It’s not the bubble-gum chewing – let’s get that out of the way first. He’s been chewing gum and blowing bubbles during games since he was a little kid.
And it’s not his hot-dogging style. Adam Jones has always played center field with a certain flair and showmanship, and that was good enough to win two Gold Gloves.
But he’s definitely struggling in the outfield. And at times, such as last night’s 8-3 Orioles loss to the Mariners, it can be painful to watch – especially when you think about all the great plays he’s made for this team over the past five years.
But Wednesday night his fielding woes continued.
He looked hesitant on Kendry Morales’ sinking line drive in the first, getting a bad jump on it then lunging at it awkwardly as it kicked out of his glove.
Tough play, sure. But a play he’s made countless times in the past. And naturally, the way these things seem to work out, Morales eventually scored on Jason Bay’s double for a 1-0 Seattle lead.
Then, in the second inning, Jones failed to catch the drive to deep center field by Jesus Montero, who ended up with a triple when the ball glanced off Jones’ glove and he slammed into the outfield wall.
That play was a little more of a mystery, since Jones initially seemed to be on cruise control as he tracked it before things began to unravel.
It was Jones’ second dropped ball this week. And Baltimore Sun Orioles beat writer Dan Connolly believes the formerly sure-handed center fielder has now misplayed five balls this season.
O’s manager Buck Showalter continues to downplay Jones’ defensive struggles. And Jones, stand-up guy that he is, continues to be accountable for his miscues, verbally lacerating himself in front of the media each time he screws up.
But the misplays are in his head now, no question. Where once he patrolled center field with an almost imperious manner – “Hit it here, fools, you got no shot” his body-language seemed to suggest – now he seems jittery and unsure of himself on certain plays.
It’s a long season. And Jones’ track record of fielding excellence -- plus the cyclical nature of the game -- would suggest that he’ll break out of his fielding slump at some point.
Good thing he’s off to such a great start at the plate.
Because right now, he’s been hard to watch in the field.
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