A pair of All-Star players recently provided differing takes on the Orioles’ offseason that spark an interesting debate with the start of spring training less than a month away.
First baseman Chris Davis expressed concern last week that the club has yet to add a veteran starting pitcher to help anchor the rotation while center fielder Adam Jones offered a softer stance to MLB.com this week in saying that the Orioles don’t need high-profile names to contend this season.
“My expectations, personally, are always with the team,” said Jones, who signed a six-year, $85.5 million contract in the spring of 2012. “I know one thing about us – we’re going to be ready to grind and show up ready to play. We don’t need the bigger names on the jerseys. We don’t need all that. We just need 25 men who are ready and willing. We’re all for the common goal. Right now, I know that [manager Buck] Showalter is going to pick the best 25 for Opening Day to ride into the sunset with.”
It’s no secret that disenchantment reigns supreme among fans with the acquisitions of 28-year-old left fielder David Lough, relief pitcher Ryan Webb, and right-handed designated hitter candidate Delmon Young highlighting an underwhelming winter that follows the Orioles’ second consecutive winning season — but one that did not include a second straight postseason berth. Baltimore’s projected payroll for the 2014 season currently sits in the neighborhood of $83 million, down almost $10 million from where it was at the start of 2013.
Those realities raise the question of what place standout players such as Jones and Davis hold in voicing their concerns over the direction of the club. While they’re obviously employees who want to remain in good standing — specifically Davis, who just received a $7.05 million raise and isn’t scheduled for free agency until after the 2015 season — it’s also human nature as competitors to become frustrated watching the organization trade closer Jim Johnson in a salary dump and allow others to depart without adding any significant names to augment an 85-win club from a year ago.
Veteran right fielder Nick Markakis famously questioned the direction of the Orioles in the summer of 2010 after a horrendous 18-48 start to the season, but those comments came under far bleaker circumstances.
If you’re Jones, Davis, or any other notable player, is there an appropriate way to hold your employer accountable without damaging your working relationship beyond repair?
Is it too big of a risk to make critical remarks that could be interpreted the wrong way by current teammates and potentially damage the clubhouse culture?
Since he’s signed through the 2018 season, does Jones hold a longer leash than any other teammate to question whether the club is sincerely trying to get better? If so, should he use that freedom to voice concerns as the leader of the team and as one who’s never shied away from speaking his mind?
Most importantly, does it even really matter if he does?