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).