My Hall of Fame ballot: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome, Larry Walker and …
Check Baseball-Reference’s page for 2018 Hall-eligible players, and you’ll note that I’ve voted for 10 – you can only vote for 10 – of the top 11 in career WAR (wins above replacement). Andruw is No. 11 on that list. I omitted Scott Rolen, who’s No. 8, to make room. I did that for several reasons, some clinical, others less so.
Reason No. 1: I witnessed nearly all of Andruw’s career. I was there the night he hit two home runs as a teenager in Game 1 of the World Series in Yankee Stadium. I was there when he drew the walk off Kenny Rogers to win the NLCS. Heck, I was there the night Bobby Cox pulled him for dawdling.
Reason No. 2: As good as I thought Andruw was while watching him, the memory is even stronger. I call this the Johnny Bench Effect. I grew up 65 miles from Cincinnati, and it was sometimes possible to miss the forest – him being the Greatest Catcher Ever – for the trees. Sometimes we wondered why so many of Bench’s home runs weren’t of the Clutch Type. (Never mind that the biggest homer in Redleg history – Game 5, 1972 NLCS, bottom of the ninth, off Pittsburgh’s Dave Giusti – was hoisted to the opposite field by J.B.) We saw such excellence up close for so long that we began to pick its nits. Something similar, I submit, happened with Braves-watchers and Andruw.
Reason No. 3: I believe A. Jones is one of those players who would benefit from a longer look from Hall voters. He needs five percent of the vote to stay on the ballot for next year. I’m happy to do my bit. Yes, this is me practicing advocacy journalism, which I don’t often do.
Vladimir Guerrero probably will be elected this year. He drew 71.7 percent of the needed 75 last year, his first on the ballot. I didn’t vote for him last year or this. His career WAR is 59.3, which puts him 13th among this year’s slate. He was 12th last year. He did one thing Andruw didn’t do, which was hit for average. (Vlad’s career batting average was .318, Andruw’s .254.) Which brings us to …
Reason No. 4: Defense matters. A. Jones had 10 Gold Gloves; Vlad had none. This isn’t quite either/or. As noted, I didn’t vote for Guerrero last year, when Andruw wasn’t on the ballot. I’m just saying that some Counting Stats don’t sway me the way they once did. This composite stat does: Among all outfielders who’ve ever played, Andruw Jones is the career leader in defensive WAR, and it’s not even close. Andruw’s at 24.1. Paul Blair is second at 18.4. Willie Mays is third at 18.1.
Now we list all the players in baseball history who won 10 Gold Gloves and had a 50-homer season -- Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Andruw. That’s powerful company.
I’m not saying that A. Jones warrants first-ballot enshrinement the way Mays and Junior did. Two more halfway decent seasons would have made A. Jones’ candidacy look rather different, but his decline wasn’t gradual. As is, he’d be a borderline Hall of Famer. Still, he was one of the 10 best position players in the game for a decade. That’s not nothing. That’s something worth discussing.
At this moment, I’d say it’s unlikely that Andruw will be voted into the Hall no matter how long he stays on the ballot. (The max is 10 years; used to be 15.) I think he’s one who’s apt to get more votes with every year, especially as the electorate gets younger, meaning more inclined to view advanced analytics in a positive light. Still, that .254 is going to be tough knot for anyone of any age to untie.
That said, I’d like to see this conversation take place: Andruw Jones, Hall of Famer or not? The biggest debates over Hall voting have lately involved PEDs. I’m tired -- way past tired, actually -- of those. Let’s talk about Andruw’s merits, or the lack thereof, instead.
Oh, and about the Braves’ other Jones: There’s no debate. Chipper will get at least 95 percent of the vote. At least, I say. C. Jones is a first-ballot lock. A. Jones’ best Hall of Fame shot will come several years down the line, but he has to get five percent of the vote in Year 1. Consider this my little speech for continuing nomination.