Many of the game's top hitters, including Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto, swing early and often. Jones certainly fits into that category. More often than not, the O's center fielder is looking to attack the first pitch. He finished 2013 with excellent offensive numbers across the board.
However, the negative comments were directed towards Adam Jones all night long. Were they forgetting that he's been one of the top producers in the American League the last few seasons? Did their claims hold water? Were there other factors in play here? Being the research nerd that I am, I took it upon myself to check some stats.
33.5% Career K/rate (Percentage of at-bats resulting in strike outs)
68.7% Career Contact% (Percentage of swings resulting in contact)
16.2% Career SwStr% (Percentage of swings and misses)
0.08% Career BB/rate (percentage of plate appearances resulting in a walk)
5,137 Pitches seen since Opening Day 2012.
20.9 % Career K/rate (Percentage of at-bats resulting in strike outs)
75.3% Career Contact% (Percentage of swings resulting in contact)
13.4% Career SwStr% (Percentage of swings and misses)
0.05% Career BB/rate (Percentage of plate appearances resulting in a walk)
5,137 Pitches seen since Opening Day 2012.
The Flacco Factor
In May 2012, Adam Jones signed a 6-year $85 million extension with the Baltimore Orioles. The deal instantly became the richest in franchise history, surpassing the Markakis and Tejada contracts. Are fans critical of Jones because he's making the most money? Perhaps, and there is precedent here. After leading his team to a Super Bowl victory, free-agent quarterback, Joe Flacco cashed in with a $120.6 million deal that guaranteed him over $52 million. All of a sudden, one of the team's best offensive players became a target for ignorance. Read this in your best "Balmer" accent: "I hate that the Ravens gave Joe all that money, because now they can't afford Anquan Boldin" . How many times did we hear that this season? First of all, it's not true. Mike Vick, Sam Bradford, Matt Schaub, Alex Smith and Josh F***ing Freeman had higher cap hits than the reigning Super Bowl MVP. The $6 million saved from Boldin was reallocated to help bring in Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Michael Huff, Brandon Stokley and all of their draft picks. Even though Flacco's deal will NEVER be worth more than the money he is guaranteed, people still called for his head in the midst of an 8-8 season. It didn't matter that nobody on the Ravens offense played up to expectations (I'd make the case for Marlon Brown, personally), Flacco was the fall guy because he was getting the fattest paycheck. Since Baltimore is a blue-collar fan base, maybe they expect more from Adam Jones because he's receiving the fattest paycheck in town. I know that if I am making a serious, long term investment in something, I expect a hefty return. Adam Jones has totally delivered on his end, whether fans agree or not. When compared to other contracts for the top players at his position, Jones' contract looks very fair. Just as if Flacco were to hit the open market in the NFL, Jones would be able to demand a deal worth over $100 million.
I've never had to deal with racism. Other than people assuming that my favorite restaurant is Olive Garden and that my family is somehow connected to the mafia, I am very blessed to never have known the struggles that millions of Americans have dealt with since the nation's birth. While I think that the United States has come a long way, it would be ignorant to say that racism does not exist today. In 2013, 61.4% of players on the Opening Day rosters in the MLB were white. Only 8.3% of those 750 athletes were African-American. This, of course, isn't news to anyone. Far more intelligent people than myself have spoke out about this issue. Players such as Jones, Torii Hunter and Jimmy Rollins have been active in trying to attract young, black males to the sport. In a league that's played by and followed by a majority of white people, I believe that some of the scrutiny these players face comes from racism. One of the "fans" behind us at the game last night referred to Jones as "stupid" and "ignorant" for swinging at bad pitches, but failed to make those claims about Chris Davis. I would hope that skin color wouldn't play into peoples' opinions, but a glance at message boards proves otherwise. When people can hide behind their computer screen, they can spew their hatred without comeuppance. Thinking back to the two fielding errors Jones made early in 2013, I can remember countless angry and racist remarks. He's black, so he has to be dumb. He should be playing basketball. Baseball requires intelligence. All of that is ridiculous. Jones has not one, not two, but THREE Gold Gloves. What bothers me is that I don't hear comments like that when Markakis or Hardy make a fielding blunder. It seems as if when Jones makes an error he is called out, while the other regular players can make mistakes without being held accountable. I thought I might be taking the race thing too far, so I decided to ask an African-American friend what he thought.
I definitely think race plays into it. Look, Jones is different. He comes out to rap music, and he plays the game with flare. There isn't a lot of flare to a guy like Matt Wieters or JJ Hardy.... I'm not saying that (the fans) are all racists or anything, because I don't believe that. I'm just saying that Jones stands out. He's the best player on the team, but when I go to a game I see way more Davis, Wieters, Hardy, Markakis jerseys. Those guys are all great, but people naturally root for people that are like them. I don't know why Jones gets criticized more than the others.
Adam Jones is not afraid to speak his mind. His interviews are brutally honest and often times laced with expletives. If you want a cookie-cutter response, don't ask AJ. Just last week, he made national headlines with his candid views on fans trespassing on the field. It wasn't the first time he has said something controversial, and it probably won't be the last time. If Jones executes his right to free speech, shouldn't the fans be able to speak openly about their opinions on him? It's only fair! When someone goes out of their way to make comments, they become a lightning rod for criticism. On the other hand, according to a survey on Twitter, Baltimore fans see Adam Jones as the face of the franchise. Isn't it up to the team's leader to be outspoken (cut to Joe Flacco shaking his head, "no")? Jones' honesty is what makes him a great interview and an exciting personality, but it definitely exposes him to extra attention.