For nearly all of their history, the Orioles have had a player who could be identified by one name. There was Brooks. Then there was Eddie, and Cal, and in recent years, it’s been Adam.
In this new, uncertain Orioles environment, at least one thing seems certain: There’s not a recognizable symbolic player on the club.
After Cal Ripken Jr.’s retirement in October 2001, the Orioles had a similar hole. For a few years as the Orioles continued their streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons, there wasn’t what we like to call a “Face of the Franchise.”
Then, there was Brian Roberts. While the team lost, Roberts symbolized hope, and for a certain segment of young Orioles fans, good looks and charisma. He became heavily involved in community affairs, regularly visiting young patients at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.
As Roberts’ star waned, and the Orioles began to play better, it was Adam Jones who took Roberts’ activities several steps farther.
Like Roberts, Jones owned a home in the area, which few contemporary Orioles have. Many of his charitable activities were publicized, but sometimes he didn’t want to talk about them. However, there was never any doubt how deep his commitment to the community was.
There’s a possibility Jones will return to the 2019 team, but it seems to be a long shot because of the Orioles’ desire to get younger.
Excellent pitchers are admired, but they don’t qualify for this role. While Jim Palmer is the only player who was a member of the Orioles three championship teams in 1966, 1970 and 1983 and lived in Baltimore, he never was considered the symbolic leader Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray or Cal Ripken were.
A manager can’t be, even though Earl Weaver and Buck Showalter were admired greatly by the fan base.
It will be interesting to see what kind of public persona Showalter’s replacement will have. Showalter was the ultimate media-friendly manager and had a strong community presence.
Had Chris Davis’ numbers not slipped so badly, it’s possible he could have slipped into Jones’ role. Davis has assumed Roberts’ role at Maryland’s Children’s Hospital and become involved in “Casey Cares,” a program that provides enjoyable experiences for critically ill children.
But Davis has become a polarizing figure because of his performance.
The franchise’s face is often the player the press goes to when things are going well and when they aren’t. If there is anyone on the team who can grow into that, it might be Trey Mancini.
He’s easily identified by his first name. He’s smart, a political science graduate of Notre Dame, well-spoken and had a good first year, finishing third in Rookie of the Year balloting in 2017.
Mancini slumped badly in the first half of the year, but hit much better in the second half. However, a .242 hitter probably isn’t going to make it as the Orioles’ most recognizable player.
When asked about the possibility of being the franchise’s face late in the season, Mancini chuckled and adroitly said he didn’t envision himself replacing Jones. He did emphasize how much he enjoys Baltimore and playing for the Orioles.
Perhaps, the franchise player isn’t with the team now. Or it could be something that just occurs organically. I don’t think anyone ever thought Jones would become so identified with the team and city.
Today is the 35th anniversary of the Orioles capturing their final World Series championship, and as fans wonder how long it will be until there is another, they can also imagine who will be the team’s stars when they do.
Arizona Fall League Update
Six members of the Orioles’ organization are playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League.
Steve Wilkerson, is batting .308 (4-for-13) in five games with an RBI. Wilkerson concluded the 2018 season with the Orioles. Outfielder Ryan McKenna, who split the season with Double-A Bowie and High-A Frederick, is 3-for 9 (.333) with three RBIs. McKenna has struck out five times.
Martin Cervenka, who caught for Bowie, is hitless in four at-bats.
Right-hander Tanner Chleborad has allowed a run on three hits in two innings. Chleborad’s Baysox teammate, left-hander Jay Flaa, has thrown 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Another left-hander, Chris Lee, has thrown two shutout innings, allowing a hit. Lee pitched for both Triple-A Norfolk and Bowie.
Frederick left-hander Tyler Erwin has given up a run on two hits in three innings.
The Desert Dogs, managed by Orioles minor league infield coordinator Dave Anderson, are 0-5.