Andruw Jones

Richard Justice tries to get his mind around Andruw Jones falling off a cliff:

Whatever the reason, Andruw Jones is one of the real strange stories in sports because few players have fallen so far so fast.

The Dodgers can’t even give him away. Even after he agreed to a restructuring of his contract, Jones remains with a team that no longer wants him.
Just two years ago, he appeared on the fast track to the Hall of Fame. Yes, two years ago. Not five years ago, not 10 years ago.

He was a 10-time Gold Glover in centerfield and coming off back-to-back seasons in which he averaged 46 home runs and 128.5 RBIs.
He was a great player no matter how one defines greatness. Beyond the numbers was the fact that he had an easygoing personality that wore well during a long baseball season.

Jones seemed headed for one of those breath-taking contracts in 2007. And then with so much on the line, he was unable to deliver.

Nothing wrong with the Justice piece. I just think that he and others who have written about Jones have dwelled on his weight and alleged lack of desire a bit more than is warranted and have discounted his injuries by the same amount. As others have noted, Jones changed his swing pretty dramatically prior to his power surge of 2005. Jones’ dropoff in 2007 had a lot to do with nagging injuries that prevented him from really loading up like he had in 2005 and 2006, and by the end of that season, he looked completely lost and unable to adjust. Yes, the inability to adjust — even to go back to his pre-2005 swing — could very well be a sign of loss of focus or desire, but to suggest that Jones’ trainwreck of a 2008 was all in his head or because he lost all of his talent or something is to overstate things.

As for his legacy? I think he had a chance to make the Hall of Fame if he had enjoyed a nice slow decline that tracked what you typically see from good players. No, he was never spectacular, but because he started so young, the counting stats following such a decline would have looked good (500 home runs, perhaps). Once you looked at his defense, that package would have made him a Hall of Famer in many people’s eyes.

Falling off a cliff like he has? No chance, of course. He’s toast, and maybe even off the ballot after year one. As a guy who has always liked Andruw Jones, I find this pretty sad.

UPDATE: Even sadder.

(link via Neate Sager, routed through Pete Toms. No, I don’t understand Canadians either).

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  1. The Common Man said...

    I find it funny that, in one post, we’re talking about a cat named for Ruben Sierra (who disappeared entirely for the better part of three seasons before coming back) and Andruw Jones (who everyone, including Craig, left for dead).  I still think its too early to discount a nice Sierra-esque comback and ride into the sunset.  He’s got too much time ahead of him to be done just like that.

  2. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Good point, TCM.  Maybe I shouldn’t be too quick to declare his career over.  Greater comebacks have happened before.

  3. MooseinOhio said...

    I don’t think one loses talent as much as they don’t utilize their talents or abuse their talents.  Gifted athletes/intellectuals will be able to get by for a period on their gifts alone but long-term success is more a byproduct highly developed competencies/skills, the ability to deal with challenges/adapt to changing conditions, and a strong work ethic/commitment that helped to developed the necessary skills and abilities to suceed.

    I suspect that Andruw Jones was able to survive longer than most on his gifts alone, a true testament to his incredible talent, but because he may never have properly developed the other factors he could not make appropriate adjustments to retard the drop off.  As a counter examples, consider Yaz, Ripken, Maddux, Schilling or Gwynn – who are all gifted talents but had incredible desire, amazing work ethics and the ability to make adjustments as their physical abilities declined and while not able to dominant as they had in their youths they all finished their careers as above avergage players.

  4. Aaron said...

    Given a normal career dropoff, Jones would have certainly gotten over 500.

    In fact, at 35+ homeruns a season for the next 7 years after the 2006 season, he would have been knocking at the door of 600 at the age of 36. 35 seems like a lot, but that was his average over the previous 9, and he appeared to be peaking in his prime in the +40 range.

    Given a nice slow decline, we would likley be discussing whether he was as good as Griffey, (a resounding no) and, given his defense, would be a first ballot type.

  5. themarksmith said...

    I agree that people discount his injuries too much. The man threw his body around for how many years? Diving, running into walls. Those were bound to take their toll on him. However, don’t you think he might be a bit more motivated with so much negativity surrounding him? Maybe not considering the millions he’s made and the millions of cheeseburgers. Still, I think the years of torment his body went through to win 10+ Gold Gloves might be a major reason for his decline. For all the talk about him being fat last season, he was the same weight at the beginning of his MVP season.

  6. Jason @ IIATMS said...

    The cynic in me wonders if Andruw had some artificial chemical assistance during his boom years.

    What a shame that I have to even consider that.

    I hope he bounces back, he was fun to watch.

  7. Bryan Mc said...

    Andrew Jones was never a “great” hitter.  Sure he had power and he could keep his batting average up.  So what happened in the past couple of seasons?  Age? No, he’s still fairly young in an age where players can go beyond the age of 40.  Bad environment?  No, the Braves and Dodgers are not known for being the bedlam of baseball.  The only factor I can come up with is the very thing that was banned and being tested for the past couple seasons.  Unless he has a comeback year this year, you can ring this destroyed career to substance assistance.

  8. RollingWave said...

    forget about 600, even a remotely decent decline would see him end with 500+ HR quiet easily, which given that he’s a CF, makes a him a lock (albeit overrated) choice for the hall.

    Speaking of Ruben Sierra, the case of Jones might be another big win for Bill James, since Jones’ BR top comp from age 22 to 27 is ….. you guessed it , Ruben Sierra.

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