Bowden: Andrew Jones belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame

Andrew Jones belongs in Cooperstown. In two weeks, when the 2023 Baseball Hall of Fame vote is introduced, he deserves to listen to his identify. His candidacy should not even be a debate.

This is the sixth 12 months Jones has been on the poll, and admittedly, it is a joke he hasn’t been elected. In 2022, Jones tallied 41.1 % of the vote, and had the largest year-over-year enhance of any participant besides Scott Rolen, however he remained nicely brief of the 75 % threshold for induction. That’s a disgrace.

I had the privilege and honor of watching Jones’ complete profession. I bear in mind when he made his major-league debut at 18 years outdated for the Atlanta Braves in 1996; it was the fourth 12 months of my 16-year profession as a normal supervisor with each the Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Nationals. The first time I noticed Jones, he made a defensive play I’d by no means seen earlier than. It was an indication of issues to come back.

I by no means evaluated who noticed a greater defensive middle fielder — and it is not even shut. His skill to take singles away on balls hit in entrance of him was simply as particular as his knack for robbing would-be doubles in the gaps and homers over the fence. His first-step quickness, angles and jumps have been the greatest I ever noticed, particularly from 1996 to 2007, the pinnacle of his profession. Jones had unimaginable vary in all instructions, a robust arm, particular instincts and a excessive baseball IQ. He received 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards from ’98 to ’07. The solely outfielders who’ve greater than 10 Gold Gloves are Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays.

It was wonderful what number of game-saving catches Jones made, however much more beneficial have been the quantity of base hits he would take away from the opposing staff. I all the time mentioned that Braves pitchers wanted to get solely 24 outs a sport as an alternative of 27 when he was taking part in middle discipline — as a result of, by himself, he would take away a minimum of three hits per sport. He was that good.

When I used to be the GM in Washington, I requested my supervisor, the late, nice Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, “Who’s the greatest middle fielder you’ve got ever seen?” He did not hesitate: “Andruw Jones and Willie Mays are 1A and 1B for me.” I requested Hall of Fame GM John Schuerholz if he ever noticed a greater defensive middle fielder than Jones, and he shortly replied, “No.” I requested if Jones must be in the Hall of Fame, and he answered, “Absolutely.”

Jones has the most profession Defensive Wins Above Replacement (24.4) amongst outfielders, in keeping with Baseball Reference. He ranks second amongst all gamers, and first amongst outfielders, in Total Zone Runs, which measure “the quantity of runs above or under common the participant was value primarily based on the quantity of performs made.”

During my profession, I used to be in organizations with nice defensive middle fielders reminiscent of Ken Griffey Jr. (who additionally received 10 Gold Gloves), Mike Cameron and Andy Van Slyke, however none of them might match Jones. I’ve watched Jim Edmonds, Kevin Kiermaier, Byron Buxton and Steve Finley — all particular defensive gamers — and none of them come near Jones in phrases of his vary and skill to remove hits.

If the voters need to dismiss Robinson and Schuerholz, disregard my opinion, ignore the 10 straight Gold Gloves and overlook the stellar defensive metrics, that is OK. I’d counsel they ask any of the National League GMs, managers and scouts whose groups confronted Jones from ’96 to ’07, as a result of I promise you, they may all say he was the greatest in that period. They will all agree he belongs in the Hall.

While the voters are at it, ask the trio of Braves Hall of Fame pitchers — John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine — in the event that they ever noticed a greater defensive middle fielder and in the event that they suppose Jones must be in the Hall of Fame. All three will say “sure” in the strongest phrases.

In an look on David Cone’s “Toeing the Slab” podcast final January, Maddux advocated for Jones to make the Hall and marveled at his defensive exploits.

“I bear in mind Andruw was hitting like (.180) when he first got here up, and I heard (supervisor) Bobby (Cox) inform him … ‘I do not care in the event you ever get successful … you are saving us two or three runs an evening simply along with your glove.’ So it sort of places issues in perspective. Of course, after that he began hitting.”

Yes he did. Jones hit 434 house runs in his profession, together with 26 or extra homers for 10 straight years (’98 to ’07). He stole 152 bases. He made 5 All-Star groups, received a Silver Slugger Award and completed in the high 16 in the NL MVP voting 5 instances.

From 1998 to 2007, he ranked third in WAR behind Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, and simply forward of his former teammate Chipper Jones, a Hall of Famer.

In my opinion, the greatest participant at every place from an period must be enshrined in the Hall. During my time as a GM, Barry Larkin and Ozzie Smith have been the two greatest NL shortstops, and Jeff Bagwell and Fred McGriff have been the two greatest first basemen. The voters bought these calls proper, finally — McGriff was elected in December by the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee — so why not Jones? He was clearly the greatest NL middle fielder of his time. Defense was the main issue in Smith’s election, and it must be for Jones as nicely.

Jones’ case is held again solely by his hit device and his late profession crash. He was only a profession .254 hitter, however he posted a profession .337 on-base proportion, the similar mark as Smith, though Jones’ house run energy ought to make up for it in the eyes of voters; regardless, his protection ought to put him over the high. I’ve additionally been advised Jones ought to have retired after the 2007 season as a result of his expertise deteriorated dramatically, and maybe some voters simply bear in mind the remaining 5 seasons, when he was a shell of his Hall of Fame expertise. However, the 10 years he dominated the sport must be sufficient to get his Hall go. In my opinion, he did not have to perform something extra after that time. Those remaining years must be acknowledged for the counting stats however ignored in phrases of assessing his greatness.

Every voter has a distinct course of and a distinct view of what constitutes a Hall of Famer. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But when I attempt to perceive why some voters do not verify the field for Jones, I can solely draw the following conclusions:

1. They by no means noticed him play from 1996 to 2007 and/or by no means noticed him play in individual. Remember, there was no Statcast again then. Baseball didn’t have the analytics and metrics of right now to assist some individuals higher perceive how particular he was defensively.

2. They by no means talked to the GMs, managers and/or scouts who evaluated him throughout these years.

3. They by no means talked to the teammates he performed with then.

4. They by no means talked to gamers he performed towards then.

5. They simply do not get it. At all.

Andruw Jones smiles earlier than a Braves sport in 2019. (Jason Getz / USA Today)

Andruw Jones belongs in the Hall of Fame as a result of, throughout his prime, he was arguably the best defensive middle fielder to ever play the sport. He belongs in the Hall of Fame as a result of of his offense and energy, too, as Schuerholz jogs my memory each time we focus on his profession. He belongs in the Hall of Fame as a result of his staff received its division 10 instances from 1996 by means of 2005, and he was a significant purpose for that run.

Voters, please do the proper factor: Vote Andruw Jones into the Hall of Fame, as a result of to be actual, it should not be a debate. It’s the place he belongs — simply ask anybody who was half of that period.

2023 Hall of Fame protection

• Hall of Fame ballots: The Athletic‘s voters reveal their alternatives

• Rosenthal: Why I struggled with Carlos Beltrán’s Hall candidacy

• Stark: 5 issues we discovered from the HOF Contemporary Era election

(Top picture of Andruw Jones in 2007: John Iacono / Sports Illustrated by way of Getty Images)

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