Jones: Buck should have used Britton in WC Game

December 2nd, 2016

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic -- Perhaps because considers Buck Showalter one of his best friends in baseball, the Orioles' center fielder felt he could be candid about the manager's much-scrutinized decision not to deploy Zach Britton in the American League Wild Card Game against the Blue Jays this past October.

Nearly two months after the fact, Jones remains perplexed that Britton remained in the bullpen while Baltimore's season was lost on an 11th-inning, walk-off home run by Toronto's .

Jones discussed the situation at length on Friday from 's charity golf tournament.

"I'm in center field and look to my left, I see him warming up," Jones said. "He throws one pitch so it doesn't take long for him to warm up. It was like, 'All right, is he coming? Is he coming? Is he coming?' We bring in [Ubaldo Jimenez] and he gives up a hit and an error.

"So first and third now. I'm sitting there, like, 'Is he coming? Is he coming?' He didn't and the first pitch to Encarnacion, obviously he hit it out and I just looked at the trajectory but there's no need to follow the ball. And I just walked right off."

The way 2016 ended was a gut punch for Jones and the Orioles, but there's still no manager the veteran would rather play for.

"It's crazy because Showalter is such a mental guy and he mentally hurt himself," said Jones.

Jones understood Showalter's explanation for not bringing in Britton. He just didn't agree with it. Jones thinks that Britton was worthy of winning the AL's Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards for his dominance in 2016, though he didn't capture either trophy.

"I can see both sides of it. He's our closer. When you're on the road, I think you wait to get that lead and then bring your closer in," said Jones. "But sometimes with a closer like ours, a unique closer like ours, he can go out and throw two or three innings. Me personally, I would have thrown him out there and let him go because he brings energy, too. He just doesn't go out and throw a 98-mph bowling ball. He brings energy to the dugout and the field."

Though Jones has spoken to Showalter many times this offseason, he didn't think it was worth asking his manager to expand on his reasons for the move.

"I didn't talk to him about that," Jones said. "That's like beating a dead horse. He knows. And with Showalter, you know that ain't going to happen again. He made the mistake once. It will never happen again."

To hear Jones talk about Showalter, you wonder if their relationship is as unique as any player and manager in the game. Jones said that he even goes to his manager's house to do yard work.

"I talk to him all the time. He's the leader of the pack," Jones said. "I make sure that the leader is good. I make sure that everything is good. I make sure to mow his lawn a couple of times in the offseason in Baltimore.

"You'll see me and my boy, I take my dog over there and mow his 10 acres. Sit on the John Deere. I know lawns. It's become more than just a business relationship. My wife has become really good friends with his wife. They're able to offer us life advice."

Jones thinks the O's will contend again in '17, though he acknowledges some moves need to be made.

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"Right now, we're looking good. We have to go through arbitration with a few guys. We need to sign somebody," said Jones. "We need to go out and be aggressive in free agency and get somebody. Not necessarily and go out and spend big bucks -- that's not our team. But someone who fits our mold and our style of play.

"We need a right fielder. I was talking to Showalter the other day and he's got a couple of guys in mind he was talking to and he wants to know my input on it. I'm more than willing to offer it. If there's guys that I know can play for Showalter, I would love for them to go out and get them.

"I said this last year -- not everyone can play for Showalter. You're going to have to play 150 games whether you're bruised or you fouled a ball off your foot. You're not coming out. He's not sitting you. You have to play. The market right now has some guys like that."