The Hall of Fame Case for Andruw Jones

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ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 02: Former Atlanta Braves player Andruw Jones is introduced as a member of the All Turner Field Team prior to the game at Turner Field on October 2, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

At his best, Andruw Jones was a deadly baseball player. A two-way threat that could impact the game in the batters box and from the outfield. The start of his career looked like the beginning of a Hall of Fame caliber one, but ended quickly and on a low note.

Last year, his first year on the ballot, he received just over seven percent of the vote. That total proved to be the lowest of any player who remained on the ballot.

Greatness is almost always noticed, but there are a few instances where it is hidden. Greatness accidentally hides behind the common perception of the entity associated with being great. This seems to be the case for Jones. His career started off with a bang but ended poorly, and this awful last impression resonates.

Breakdown of Numbers

At a quick glance, Jones, a five-time All-Star, appears borderline for Cooperstown. He has 434 home runs to accompany 1,289 RBIs and ten consecutive Gold Glove awards. His first 12 seasons were really good with the decade stretch of 1998-2007 being particularly exceptional from a statistics standpoint.

During this stretch, he hit .266 with 345 home runs and 1,034 RBIs, good for an average of 34 and 103 per season. His strikeout percentage was over 18 percent, which is not terrible, but definitely not great, and his slugging percentage was .503. This shows that when he was making contact he was driving the ball.

There are some downs to his career, such as a .254 lifetime batting average, no MVP awards, and a .337 career on-base percentage to lower his OPS to .823.

Jones only had one instance in which he led the league in a major offensive category. He led the league with 51 home runs and drove in 128 runs in 2005 on route to a runner-up MVP finish, his only top-five finish for the award.

Jones had a significant, rapid decline in ability at the end of his career. This decline saw him bounce around to four teams in his final five years. In that span, he hit .210/.316/.424. He only averaged 13 home runs and 34 RBIs in an average of 87 games a year while striking out 25.5% of the time.

Statistical Comparisons

Some of Jones’ stats compare well to Hall of Fame inductees while others do not. His ten Gold Glove awards put him with the likes of Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro Suzuki, and Al Kaline as the only outfielders with double-digit wins. Of that group, everyone is in the Hall of Fame except Ichiro, who has not been retired long enough to be listed on the ballot.

Jones’ home run totals do fall short of 500, which has long been the magic number to hit for induction, but it does put him in the midst of some immortal outfielders. On the all-time list, he sits ahead of Billy Williams, and in the same neighborhood as Andre Dawson, Vladimir Guerrero, and Carl Yastrzemski.

However, the all time RBI list shows Jones more so stuck in the middle. He sits below Hall of Famers such as Clemente, Paul Molitor, Enos Slaughter, and Eddie Collins on said list. He falls in the same area as Moises Alou, Paul O’Neill, and Don Baylor among others. These were all great players that fell below the Hall of Fame threshold.

Player Comparisons

Ralph Kiner is a good comparison for Jones. Kiner was elected despite only playing ten seasons while Jones’ candidacy is based on ten really good years. He actually has more home runs and RBIs than Kiner, but Kiner produced better years relative to his league.

Kiner led the league in home runs seven straight years, RBIs once, on-base percentage once, and walks, slugging percentage, and OPS thrice. Andruw Jones only led the league once in home runs and once in RBIs. In terms of defense, metrics are not available for all of Kiner’s seasons, but Jones had the reputation as one of the best defensive center fielders throughout his entire career.

Biases

Playing in the midst of one of the greatest dynasties in the history of baseball certainly helps Jones’ case, but it may also hurt him. While Jones manned center field for the Atlanta Braves, he played for Bobby Cox, a Hall of Fame manager. He took the field with the likes of Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, all of whom were definite Hall of Famers upon retirement.

Being both one of the best run producers and fielders for a team that won division titles in each of his first ten seasons (during a run of 14 consecutive) certainly helped him garner attention as a top player in the game. It may also prove to hurt his chances being that he played alongside so many legends of the game.

What is a Hall of Famer

With over 400 individuals voting on the Hall of Fame ballot, the qualifications for admittance tend to be relatively arbitrary. The Hall of Fame offers the following guidelines for admittance:

“A player is eligible for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame if satisfies the following criteria:

The player must have competed in ten seasons. A single game counts as a “season” in the eyes of the Hall. The player has been retired for at least five seasons. If a player comes back and plays in the major leagues, the clock restarts. A screening committee must approve the player’s worthiness. The player may not be on the ineligible list (banned from baseball). A player is considered elected if he receives at least 75% of all ballots cast in an election.”

Does Jones Fit?

Most people interpret this as having ten ‘Hall of Fame years,’ being the best at their position for a decade, etc. Jones had ten seasons in which he averaged over 30 home runs and 100 RBIs for the duration. That certainly appears to be Hall of Fame worthy.

Looking at Jones’ resume, he does not initially appear to be a sure fire candidate. When analyzing his offensive resume coupled with his defensive reputation, Jones looks like a player who should eventually be in Cooperstown.

If this were his first season on the ballot, the case could be made for his induction within at least four to six years, but inducted nonetheless. Being that this is his second year on the ballot, and his documented minuscule vote total, it is hard to see Jones getting inducted at all. This is especially true given his decline, lack of major awards, and seasons that stand out to the average voter.

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