The Baltimore Orioles and the baseball world lost a good one this week in Frank Robinson. This much we know. I think that part of why he’s so beloved in Baltimore and will always be thought of as an Oriole (despite playing more years in Cincinnati) is because he turned the Orioles into champions. Or at the very least, they became champions upon his arrival.
The Orioles were already a good team; they had a budding organization that was almost built into a proven winner. Then Robinson was added to an already potent lineup, and suddenly the Orioles won the World Series in his first year with the team (1966). With Frank it wasn’t so much his play on the field. That set a standard of par in and of itself; as a player, Robinson was never anything less than outstanding.
However more so with Frank Robinson, it was about his leadership both on a off the field. He didn’t expect excuses from his teammates as to why they screwed up or why this or that happened. Over the past couple of days I’ve heard more than one or Robinson’s former teammates say how if they committed an error in the field, it wasn’t a coach they were worried about facing, it was Frank. While Robinson could be tough at times, it was all in the interest of making the team better.
Over forty years after the Orioles traded for Frank Robinson, they made another trade. This time however, the centerpiece of the trade wasn’t an established winner or a proven talent. It was a guy named Adam Jones, who had an incredible upside and who represented a potential bright future for the young Orioles.
I don’t need to go into too much detail about Adam Jones. We all know who he is and what he’s accomplished in Baltimore. (We all also know that he’s still a free agent lingering out there ready to be signed…but that’s another story for another day.) Let’s be clear, Jones didn’t bring a world championship to Baltimore. He tried valiantly, but it just never happened.
The Orioles also had further to climb to get to that level when Jones arrived as opposed to when Robinson came aboard. However Adam Jones did very similar things on a slightly smaller scale for the Orioles and the city of Baltimore. I suspect that wherever Jones goes for the remainder of his career, he’ll always be seen and remembered as an Oriole – much like Frank Robinson. Similarly, his play on the field spoke for itself. But it was also the way he conducted himself that stood out.
Jones was an example to players young and old who came through the Orioles during his tenure. Again similar to Robinson, he held teammates to a high standard. And that began with him taking accountability when he made mistakes. However with his play on the field and with how he conducted himself on and off of it, he immediately endeared himself to the Baltimore community and to his teammates and coaches.
Again, Frank Robinson brought championships to Baltimore. However it can’t be stressed enough that Adam Jones helped to guide the Orioles further than they had gone in a generation. I don’t think that will ever be forgotten. Frank Robinson’s legacy with the Orioles has been set for some time. However I think you can put Jones up there with Frank as a similar-type character in the history of this team and this city. Neither time nor consequence will ever dim the glory of their deeds.