Both players were generous with their time and answered questions from me and the fans on a large variety of topics.
At one point, I got into a lengthy discussion with Jones about the fact that several Orioles players were among the league leaders in games played this year. Did that lead to the team and the offense wearing down in September?
“Do you pay me to sit the bench or play baseball every day?” Jones said. “We had our days off. You get paid to play the game. You don’t want a day off, man. You don’t need it. You get paid to play the game.”
But is this something Buck Showalter has to look at when thinking about next season?
“Nope,” Jones said. “You get paid too much money to sit. Play. I show up here ready to play every day, that is my job description. We get 20 days off a year. That is plenty for me.
“That is what offseason workouts are for. My offseason workouts are all based on to get me to September. Playing up to August is easy. The last two months are the grind. That is why I work my tail off at 8 a.m. in the offseason.”
As you can tell, Jones wasn’t buying the theory that O’s players tired late in the year. But after scoring 5.5 runs per game with a team .806 OPS and 19-9 record in September 2012, the O’s scored 4.0 runs per game with an OPS of .708 and 14-14 record in September 2013.
The Orioles had four players finish first or second at their respective positions in games played - and it would have been five had Manny Machado not gotten hurt. Jones and J.J. Hardy were first in center and at shortstop, respectively, and Matt Wieters and Chris Davis were second in games played in the American League at catcher and first base, respectively.
“Awesome,” Jones said. “That shows we have that strong commitment to play every day and bring it every single day. Showalter doesn’t take any days off.”
While this year’s team averaged 4.8 runs per game before the All-Star break and 4.3 after, I am not convinced that they wore down this year. Some of the same players playing about the same amount were thriving in September 2012.
But I do think O’s management has to consider the possibility that several players carried too heavy of a load this season. If playing several fewer games over the first four or five months will lead to more wins late in the year, the club has to look at that for next season.
Not surprisingly, Jones didn’t agree with me on that.
“What went wrong is, we struggled down the stretch against very good pitching. Period,” Jones said. “Our pitching was good. Our defense was superb. We struggled as an offense down the stretch against very good pitching. You can’t cry about that. You ran into (David) Price, (Alex) Cobb, (Chris) Archer, some good starters. We gave it our all. Tip your cap and bring it next year. No crying in baseball.
“We are not doormats anymore. People changed their approach to us and paid more attention to us. They scouted us a little heavier. It’s cat and mouse. Now next year you figure out how do we get better.”
It was an interesting debate on a key topic from last season with one of the team’s top players. As always, Jones is an open book and gives his opinions and I respect him for that. He is also open to someone like me providing a counterpoint.
The guy knows the game and if you’ve seen him on MLB Network the last few days, you’ve seen evidence of that on a national stage.
By the way, you can click here to watch that part of our recent conversation. If you want to get right to it, forward into about the 2:20 mark and the conversation and debate on this topic then goes on for about seven minutes.
I won’t call it must-see TV, but it is interesting if you’ve got a few minutes to spare.
What is your take on this topic?