expiration date for the team that finished last in 2017 and will duplicate that feat in 2018 has passed. The club is moving on, as it should, and so should Adam Jones. And how much more consideration could the Orioles show Jones than a trade to a pennant contender in a location just a 90 minute drive from Baltimore? Yes, Jones has earned the right to do what he’s done. I just hope the Orioles won’t allow his decision to get in the way of the work of re-building the team.

    • Jack Gibbons

      August 6, 2018 at 10:23 am

      DiamondJim, I don’t disagree with a thing you’ve said, and I appreciate the fullness of thought. Duquette made it more clear than I expected that Jones wasn’t in the plans for the team’s future. I have a soft spot for Jones because of his heart for the community. However, the Orioles have been up front with him, and, as you pointed out, tried to trade him to a contender just up I-95. I respect his choice, but I also think you’re right that he shouldn’t be taking away playing time from those who might be promoted between now and the end of the season. I think it was Jones who said the most important thing for those players is to get major league at-bats. Part of this transition is a transition of thought on how to proceed with the rebuild.

    • Mau

      August 6, 2018 at 9:32 pm

      I don’t think it would hurt the rebuild to have a still-producing elder statesman turned corner outfielder help guide the pups coming up. The O’s community needs a team leader who is interested in the community to help it through another bout of mediocrity. He’s earned it in many ways.

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