As Jones emerges as a star, time has come for O’s to sign him

What is it about Adam Jones and extra-inning homers?

He bashed the three-run shot in the 17th at Fenway Park and hit the solo blast in the 15th inning that just landed somewhere in Kansas City last night.

According to Elias, Jones is first player to hit two game-winning homers in the 15th inning or later in the same season since Mark McGwire in 1988.

In 38 games, Jones is now batting .295 with 12 homers, 24 RBIs, a .590 slugging percentage and .931 OPS. Jones has hit nine of his 12 homers against right-handed pitchers and is hitting .325 with an OPS of 1.005 against right-handers on the year.

All this makes me glad that I wrote in March that Jones would be the Orioles’ best option this season to bat fourth. Then I wrote:

“I think Adam Jones is the best choice for that spot at least at the start of the year. In a small sample size, 58 career at-bats hitting fourth, Jones has a .942 OPS. Most of those at-bats came last year when he had 47 at-bats hitting fourth over 13 starts and he went 18-for-47 (.383) with three homers and five RBIs. He had a slugging percentage of .638 and OPS of 1.072.

I see Jones as a player that is learning to handle clutch spots, like late-game situations where a big hit is needed. I think he would welcome the challenge and should get a shot there.”

Yeah, he seems to have warmed up to the challenge of batting in a key spot late in the game.

Nine of Jones’ 12 homers have either tied the game or put the Orioles ahead this year. That is an impressive stat. Jones now has six homers and 12 RBIs over his last 12 games.

Jones is having a breakout year and that is making the fans just scream even louder that the team should sign him to a long-term deal now.

Vice president Dan Duquette has talked about not negotiating during the year because it can be a distraction. But if he waits until this offseason, Jones and his representatives may decide to just wait until he can be a free agent after the 2013 season. Plus, Jones would bring less in a trade with just one year to go before free agency then he would now.

But I can’t imagine the Orioles have any thoughts of dealing their center fielder now as they watch him nightly emerge as one of the game’s stars.

He’s become a more mature player, a clubhouse leader and someone that will face the reporter microphones and notepads every night, win or lose. He hustles and leads by example.

He badly wants to win and, unlike some fans, I believe he does want to stay in Baltimore. I think the team’s turnaround will even add to his desire to want to stay and be a part of an O’s future that could feature a lot more winning.

Something that doesn’t get discussed much is how Jones has embraced the Baltimore community. It seems he is at a clinic or high school or youth event every weekend, even as the grind of the season goes on.

If there is one thing that could make this amazing season even better for Orioles fans, it would be to see the team get one of its core players locked up for many years to come. The time for action is now.

On the MASN telecast last night, they were talking about Jones wanting Xavier Avery to sit near him on the team plane. Is there anything he isn’t doing right now?

In short, Jones is a keeper and someone to build around. Duquette has already said that several times since taking his O’s job in November. The time for talk is over. It’s now time for the Orioles to show Jones the money.

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