It seems pretty clear to me that Matt Wieters, Jim Johnson and Adam Jones are the top three candidates for this year's Most Valuable Oriole award. It also seems clear to me that a very solid case could be made for any of the three to win the award.
But when I turned in my ballot this week I voted this way:
1st - Jones
2nd - Johnson
3rd - Wieters
The argument that Johnson has been one of the game's best closers, anchoring one of the game's best bullpens, which is the strongest part of the Orioles team, is a very strong one. So is the value of a catcher as sound, durable and smart as Wieters who to add to his case is having a great offensive month as well.
But Jones to me has been the best Oriole player over 156 games and, by the way, he is one of two players in the AL (Prince Fielder is the other) to have played in every game.
Jones is batting .292 with 39 doubles, 32 homers, 15 steals, 101 runs and 81 RBIs. He has an OBP of .340, a slugging percentage of .517 and OPS of .857.
He ranks fifth in the AL in hits, fourth in runs and tied for third in extra-base hits. Miguel Cabrera has 82 extra-base hits, Albert Pujols 78 and Jones 74. Yes, he is keeping good company there.
This year Jones became the first Oriole to score 100 runs since 2009. The club is 23-8 when he homers and 20 of his 32 homers have either tied the game or given the O's the lead.
To me two of the biggest of his many big swings this year came on May 6 at Boston and Sept. 6 in Baltimore. On the first date he homered in the 17th to give the O's a 9-6 win over the Red Sox. Yes, he homered off a position player but it was a huge hit that gave the O's a big early-season win.
Just a few weeks ago the Orioles began a huge home series with the Yankees. The O's gave up five runs in the top of the eighth as New York tied the game 6-6. Seconds later, Jones homered in the bottom of the eighth to reclaim the lead for the Orioles who went on to a 10-6 win and a tie for first place.
In the season's first two months, when the team was getting off to a good start and setting the tone for this season, Jones hit .314 with 16 homers and 34 RBIs. This month, during the critical home stretch, he is batting .324 with six homers, 13 RBIs and a .950 OPS.
None of this yet even mentions Jones' strong defense at a very key position or his tremendous leadership. In a clubhouse filled with players that exhibit great leadership qualities, Jones may top them all. It seems after every win he tweets that the team can't be satisfied, has to keep pushing and stay hungry.
It doesn't resonate with fans because they don't see it, but Jones is available all year for reporters questions, through good times and bad, after big wins and tough losses. He's been there to answer every question, never ducking any of them and always saying the right thing and supporting his teammates.
In a year with some very strong candidates to be the MVO, Jones was the choice for the top spot on my ballot.