NEW YORK -- A few decades ago, when Joaquin Andujar was among the most colorful and peculiar guys in the game, he underscored his image with this conflicted statement: "You know what they say -- two words: 'You never know.'" Those words applied to baseball -- and to the Cardinals' unusual pitcher -- years before and in the years since he spoke them.
Hours before the Orioles played the Mets on Tuesday night, Adam Jones was in a serious conversation at his locker about the turmoil Baltimore has endured of late. He was making a point, that baseball, like life, routinely provides the unexpected and occasionally delivers the unprecedented.
"You never know ..." Jones said, unaware he had parroted Andujar. And then to reinforce the point, he noted that big league baseball had been played, "for what, 148 years? And last week I played in the first game that nobody watched."
Indeed, the numbers that afternoon in Baltimore were Orioles 8, White Sox 2. Attendance 0.
Many folks were outside Oriole Park last Wednesday when, because of unrest and worse, the O's and Sox played in privacy. To be sure, not all of the outsiders were baseball fans. Most were concerned, some were outraged. Some were hopeful, others cynical. Most appeared passionate, some appeared duplicitous. Some were frightened, others should have been. Some were peaceful, others were, well, not so much.
Earlier that the day, Jones had addressed all of them and anyone else who'd listen. His words carried a message that was essentially two words -- "Cool it."
Or "Calm down" or "Be smart" or "Stay safe" or just "Stop it." Jones' point was well made; whether it was well-taken too, we don't yet know. We can't know, and we might not know even a year from now. That's for the masses who can't win Gold Gloves or bat .402 -- even in a 23-game sequence -- to determine.
Jones had accomplished such things before the Orioles came to the Big Citi for a two-fer series. And he had done his best to calm Charm City. Good for him. You know what they say? Two words -- Good guy. Caring man. Passionate dude. All that comes through. Jones' sense of responsibility is as evident as his skill in center field.
Jones plays the game so well, particularly well thus far this season. His batting average following the O's 3-2 loss and his 1-for-4 performance stood at .396, 116 points higher than his seven-plus-year career average through 2014. Jones produced a single in three at-bats against Bartolo Colon and grounded out against Carlos Torres, and though his average took a modest hit, his value was made quite evident by two running catches on the warning track.
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Before the game, Jones was advised of a 1980 Sports Illustrated cover story, the headline for which read: "Who is Keith Hernandez ... and what is he doing hitting .344?" The same question was put to the Orioles' No. 3 hitter with appropriate changes to name and average. And to his credit, Jones didn't offer some warm, fuzzy, convoluted and off-the-point reason for the hours his average had spent in Ted Williams territory. His hitting hadn't improved because of his offseason marriage or the birth of a son. Nor had Jones punched the maturity button and, at age 29, gained the wisdom and insight of a 40-year-old.
No, Jones cited baseball reasons. "The people I play with," he said, "they've made me better and made it easier for me to be a better hitter. I feed off these guys."
As he had done last week, Jones spoke of a sense of community. Then it was about the city of his employment. On Tuesday afternoon, it was about the O's clubhouse. Community is important in both places.
When Jones spoke publicly last week, he urged that the public weigh the impact of its actions. Areas of Baltimore where demonstrators lived were smoldering as he spoke. Why had they damaged any neighborhood at all? Moreover, why had they wasted their own streets? Why the geographic / civic masochism?
Speaking his mind wasn't something Jones had longed to do. He characterizes it now as "awesome and awkward." But Jones saw it as a public service. He said he was "massaging peoples' minds." Willie Horton had done much the same thing when he was playing with the Tigers in 1967, and riots in Detroit were burning the inner city to the ground. Jones knows some, not much, about Horton. So he wasn't inspired by the former Tigers slugger. Jones' inspiration came from within. It was the right time to speak up, and he said the right things.
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Jones had made the trip to New York on Monday on his own time. Matters that didn't involve the Orioles awaited him here. Jones, his wife Audie and son August attended a private party with President Obama hours after the president had announced a new initiative, the My Brother's Keeper Alliance. Audie is indirectly connected to the Obamas.
The new program, aimed at "young people of color," piqued Jones' interest. If the alliance is to touch Baltimore, the O's man in the middle may become involved. He needs to hear more about it. Jones needs to think and weigh and consider, needs to do what he asked of folks last week.
At age 29, 23 years removed from a time when he had so little, Jones says he has so much and that he thinks more than ever before. "Because there's so much to think about now." Jones rails against the impropriety of social media -- people of little standing, speaking irresponsibly to millions.
"It's not about being right. It's about being heard," he says with annoyance. "Get off the phones."
Jones wonders why folks have forgotten, "Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but ..." He says, "I understand violence, but why resort to it?" He says, "There's no justification for violence." He advocates "protests that are peaceful."
And you know what they say, four words -- Adam Jones, bright guy.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.