Not to make it about myself on the first day of the Orioles offseason, but I can’t remember a final game before yesterday that was less about the outcome and recapping what went right and wrong over the summer.
So I did sort of make it about myself. Hang with me.
The Orioles defeated the Astros 4-0 for their seventh shutout of the season against the 15 thrust upon them. They finished with a 47-115 record, failing to reach 50 wins in the worst season in franchise history. It was as brutal as it looks on paper.
Staggering to the finish in June is no way to live.
The collapse would have been dissected a lot more yesterday if not for the drama surrounding manager Buck Showalter and outfielder Adam Jones. The heavy doses of sentimentality hitting us simultaneously.
The expected departures of two of the more important figures in club history dominated the day. A combined one-hit shutout seemed inconsequential. We didn’t spend much time on Jimmy Yacabonis, who covered the first four innings and should be celebrated for withstanding the constant shuffling between Triple-A Norfolk and the majors and his designation as 26th man to the world. It didn’t break him.
We didn’t dwell on Trey Mancini’s two hits and RBI to close a stellar second half. His 141 hits ranked second on the team. I’m guessing that he was runner-up to Jones for the Most Valuable Oriole award.
It was hard to get past Showalter and Jones, which is exactly what they wanted to avoid. But Showalter was 100 percent right to arrange for Jones to take the field alone in the top of the first inning and to remove him in the top of the ninth and allow the fans to cheer him, many with tears in their eyes.
The Orioles’ window to contend slammed shut on their fingers, shattering knuckles and leading them into a total teardown and rebuild. My traditional goodbyes yesterday felt really weird, with no handshakes for Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop. No Mark Trumbo, who’s still in the organization but has mostly been invisible since his surgery.
It would have been a lot easier to focus only on a season recap, the final game for the beloved team captain or second-winningest manager in Orioles history. Who ordered the sampler platter?
Jones won’t be coming back to the Orioles. They clearly have moved on from him because he doesn’t fit in their rebuild. And he deserves the chance to go somewhere with the opportunity to make it back to the playoffs, though he passed on it at the trade deadline.
“They use the word rebuild around here this year and I haven’t heard that word since, obviously, me,” he said. “I was the rebuild - me, myself and (Chris) Tillman and (Nick) Markakis. There were a lot of other guys. It’s all cool. You’ve just got to take it all in. It’s been a great run here, great tenure here, so hopefully go somewhere and see what the next chapter in my career has for me.”
No one should try to predict the market for Jones after last winter’s free agent craziness, with so many big names staying on the board.
“We shall see what happens,” he said. “I’m going into this really excited because I’ve never been flirted with, so I want to see if I can be flirted with a little bit.”
Eleven seasons are in the books for Jones as an Oriole. Maybe the next chapter is his return to Camden Yards in another uniform.
“It has gone by quickly,” he said. “What is the saying? When you’re having fun, things go quickly. But cool things.
“I’ve been in the same locker for 11 years. Hopefully, I’ll do it somewhere else and hopefully a team appreciates what I bring to the table.”
Showalter wasn’t ready yesterday to talk about future plans, not with one more game to play - winning remained a priority - and no official word on his status. The expectation is that someone else will be managing the club next year. Official word could come as early as today.
As Jones came off the field, with Joey Rickard taking his place in right field, Showalter held firm in his usual spot in the corner of the dugout closest to home plate. He was one of the last to get a hug, but it lasted a few ticks longer than the others.
Showalter has mentioned in the past, including yesterday in his office, how a look can say much more than words.
So, too, can a hug.