It was hard to talk about Major League Baseball in the 1990s without mentioning the Atlanta Braves.
There was also a young, up-and-coming star on those late 90s teams who would soon lose the “up-and-coming” label: center fielder Andruw Jones.
Jones offered a power bat behind the Hall of Fame third baseman as well as a glove in centerfield that consistently made out-of-this-world plays.
Unfortunately, baseball fans in the late 90s and early 2000s may not have appreciated this young kid from Curacao for what he was: a Hall of Fame worthy center fielder.
Let me be clear; the Hall of Fame is not called the Hall of Pretty Good for a reason.
It is reserved only for those who were great.
At first glance, it is easy to think Andruw Jones is a borderline candidate.
Jones is simply not at that level.
The answer is no, and the numbers support it.
Jones won ten straight Gold Gloves from 1998-2007.
Willie Mays holds the record for most times winning the award for outfielders with 12.
Second place among center fielders belongs to Andruw Jones and another Hall of Famer named Ken Griffey Jr.
His Hall of Fame comparables Andre Dawson and Kirby Puckett won eight and six respectively.
— MLB (@MLB) February 3, 2017
Jones hit 434 home runs in his 17-year career.
Compare that to Dawson who hit 438 in a 21-year career.
Puckett only hit 207 although power was not a major part of his game.
The gold standard for Hall of Fame power hitters appears to be 500 career bombs.
Guys who don’t reach that number are given a pass for having another elite facet to their game.
Does Jones’s defensive ability not qualify as elite?
Here's a list of CF with more career homeruns than Andruw Jones.
Ken Griffey Jr.
Here's a list of CF with more gold gloves than Andruw Jones.
That's it. https://t.co/IZEl3ssyvJ
— Beaneater Buzz (@BeaneaterB) December 13, 2020
WAR (Wins Above Replacement)
This stat category has long been considered the benchmark for assessing how valuable a player is.
Jones’s career WAR of 62.7 is comparable to Dawson’s 64.8 and tops Puckett’s 51.1.
Great players are the most valuable players on their teams.
In 1999, Chipper Jones won the National League MVP award and carried a WAR of 6.9.
Andruw Jones had a WAR of 7.1 that year. If Dawson and Puckett are valuable enough for Cooperstown, it is hard to see why Jones isn’t.
The only thing Omar Vizquel (42.5 fWAR, 262.1 Def) did better than Andruw Jones (67.0 fWAR, 278.8 Def) was play longer. Played 24 seasons and had exactly one more Gold Glove than Andruw, who was the hands down best defensive center fielder of all-time. https://t.co/fqdb4MvEn6
— Grant McAuley (@grantmcauley) December 12, 2020
Like many guys who don’t get voted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, there are some aspects of Jones’s game that raise some question marks.
His career batting average of .254 leaves a lot to be desired.
Both had career averages of .262 — well below the standard for Cooperstown.
Smith was given a pass because of his reputation as a “Wizard” on defense, and Jackson was pardoned because of his light tower power.
Jones should be excused because of his defensive play. . . and his power helps his cause as well.
Knocking on the Door
If not for baseball legend Chipper Jones, whom many rank at or near the top of the list of greatest third basemen to ever play the game, Andruw Jones may have been the face of those late 90s early 2000s Braves teams.
As he walks up to the gate of Cooperstown, he brings with him one of the most unique power and defense combinations the game has ever seen.
He has been knocking on the door for years.
He is just waiting for 75% of the voters to let him in.