An Appreciation of J.J. Hardy

Sports and Bets — September 26, 2017 at 10:30 am by

So I’ll admit most of my friends who see this piece might roll their eyes just a tad. Ever since JJ Hardy was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles he’s by far been my favorite player. Above Manny, Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop, all of them. On Sunday JJ seemed to be making his last appearance in front of the Baltimore fans, with the acquisition of the younger Tim Beckham and Hardy’s pending free agency, and both the fans and the players gave JJ a sendoff he rightly deserved.

When you look back at how JJ Hardy was acquired it’s one of those head scratching ‘how did we pull this off?’ kind of move. Before the 2011 season the Orioles traded Jim Hoey & Brett Jacobson for Hardy and utility infielder Brendan Harris. It kind of made sense at the time, Hardy was coming off one of his worst statistical seasons at the plate, hitting just 6 home runs and driving in 38 in 101 games. Almost immediately it looked like a change of scenery was all JJ Hardy needed. He hit his 6th home run by June and In his first season in Baltimore Hardy amassed 30 home runs for the first and only time in his career. In 2012 Hardy continued to hit with power, hitting 22 home runs. It was also the first year that Hardy was acknowledged for his stellar play at short stop. 2012 started a streak of three straight years with a gold glove. Hardy was so good and reliable at shortstop that when a young phenom made his Major League debut in 2012, they put him at third base despite his natural position being shortstop. Think about that for a minute. Manny Machado is the best prospect the Orioles have drafted in quite some time and because of Hardy’s play, Manny had to play third, I think it worked out just fine.

The thing I’ll remember Hardy the most for is being part of the team that brought winning baseball back to Baltimore. Being an Orioles fan my whole life and being born after the ’83 championship, there isn’t a lot to hang my hat on as a fan. The big ones are back to back ALCS in 96 and 97 and Cal Ripken, that’s it. In 2012 the Orioles shocked the baseball world and to be honest most of Baltimore by making the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Hardy was a large part of the runs in 2012 and in 2014 and came up with some big hits and moments in the playoffs. In the 2012 Wild Card Game Hardy drove in the first run and scored the second in the O’s 5-1 win in Texas. In Game 4 of the ALDS Hardy drove in the go ahead run in the 13th inning to force a game 5.   In the 2014 ALDS Hardy batted .300 against the Tigers that included a Home Run in Game 1 and he scored the go ahead run on Delmon Young’s dramatic double in Game 2.

Unfortunately the last couple seasons have not been very kind to JJ Hardy. Injuries have all but eliminated his power and has made him a shell of the player he was when first arriving to Baltimore. Hardy, however left his mark playing for the Orange & Black. In 5 of the 7 seasons Hardy played SS the O’s were .500 or better. That might not seem like a big deal but again coming from a team that had no winning seasons in 15 years, that’s huge. 107 of Hardy’s 188 home runs were hit here in Baltimore, all three of his gold gloves were won in Baltimore, he made one All Star Game appearance and the only time he ever won the silver slugger was playing for the O’s. I don’t know if Hardy will be considered one of the greatest Orioles of all time (lot of competition, especially at that position), but you know what Hardy was a pretty damn good ballplayer and I’ll take that.

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