BALTIMORE—The last day for two Baltimore baseball legends began with manager Buck Showalter saying he didn’t know what the future held for him, and Adam Jones playing a final inning in center field.
Nothing’s official, but all indications are that Sunday was the final day in an Orioles uniform for Showalter, who’s managed here since August 2010, and Jones, who’s been the best player on this iteration of the Orioles since 2008.
Showalter wanted to give Jones a last start in center field, the position where he earned four Gold Gloves and five All-Star team selections until he gave way to Cedric Mullins last month.
Jones led the team on the field—except no one followed. For several moments, he basked in the crowd’s applause and waited for the other eight starters to join him.
“I greatly appreciate it … my teammates for sending me out on the island all by myself,” Jones said. “I didn’t know that was going to happen.”
The day in the field wasn’t memorable for Jones. He was 0-for-4 in the team’s 4-0 win over the reigning world champion Houston Astros.
Jones’ farewell overshadowed a combined one-hitter by Jimmy Yacabonis, Paul Fry and Mychal Givens. Jose Altuve’s fourth-inning single off Yacabonis was the only Astros’ hit, but it was Jones who everyone was talking about aferward.
Each time Jones came to the plate, the Oriole Park fans stood. Some held signs that read: “Bring Adam Back.”
He struck out twice, flied to center and grounded out to short. In his one inning in center, no ball was hit to him. Jones moved to right in the second inning.
As the Orioles came onto the field for the ninth, Showalter walked over to home plate umpire Chad Whitson and told him of the changes he was about to make. Jace Peterson checked into the game to play third. Jones belatedly ran to right, but Joey Rickard quickly followed, enabling the fans to cheer Jones once more as he made his way back to the dugout.
“It’s about doing what’s right for Adam, OK?” Showalter said. “And really for Baltimore. It’s pretty easy.”
Jones turned toward his fans in the bleachers, the ones with whom he’s had a special relationship with for years, waved his cap and began the trip in.
He hugged Rickard, first baseman Trey Mancini and Astros first base coach Alex Cintron, who was an Oriole teammate in Jones’ first season in Baltimore.
One-by-one, his teammates hugged him as he came to the dugout. Givens quickly retired the side in the ninth, and Jones’ Oriole career came to an unofficial end.
“The game’s over, the season’s over, the next chapter starts,” Jones said. He made one more impression by running the bases with the kids after the game.
Showalter’s day was much more low-key, but he noticed the crowd’s reaction, too.
“What do you think?” he said.
Before his presumed final news conference as the second-longest tenured manager in Orioles history, Showalter said he wanted to talk about the game, signaling no questions about his future.
“We won the game,” Showalter said. “I’m happy we won. I’m not going to go there. Thanks.”
Before Jones received his third Most Valuable Oriole award, he walked out of the dugout, handing out memorabilia from his lockers.
“I got too much stuff in here,” Jones said. “I don’t want to take it with me. I might as well give it to folks.”
In late July, Jones vetoed a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies so that he could finish the season with the Orioles. The move didn’t thrill the front office, which is in the midst of a full-scale makeover.
“They use the word ‘rebuild’ around here this year, and I haven’t heard that word … since I was the rebuild,” Jones said.
It’s possible that Jones could return to the Orioles in 2019 if they can’t find a suitable right fielder, and he can’t find a suitor. But, for now, that seems far-fetched.
“I’m going into this really excited because I’ve never been flirted with,” Jones said about free-agency. “So I want to see if I can be flirted with a little.
“It’s been a great run here, a great tenure here. Hopefully, we’ll go somewhere and see what the next chapter in my career has [in store].”
Showalter hasn’t been told that his time as Orioles manager is over, but he’s prepared.
“To say I haven’t given it some thought would be crazy,” Showalter said about his future. “That would really insult your intelligence.”
With managing partner Peter Angelos, with whom Showalter forged a close relationship largely out of the picture, his sons, John and Louis, will make the call on the manager.
“Mr. Angelos’ family has been great to me, so whatever direction they’ve decided to go, I’m at peace with it,” Showalter said.
Jones has a home in Baltimore County and a winter home in San Diego, where he’s from. He hopes that another team can make him as happy as he has been in Baltimore.
“It has gone by quickly,” Jones said. “What’s the saying? When you’re having fun, things go by quickly. I’ve been in the same locker for 11 years. Some cool things … Hopefully, I can do them somewhere else. Hopefully, a team appreciates what I bring to the table.”