BALTIMORE — With Baltimore’s baseball team careening through a dismal season, on pace to lose more than 110 games for the first time since they became the Orioles in 1954, its front office decided to dismantle the roster to build for the future.
So, just before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, Manny Machado, a superstar infielder, became a Los Angeles Dodger. Jonathan Schoop, a standout second baseman, became a Milwaukee Brewer. Brad Brach, Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day all became Atlanta Braves pitchers. Zach Britton, a closer, joined the Yankees.
But one star, the outfielder Adam Jones, remains — and that is by his choice.
In the ruthless business of professional sports, players rarely have much say as to where they are traded or when they are cut. But Jones’s veteran status meant that he did, and he followed his heart.
“I’m married with two kids,” Jones, 33, said before the Orioles’ 16-5 loss to the Mets at Camden Yards on Wednesday. “The comfort is most important, as well as finishing out and honoring my contract. I signed a six-year deal and I’ll finish it out.”
Jones is not just any Orioles player. He is an energetic five-time All Star, a four-time Gold Glove Award winner and the longest-tenured player on a team that reached the playoffs three times from 2012 to 2016.
He is also among the most outspoken players in the major leagues, often discussing issues involving education, race and youth. He donates time and tens of thousands of dollars a year to causes across Baltimore. In a city where the poverty rate is nearly double the national rate and the population is nearly two-thirds black, Jones, who is also black, is a leading voice.
“It means something that he’s been here this long,” Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said.
So instead of accepting a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies, who were seeking a veteran presence and proven hitter as they push for a playoff spot, Jones exercised his right to say no. A longtime everyday player, Jones would have seen his playing time reduced in Philadelphia.
“I respect Philadelphia,” Jones said. “I was going to go to a role that I’ve never done. They have a great team and they don’t need me.”
Jones wanted to spend the final two months of his six-year, $85.5 million contract extension with the Orioles. Because he has earned 10-and-5 rights (10 years of service time in the major leagues and five with one team) within baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, Jones can veto any potential trade.
“It was in my best interests,” he said.
It is about more than playing time. Jones, who joined the Orioles when he was 22, has called Baltimore his in-season home for 11 years (he spends his off-seasons in his native San Diego), and likened his relationship with the city as going from dating to marriage.
His many years as an Orioles staple is what allows him to be so influential in the community, he said. He cited his annual #StayHungry Purple Tailgate party at a Baltimore Ravens game — the sixth edition will take place on Nov. 25 — which has raised over $180,000 for the Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore, as part of his strong bond with his second home.
He earmarked $75,000 annually from his 2012 contract extension for the local Boys & Girls Clubs, spent his free time with local children, and he and his wife have stayed in touch with students who have been awarded scholarships with their donations.
“I’m trying to honor my commitment to the city,” he said.
Sometimes that has meant speaking on behalf of its residents. Amid tense protests in response to Freddie Gray’s death in policy custody in 2015, the Orioles hosted the Chicago White Sox in a crowdless Camden Yards, which was kept empty for security reasons. Before the game, Jones spoke eloquently about the city, the concerns of black residents and the need for peaceful protests, but also acknowledged that people were crying for help.
He has talked passionately about the dwindling number of black athletes in baseball and in support of Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who knelt during the national anthem in 2016 to call attention to police brutality and racial inequality. Jones also called attention last year to racial slurs directed at him at Fenway Park in Boston.
“He’s not afraid to put himself out there and tell you how he feels and it’s very admirable, especially in a city like Baltimore,” said Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, Jones’s longtime teammate. “It’s a city definitely in need of a voice and a city that’s full of hurt and full of pain.”
Davis added: “He understands what his responsibility is, not only as a baseball player but as a man.”
Jones landed with the Orioles in a 2008 trade with the Seattle Mariners, who drafted him in 2003. Baltimore was in the midst of 14 straight losing seasons, but Jones, along with Nick Markakis, Chris Tillman, Davis and several now-departed players, formed a core that ascended to relevancy and reached the American League Championship Series in 2014.
Since then, a piecemeal pitching staff, a weak farm system and little international spending have caught up to the Orioles. They finished 75-87 last season and will do worse this year. Although it is sad to see longtime teammates go, Jones said, he is happy that younger players like Machado, a soon-to-be top free agent, will get a chance to shine in a playoff race.
Jones wants to win, but concedes, “I’m older and I’ve had plenty of time.”
And he’s happy to spend at least a little more of it in Baltimore. Before Tuesday’s game, Jones spent more time posing for photographs and signing autographs than any other player. After a sixth-inning solo home run that tied the score, Jones gifted his batting gloves to a young fan in Orioles gear in the stands. His bond with the city, and reason for staying, were clear.
“He was with the Orioles when they weren’t really great and now he’s going to usher in a younger team,” said Jason Gross, 30, a Baltimore native wearing a Jones jersey during Tuesday’s game. “I’m glad he stayed. I know people want to see him win, but I get it. I respect players who want to play on their team.”
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