You know, I don't really blame Adam Jones all that much. Here he is, a three-time All-Star, a terrific all-around player -- he, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout are the only three players to score 100 runs each of the past two seasons and he's ninth in home runs over the past two seasons -- and he's probably tired of questions about the Yankees or Red Sox after all these years playing in the American League East.
The man just wants a little credit. He doesn't want to talk about Masahiro Tanaka.
On Tuesday, he told Newsday writer Steve Marcus, "Why don't you ask Tanaka about me? I'm the one who's been over here in the major leagues for a while. Congratulations, he did it over there. Don't make it like he's the dirtiest guy in the world. He was 24-0 -- in Japan."
He didn't hold back even after striking out twice (and singling) against Tanaka on Wednesday, telling Newsday's Anthony Rieber, "Am I (supposed) to go home and say I faced Tanaka tonight? Just go throw a party that I faced Tanaka? It's another pitcher. Another pitcher in the rotation. Nothing special to me. It's just another guy that we have to go through to get to where we want to be."
Is what he said so bad? He's right, isn't he? Tanaka is just another pitcher the Orioles are trying to beat. Maybe he'll be a really good one, but to a major leaguer like Jones, what Tanaka did in Japan is irrelevant; he has to prove himself here. Maybe Jones was a little too dismissive of Tanaka's record in Japan or the quality of competition over there, but succeeding in the major leagues is about the constant demand to perform, day after day, start after start, year after year.
That mindset explains why Bryce Harper was recently named the most overrated player in the majors in a survey of players by ESPN The Magazine. Even though Harper plays the game hard and by all accounts has handled himself with poise and maturity, the players clearly don't like the hype that has been given to a guy who in their minds hasn't yet done enough to warrant that kind of recognition.
That's how they're going to view Tanaka, even if that splitter he throws is clearly one nasty pitch. Two starts isn't proof of anything, $155 million contract or not (Jones signed an $85 million extension in 2012, so maybe that's in the back of his mind as well). Heck, when Tanaka signed, even Yu Darvish said, "I don't know too much about the new posting system but I think the Yankees gave him too much."
Above all, though, I like the competitive nature of Jones' quotes, sort of a I'm not going to say anything nice about our enemy type of thing. A little healthy dislike for your rivals is a good thing and certainly makes the games more fun for us fans.
This is in contrast to say, a Mr. Nice Guy approach like that of Paul Goldschmidt. The Diamondbacks first baseman absolutely owns Tim Lincecum, with seven home runs against him 24 career at-bats. After hitting another one off Lincecum last night, he said Lincecum is a good pitcher and that the home runs are just small sample size results. Even if Goldschmidt is right, wouldn't you have loved to have him say something more toxic? He can't get me out and he knows it. I'm in his head. Fastball, changeup, it doesn't matter what he throws me. I wish I could face him every game.
So, thank you, Adam, for your honesty. I'll certainly be watching the next time you face Tanaka.