Andruw Jones may be the most hyped prospect in Atlanta Braves history. He was baseball’s top prospect out of Curacao and at just 19 years of age made his major league debut. He never looked back.
Jones became the youngest player in major league history to hit a home run in the World Series in 1996. This set the tone for the rest of his career. He was a dominant force for the Atlanta Braves from 1996-2007.
Andruw always played the role of little brother to Chipper (no relation) but had one of the best careers a hitter has had in a Braves jersey. He went on to hit 434 career home runs and came close to winning the MVP award in 2005, when he belted 51 bombs.
Though Jones was a dominant source of power, he is actually better known for his defense. He won 10 gold gloves over the course of his career. This is one of the highest totals an outfielder has had in baseball history, only to be rivaled by Ken Griffey Jr., Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays.
So why is Andruw considered to be far from a lock for the Hall of Fame?
For one, it was the way his career faltered, which is still fresh in the memory of Braves fans. There is no denying that Jones has his best years with the Braves, and fell off a cliff shortly after. After only hitting .222 in 2007, the Braves decided to part ways with Andruw and he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His career would never be the same. He went on to play for the Rangers, Yankees and White Sox, but was merely a role player for these teams. He always retained his power stroke, but he simply could not hit at a high enough clip. He last played baseball in Japan.
The Curacao Kid’s biggest problem is he started to regress at the age of 29. His lackluster end to his career is what really hurt his chances. He struggled to hit the curveball and as a result his average sank. If he could have performed at the level he was in Atlanta for a few more seasons, he would likely be a Hall of Famer. There is no denying Andruw is a Cooperstown talent, but the tail end of his career is what really kills his resumé. Perhaps if he had hit the 500 home run plateau, this would be a completely different story.
Another thing that is worth mentioning is that Jones played in an era obsessed with power. If Andruw had played in today’s baseball, where WAR is used heavily by teams and defense is more valued, his legacy may be totally different. Jones is a guy who has been taken for granted by baseball fans. Want proof?
Ozzie Smith is a Hall of Famer based on his his incredible defense. He accumulated 13 Gold Gloves as opposed to Andruw’s 10. Jones hit 406 more home runs than Smith did over the course of his career. Offensively, it is apples to oranges. Smith only accumulated around 12 WAR more than Jones did during his career.
Jones has a really underrated resumé and skill set. Many may scoff at the idea of Jones being a Hall of Famer, but Ken Griffey Jr. is really the only person who rivaled Jones skillset on both sides of the ball during his career. He was one of the best outfielders in baseball during one of the most talented generations of baseball the game has ever seen. Unfortunately, he will likely join Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy as guys who were just never quite good enough to get voted in to Cooperstown. But the argument for Andruw has much more validity than the average fan may think.