There's little doubt to any Orioles fan about who the leader of the team is. Since Adam Jones arrived in Baltimore prior to the 2008 season, fans have slowly fallen in love with the outspoken center fielder. When Andy MacPhail pulled off the trade to acquire Jones from the Seattle Mariners, I'd guess that few predicted the impact that he could have on the organization. That impact is growing deeper each day, and it's something that could put him in a class few have joined.
Jones went through four seasons of losing with the O's, the final four in a string of 14 straight for the franchise. That's something that has taught him, and other members of this team, how difficult and important it is to win.
You can look certain aspects of Jones' game and criticize him. He may have a lack of plate discipline or take a bad route to a fly ball at times. This is about much more than that. The impact Jones has made on this organization goes much deeper. You could be watching a player that joins the class of Baltimore sports icons. Jones could one day be mentioned in the same breath as Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken Jr. or Earl Weaver.
The impact Jones has had on the field is obvious. Three All-Star appearances, a pair of Gold Gloves and an offensive game that continues to evolve have turned him into one of the game's budding stars. He's also shown the ability to lead his teammates when times get tough. Jones is a player that others lean on and he's taken the responsibility for the team's actions.
There's also something to be said for the impact Jones has made off the field and in the community. He's been involved in making Baltimore a better place to live, and even decided to buy a house in the area this past offseason. There's only a select few athletes that make that kind of commitment to a team and a city.
He's provided numerous memories for Orioles fans in just a few years with the club. You won't soon forget the image of Jones sitting on the ESPN set during this year's Home Run Derby, devouring hot dogs and talking up teammate Chris Davis. The fact that he can provide a national television audience with that kind of humor and entertainment shows that he can be more than just another ballplayer; he can be human. That's something we don't often get to see with professional athletes.
Not all has been perfect for Jones during his tenure in Baltimore. When Jones is struggling at the plate or in the field, he hears about it through social media. He won't hesitate to stand up to his critics and mostly agree with them on Twitter when things aren't going the right way. This is a line that athletes typically cross when they shouldn't, but Jones has turned his interactions with fans into a positive by engaging them and holding himself and the team accountable.
Leaders come and go through major league clubhouses each year. It's not too often that a player enters a town and sticks like Jones has. This is not to say that he doesn't have a long way to go to solidify any type of historic status. The Orioles will need to win a championship or two during Jones' tenure with the team to give any kind of iconic status validity. That's what the greats like Robinson, Palmer, Ripken and Weaver all did. They won, and they won often. Orioles fans have been lucky enough to see a renaissance of Baltimore baseball, and it's being led by Jones.
The contract extension that Jones signed last May carried a lot more meaning and weight to it than the piece of paper it was printed on. It meant more than agreeing to earn more money than most people will see in a lifetime. That single action threw Jones into a role that hasn't been occupied since Ripken retired in 2001.
Jones might not be the one player you'd select to build your team around. That honor might go to Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, Angels outfielder Mike Trout or even Baltimore's own third baseman, Manny Machado. But you can rest assured that no Orioles fan would want to live with the idea of seeing Jones in another uniform anytime in the future.
The wonderful thing about seeing Jones in a Baltimore uniform is realizing that we could be watching a player whose No. 10 will sit in silver next to the warehouse building for years to come.
Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. His thoughts on the O's appear here as part of MASNsports.com's continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.