Adam Jones, Team Leader

Adam Jones, the hallmark of one of the best trades in a decade, is quickly becoming a force in the Orioles lineup and the Orioles clubhouse. The young CF seems to be actively trying to take on more of a leadership role within the organization. Jones is not a shy man, nor a secretive one. He as embraced twitter and his account is always a source of interesting comments on his day-to-day life.

Yesterday, Jones reported early to Spring Training which caught the eye of the local media. Roch Kubatko noticed that he stayed and made sure to sign autographs for everyone and anyone that wanted one. Peter Schmuck also chimed in on Jones’ desired role:

“He wants to assume a lot more leadership, period.”

Most people would agree that the Orioles need some sort of “team leader” but just what makes someone a “leader” is open to a lot of debate. Fans and bloggers alike throw terms around all the time: good clubhouse guy, on-the-field leader, field-general, face of the organization but when pressed to define such terms therein lies a problem.

No one argues the fact that Derek Jeter is the leader of the Yankees. He has that special combination of accoldades, talent, charisma and longevity that makes him not only an obvious leader but an era-defining star. But then you have a guy like Cal ripken Jr. Someone who every wanted to be a “leader” and he took the lead on many occaisions. He certainly was, and in most regards still is, the face of the Orioles but he was never the vocal stand-out team leader that people wanted. Cal led by example, he did his job well never really piped up and worked as hard as he could.

Since Ripken retired the Orioles have been searching to replace him. Not necessarily on the physical field but in the psychological one. When Ripken left he left a void that Orioles fans have been searching for. “Who will be the next Ripken” we all wonder. We wanted it to be Roberts, Tejada, Mora, Markakis, Surhoff. We have looked to so many different people to be a leader. But again – what is a leader?

A leader is really a sort of tough position. Someone who stands up and holds teammates accountable on and off the field on a successful team is a leader. But when someone does that on a losing team they are a “poor clubhouse influence”. Moreover, how can a player going into his third year in the league who has yet to put together a complete season just simply assert himself as “the Man” in the Baltimore clubhouse?

When the Orioles traded for Frank Robinson in the Winter of 1965 everyone knew what they were getting. The Orioles knew they were getting someone who would come in and instantly take charge of the locker room and had the proven credentials to back it up. Baltimore already had Brooks and Boog not to mention Palmer and Blair; why weren’t any of them the “leader” that Frank was? No one will ever really know why or how clubhouse leaders become what they become. To me it is more serendipity than anything else:

I only mention it because sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero? Sometimes, there’s a man…Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place.

There is no other way to put it. If Derek Jeter has the right combination and is the man for his time and place, hopefully another historic trade has brought a man to this team. A man for this time and place. Jones worked out in Arizona all winter, he knows he needs to put together a full season. He knows he needs to do a lot better than he did last year. he knows that All-Star games and Gold-Gloves only mean so much without more wins and playoff contention.Jones knows he can’t just walk in and assume the role like Jeter, Ripken and Robinson before him he needs to perform on the field first and show everyone, including the fans and himself that he belongs here and is deserving of every bit of praise.

I think these are serendipitous times for the Orioles. This could be our time, this could be our place – and Jones abides.