“We’re delighted to have him, we’re delighted to have him for three more years after this,” said president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail. “It’s nice to have one position where you just have to, knock on wood, not have to worry about it for a while. It’s great to have a good, young player come in and contribute to the extent that he has. We asked him to do some things at the beginning of the lineup that he hasn’t really been accustomed to and has done a terrific job for us in every facet of the game. Really, everything that you could possibly ask for, he has more than delivered, so we’re delighted to be able to call him a Baltimore Oriole for three more seasons.”
Hardy, in typical fashion, looked somewhat embarrassed by all that praise.
Given his turn to speak, the first words out of his mouth were, “What a nice thing to say there.”
“I’m also very excited,” he said. “From Day One in spring training I’ve really felt comfortable in this clubhouse, all the coaches, players. Everyone’s really made me feel comfortable and I’ve really enjoyed my time here.”
Hardy’s past experiences in Milwaukee, where he was pushed aside, and Minnesota, where he never felt like a real part of the team, played a part in his decision to stay with the Orioles.
“To come in here and see the way this is and like it, it definitely helped me make the decision to stay,” he said.
MacPhail said he’s probably never been “more bullish” about the future of the team despite the losses that have piled up.
“Our starting pitching has scuffled some, but sometimes you have to be objective and look at the schedule,” he said. “We probably faced two of the more potent teams in the game on their home turf, but I think adding J.J. at 28 for three years to be in the middle of our infield, with Adam (Jones) behind him and Matt (Wieters), and I have a lot of confidence that our young starters are going to get back to the level that they’ve demonstrated they can compete at. I think there’s a lot of improvement on the horizon. We’re going through a tough spell now, but to be honest with you, over the course of this negotiation, my concern was we were scuffling so much, he might have second thoughts. So, we were trying to get this thing done despite that in a period where we would have time to react if we couldn’t get it done.
“This is an important piece for us, to have a good, solid shortstop who’s 28 years old who we can count on for the next few years.”
MacPhail talked about “a relatively tight timeframe” for getting a deal in place.
“And very quickly, each side got to where they were comfortable,” he said. “And then giving ground once we reached this level was tedious. And one of the concerns that was articulated by J.J.’s representative, and rightfully so, was, ‘Look, we don’t want to sign an extension and then have you trade us in a week or two.’ And we were very sympathetic to that. That wasn’t the idea behind the extension, to make him more attractive to another club. The idea behind it was to fill a spot that’s been troublesome for us for the last several years.”
Asked what makes Hardy an even better player than the team realized after trading for him during the winter meetings, MacPhail said, “Your stomach tells you a lot about this game, and when the ball is hit to shortstop, you have a pretty good feeling. And that’s not all that usual at shortstop. It’s a tough position. But there’s a good, warm feeling when that ball gets hit in that general direction at any time in the game. And offensively, he’s rebounded to where he’s been in the past in his career. So, we’re really getting plus-plus productivity on both sides. Plus, you get a sense for how people interact in the clubhouse, and you want to build the character. It’s important going forward that we have the right kind of personalities in our clubhouse. They’re going to have to compete and take on some tough challenges.”
Hardy isn’t afraid of challenges. Otherwise, he would have tested the free agent waters and tried to latch on with a contender.
“I like the people that I’m around, and in this business, being around these guys for 200 straight days a year, maybe more, if you’re not enjoying your time, it’s pretty tough to come to the ballpark,” he said.
“The other thing is that I really believe that Buck (Showalter) and Andy and Peter (Angelos) and everyone has the power to make this organization better. They’re doing everything they possibly can to do that, and I really feel that in the next three years we can definitely make some improvements.”
I’ll pass along more comments later today.