How trading away their best pitcher brought the Orioles a new face of the franchise
Not much went right for the 2007 Orioles. The offense was mediocre, the pitching staff had the second-highest ERA in baseball and the team finished a distant fourth in the AL East at 69-93. There was one bright spot, though: Starter Erik Bedard had a breakout year, posting a 3.18 ERA with 221 K's in 182 innings -- good enough for a fifth-place finish in AL Cy Young Award voting.
Recognizing that the team was likely years away from contention, new GM Andy MacPhail decided to flip his most valuable trade chip to the Mariners on Feb. 8, 2008. In return, the O's got just about everything they could've hoped for, a guy who would serve as the foundation for their return to prominence: one Adam LaMarque Jones.
Jones wasn't even the headliner of the Bedard deal. That was Chris Tillman, a powerful right-hander who at the time was a consensus top-20 prospect. Jones, on the contrary, was a former first-round pick who'd managed just a .620 OPS over his first two Major League seasons.
It turned out that all he needed was a change of scenery. Jones was an All-Star by his second season in Baltimore, slashing .277/.335/.457 in 2009. He hit 25 dingers in 2011, the first of seven consecutive seasons in which he'd reach that mark. He finished sixth in AL MVP voting the next year, announcing himself as a star -- that ever-elusive five-tool player who could do as much with the bat as he could in center field.
Unsurprisingly, the wins began to follow. An Orioles team that hadn't finished above .500 since 1997 shocked the baseball world in 2012, riding the magic of the Buck Truck -- seriously, they went 29-9 in one-run games -- to an AL Wild Card spot. And Jones was right in the middle of the madness:
The O's proved that they weren't a mere one-year wonder, reaching the postseason twice more in the five years since -- including the ALCS back in 2014. But it wasn't just how good Jones was or his role in Baltimore's turnaround that made him so beloved. It was how he went about being an All-Star, as if no one had ever enjoyed playing baseball more than he did. He hung with fans. He maintanied one of the best Twitter accounts in the game. He delivered celebratory pies:
So, so many pies:
He's been, in short, everything you could possibly want from the face of your franchise, and Thursday marks exactly 10 years of awesomeness for O's fans to enjoy. Jones, for his part, will be forever grateful:
10 years to the day I was traded over to Bmore. Crazy cause I was on my way to Vegas to turn allllll the way up. I still did but knew that my life would be changed forever!!!- 10 (@SimplyAJ10) February 8, 2018
Let's all just give thanks that he never went through with pie'ing Buck Showalter: