With today’s report that Andruw Jones is headed to Japan to play some ball for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, I have to assume that his professional career in the MLB is now over. That brings us to the question…is Andruw Jones a Hall of Famer? At first glance I’d say no. But let’s take a deeper look at the stats.
Here are Andruw Jones’ career numbers:
254 AVG, 434 HR, 1,289 RBI, 1,204 R, 152 SB, 383 2Bs, 36 3Bs, 891 BBs, 1,747 Ks, .337 OBP, .486 SLG, .823 OPS.
At first glance, they don’t seem like the worthiest of stats. The only number that jumps out as truly impressive are the 434 HR. That also led to a healthy number of R and RBI. However those are just the offensive stats. The number that does him the most good in this debate is 10. The 10 that is helping his case represents the number of consecutive Gold Gloves he won. And he didn’t win them as a pitcher, catcher or first baseman, he won them in center field, a premium position stocked with some of the finest athletes in the game. So the question is, is that enough? I’ll tackle both sides of this question.
YES, ANDRUW JONES BELONGS IN THE HALL OF FAME.
While the AVG isn’t great and the K/BB ratio is atrocious, this question begins and ends in the field. He won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves in what is arguably the toughest position to play on a baseball field. He had good speed, but not great speed. That meant it was all reaction time, and knowing where to play certain hitters. In addition, he had a cannon for an arm with over twice as many outfield assists (124) as Errors (50). He was a 5 time All Star with 2 top 10 MVP finishes, including finishing second to Albert Pujols in 2005 in a season where Jones set the Atlanta Braves franchise record with 51 HR and a league leading 128 RBI. He won 2/3 of a Triple Crown, in a season where a lot of people think Pujols won based on his overall body of work, as opposed to having the strongest season.
So can strong defensive numbers outweigh subpar offensive numbers? The answer is apparently yes. Ray Schalk, was a catcher for the White Sox and the Giants who made the Hall of Fame off the strength of his defense. His 253 career batting average is the lowest of all Hall of Famers (other than pitchers). Jones is a point higher. Schalk also had fewer home runs that Jones. By fewer I mean Shalk had….11 career HR. 11. He had 11 HR to go with his 253 AVG. So he got in on the strength of being a great defensive catcher. Andruw Jones’ career AVG is one point better, he has 423 more HR and has to be considered one of the greatest defensive center fielders in baseball. And while catcher is a tough position to play, playing center field is definitely harder, and it’s certainly very hard to be recognized as the best in that position when the other players who play that position with you are some of the best athletes in baseball. It’s not just Schalk, but George Kelly and Bill Mazeroski made the team based on the strength of defense. And while Mazeroski’s defensive second base is arguably the best of all time, Jones’ center field defense is among the best, and his offensive numbers blow Mazeroski’s out of the water.
So, to review, Jones had immeasurably more power than Schalk (okay maybe not immeasurable….he had 420+ more HR), a slightly better AVG and was a star at one of the hardest defensive positions on the field, as opposed to a good defensive catcher. If Schalk is in the Hall of Fame, there is no reason Andruw Jones shouldn’t be.
NO, ANDRUW JONES SHOULD NOT BE IN THE HALL OF FAME.
At the end of the day, Andruw Jones had a 254 career batting average. That’s just not good enough. His defense in the prime of his career was fantastic. But he played for 17 years, and for the last few years his weight has ballooned while his ranged has diminished at a quick enough rate to turn one of the best defensive center fielders of all time into an above average corner outfielder. Jones eclipsed 300 only once in his career. He had a 1.96 K:BB rate. That’s bad. Almost as bad as his 4.43 K:AB ratio. He’s got 0 World Series titles under his belt (he joined the Braves in 1996, the year after they won), and turned into a one dimensional player very early in his career. After taking over full time in 1998 (the first year he eclipsed 500 ABs), he looked like a 5-tool player. In 1998 he hit 271 with 31 HR, 90 RBI, 89 R and 27 SB. But that was his career high on the base paths. The next season he went 275/26/84/97/24. In 2000 he went 303/26/104/122/21. That was possibly his best year. It was also the last time he went 20/20. That’s not a HoF requirement, but when you come into the league and for 5 of your 17 seasons are considered an all around great player, there is an expectation. For the next 12 years of your 17 year career, to steal double digit bases only one more time (11 was his career high from that point on, achieved the next season) shows that you changed your approach drastically. His AVG tanked after that, never coming close to 300 again (career high from that point on was 277). And though he had some success with the long ball, he only led the league in homers once (51 in 2005) and saw his average drop every season from then to end up hitting 197 in 230+ ABs for the Yankees last year. His highest AVG after leaving Atlanta was 247, the most games he played in a season from then on was 107 (with the White Sox in 2010), and though his HR rate remained high, he contributed little else. Perhaps he’d have a better shot at making it to the Hall if he retired after leaving the Braves, but a 12 year player has a REALLY tough time making it into the Hall of Fame. And after leaving Atlanta he was nothing but a bust, signing a 2-year deal with the Dodgers worth $36 million, but being released a little over a year later due to injury and ineffectiveness. He then bounced around as a role player on the Rangers, White Sox and Yankees before moving to Japan this offseason. He probably could have signed here in the US with another team, but wanted to make more money and get more playing time in Japan.
So, in review, he hit a lot of HR. But he showed much more promise in his early years. He was supposed to be an all around great, but barely broke 150 SBs while becoming truly one dimensional less than halfway into his career. His defense was stellar, but that shouldn’t be enough. There are plenty of players who are in the HoF that don’t belong there already, why would we add another? Though Andruw Jones is more deserving than some, he’s still undeserving and that’s why he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.
After making an argument for both sides, I think I know where I stand. Andruw Jones had a very good career. He’s got some wonderful career statistics, specifically in the HR and fielding departments. And while his numbers do measure up to a few other Hall of Fame candidates, they are generally considered to be the “least worthy” candidates. And that’s not just from me. I found this article and this article to be exceedingly helpful in writing this post. Do I think Andruw Jones belongs in the Hall of Fame? No. It doesn’t matter to me that others who are arguably less qualified are in the Hall of Fame. That doesn’t make Andruw Jones worthy. His numbers are strong. But not strong enough. And that’s where it ends for me.