When it comes to selecting baseball players for your team, should character count? I say a big yes to that, and in a sport that seemingly has a stat for everything, how can you rate how much having players of solid character helps your team?
Do you believe in having a strong clubhouse?
I don't know how to rate it, but I think it's important and was a crucial element in the success of the 2012 Orioles.
Before he hit his 100th career homer on Aug. 28, Adam Jones went through a long homerless stretch. One day a reporter kidded him about getting it over with. "We're winning," Jones said simply. In other words, who cared about a personal milestone when wins were more important. He not only said it, it sure seemed he sincerely meant it.
I remember the game that J.J. Hardy played with an ingrown finger nail. Every time he threw the ball, his finger bled. But he didn't want out, for one day or even a few innings.
To me, these are examples that show a player's true character. There were many others through the 2012 season. Watching Mark Reynolds play through an assortment of injuries. Seeing Chris Tillman work to make his way back to the majors. Watching Matt Wieters catch 17 innings. Jones played in every game, all 162 in the regular season. Seeing Jim Johnson blow a save against Oakland and then become almost unhittable for weeks after that. Watching pitchers like Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter move to the bullpen and fully embrace the moves. Seeing Chris Davis strike out Adrian Gonzalez.
When this year was there ever a question of an Orioles player being late for even batting practice, getting in any trouble away from the game or being a problem for their coaches in any way? I can't remember one time.
In the last year or two, adding players like Jason Hammel, Davis, Nate McLouth, Manny Machado, Jim Thome, Darren O'Day and Pedro Strop to name just a few, the Orioles added players that sure look like solid citizens and great teammates. To me, those additions have a cumulative positive impact. And, no, we can't put any stat on that, sabermetric or otherwise.
Accountability returned to the Orioles in 2012. Gone were the days of a young pitcher saying after a game he lost that "a few calls went against me and I was just a pitch or two away from getting out of that jam." They were replaced by comments like, "I have to pitch better and this is not acceptable. It's on me."
I can't remember a time when a player had a tough game and wasn't there by his locker to answer any and every question afterward. Believe me, that doesn't happen in every clubhouse.
I don't want to sound all warm and fuzzy about this, but I feel it was an important part of the O's success on their way to 93 wins and the playoffs last season.
What say you? When deciding which players to pursue for the Orioles, should character count?