The year is 1996. It’s Game 1 of the World Series. A 19-year-old outfielder steps up to the plate in his first at bat and hits a 2-run home run. A little later, he stands back in the batters box and delivers another homer, this time of the 3-run variety. Atlanta Braves fans and the rest of the baseball world would be introduced to Andruw Jones.
Now, after 19 baseball seasons, Andruw has decided to hang it up, call it a career and move on with his life. An interesting question was posed and it was going to require some thought. Does Andruw Jones deserve to have his number retired with the Atlanta Braves?
I am currently 34-years old so when the Braves started their run of dominant baseball in 1991, I was already a die-hard fan at the impressionable age of nine. Looking back initially, I had felt that Chipper Jones, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and of course the great Bobby Cox were the only ones from the teams of my childhood who deserved to have their number retired. Then I started to dissect Andruw’s career.
Lets go back to the 1996-97 offseason. Even though the World Series didn’t end with another victory for the Braves, our fans and organization had an entire offseason to get excited about this 19-year-old phenom. Imaginations were running wild. Did we just bring up another big time hitter to add to our already dynamic lineup with our still very young Ryan Klesko, Javy Lopez and Chipper? Ohhhh, the runs we were going to score! We Braves fans were licking our chops!
At this point, the fans didn’t even realize what the young Jones could do in the field. He started in right field for the entirety of the 1997 season because an elder statesman in Kenny Lofton was brought in to lead off. Lofton was in Atlanta for only one year and that meant Andruw was moving to center field in 1998.
That season was his first of 10 CONSECUTIVE Gold Glove winning seasons. Andruw is one of only five guys who have ever won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves in the outfield. Who were the others, you ask? Ken Griffey, Jr., Ichiro Suzuki, Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays. Many baseball experts consider him one of the top three defensive center fielders of ALL TIME with Mays and Griffey, Jr. being the others. I would love to be on any list that only included those two and myself!
(not the best quality, but man, it was too good to leave off)
Lets look at his bat. He played 11 full seasons with the Braves and a month and a half of another. In those 11 full seasons, he averaged 157 games/season and only missed 52 games total. He was reliable and he stayed healthy. He hit .263, which isn’t very noteworthy, but then you look at the rest of his offensive numbers.
- 1683 Hits
- 1045 Runs
- 368 HR
- 1117 RBI
- 3185 Total Bases
Andruw put up monster offensive numbers through out his prime, which was all spent with Atlanta. He was also a 5-time All Star.
The truth is, when you compare most players’ career with the likes of Chipper, Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux and Bobby, you won’t find many that were better but that doesn’t diminish Andruw’s longevity, productivity and excellence. Andruw, in his own right, was GREAT! It’s a shame that, not only has his number 25 not been retired yet, but that the likes of Troy Glaus, Juan Francisco and a few others have had Andruw’s number on their backs throughout the years. It’s time to bring number 25 home and put his name and number up for display with the other Atlanta Braves greats.
Now, I pose another question to Wayniac Nation. In five years, does Andruw Jones get consideration for the Hall of Fame? Is he deserving of, eventually, being in the HOF?