Make no mistake that today’s game will long be remembered by Baltimore Orioles fans. And while we can’t say right now that it won’t be remembered for the game itself or for the final score, odds are that’s the case. All of the signs point to today being the final game for Adam Jones and manager Buck Showalter in an Orioles’ uniform.
I’ve touched on this more and more as September’s gone on. And odds are we’ll touch on it more after the season. We’ve seen “heavy figures” come to the end of the line in Baltimore before – Ripken, Weaver, Murray, and others. They were all sent off with a proud hand.
Where today’s festivities rank in Orioles’ lore is up to the individual. However assuming in fact that these two titans in Oriole history are seeing their final moments in the orange and black today, they’ll stand together as the faces of this era of Orioles baseball. And make no mistake, regardless of the team’s record, they go out winners.
In his typical aw shucks manner, Buck Showalter once said that “it was ready to pop when I got here.” Meaning that the Orioles had a good team already, and were on the rise. And that’s probably true in a way. However he added the one thing that had been missing since 1997: PRIDE.
He restored pride in the organization – not only for the players on the roster, but also for the fans. While other managers certainly meant well, it was Buck who pulled the proverbial sword out of the stone. His was a name that came with automatic credibility. And people bought in almost immediately. One of those people? Adam Jones.
Showalter and Jones were the perfect match. Buck was a skilled instructor who took pride in everything he did, and Jones was a willing pupil. However the thing that they both shared was a sense of humor and a joie de vivre that was unmatched. While they both took their jobs seriously, neither took themselves too seriously. Without Buck Showalter, Jones might well have ended up a very decent journeyman outfielder. And without Adam Jones, Showalter might well have been another name in a long litany of failed managers in Baltimore.
Orioles fans returned to the promise land of the postseason on the coattails of Jones and Showalter in 2012 – a season that shocked the world. Two years later in 2014 the O’s once again did what at one time would have been unthinkable in winning the AL East. Tack on a third playoff appearance in 2016, and this duo presided over one of the more prosperous era’s in “recent” franchise history.
But today we light a candle for those times. I’m reminded of T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, which is in reality an epic comprised of four books. The final one is The Candle in the Wind, which deals with the fall of the legendary King Arthur and Camelot…which incidentally, is pretty much what we’ve seen in 2018.
No, I’m not comparing baseball to Arthurian Legend – well, maybe I am. Just a bit. However the crassest of crass fans will see this as an era in which Jones couldn’t hit low-and-away sliders, and Buck left his best reliever in the bullpen in the 2016 AL Wild Card Game. Those people would also probably claim that King Arthur didn’t have what it took to defeat Sir Mordred.
But the really great fans that we know exist in this fan base will see this moment as that of the wizard Merlin peeking into Arthur’s tent at the very end of the story, to comfort him in his moment of need. The era itself is over. It was over the moment trades started going down. But today is the chance to light up the sky one final time and to pay homage to a time that will long be remembered as a Camelot-like era at Camden Yards.
On a selfish note, it’s a time that I’ll personally always remember fondly. I grew up as a writer during the Jones/Showalter timeframe. Many of the great moments and games over that period allowed me the opportunity to wax poetic in a similar manner that I am now. (What, you thought I enjoyed writing blase’ columns about blow out losses?!) Many of those moments will be chronicled as time goes on this off season.
So I encourage fans to buy tickets to this afternoon’s game. Yes, it’s your final chance to see Adam Jones and Buck Showalter (perhaps), but also a chance to see the end of an era. And an era that should be remembered fondly at that. Today’s game is certainly the proverbial candle in the wind for that era. So when we think back on these times, …don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.