The Baseball Writers of America Association will release the results of this year's Baseball Hall of Fame balloting Tuesday night. There is always controversy that comes with this event; in recent years, the pressing issue was whether Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, members of the steroid rumor mill, should be in Cooperstown. Another divisive topic amongst fans is whether journalists should be the ones to decide who to induct.
Candidate Andruw Jones is currently on the ballot for the seventh time.Call to the Pen released an article in December detailing why Jones should (or shouldn’t) be in the Hall of Fame, and I aim to take a stance: let Andruw Jones enter the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.
A former center fielder for the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, and New York Yankees, Jones is most remembered for his astounding defensive skills. Whether making seemingly impossible catches or phenomenal throws in the outfield, Jones was a key asset on the defense for many years on the field. In his 12 years as a Brave, Jones won 10 Golden Glove awards in a row beginning in 1998. In the postseason, Jones robbed (contested) home run champion Barry Bonds in the 2002 NLDS. Another memorable postseason catch occurred in Game 3 of the 1996 World Series. These defensive accolades and statistics, though incredibly impressive, are belabored. Let’s take a look at Jones behind the plate.
Jones’s offense is often one of the reasons why his Hall of Fame case falters. However, is his offense indeed something that should keep him out of Cooperstown? He hit 434 career home runs, and that’s not a number to be shy about. While his batting average was, well, average (.254), his career .823 OPS also isn’t anything to laugh at.
Braves' Andruw Jones deserves Hall of Fame honor, and his offense merits induction, too
2005 proved to be one of Jones’ best years in the league. Along with being an All-Star finalist, Gold Glove earner, and Silver Slugger winner, Jones finished second in MVP voting, falling short five votes behind Albert Pujols. That year, he hit 51 home runs, knocked in 128 RBI, and posted an OPS of .927. That’s just in his MVP year. One MVP season doesn’t mean automatic Hall of Famer, though, right? Let’s look at his postseason numbers: .273 overall, 34 RBI, and 65 hits. While not up to Yordan Alvarez's levels of postseason magnificence, he still managed to get the job done. Will the BBWAA ignore Jones’s defensive accomplishments due to his apparent offensive shortcomings?
Enter first-time candidate Joe Mauer, former catcher for the Minnesota Twins. According to the Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker, 83.6% of voters want the face of the Twins in Cooperstown, with 55% of the votes in. Jones is polling at 70%, only needing five more percent to enter Cooperstown. This comparison is not a knock on Mauer, as his own Hall of Fame case is by all means impressive (and we all know how hard to come by offense is from the catcher position). Jones' higher WAR matters, despite Mauer's proficiency behind the plate. Sure, Mauer’s OPS is only slightly higher than Jones’, and he won more awards, including MVP. But if Joe Mauer, based on his numbers alone (and based only on peak, much like Jones' case), is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, then Andruw Jones should be inducted right next to former Twin.
If anything, Jones’ annual snubbing from the Hall of Fame says more about the institution itself rather than Jones’ achievements as a player. More often than not, players get into the Hall of Fame based on offensive performances. Ozzie Smith immediately comes to mind as one of the very few inductees more remembered for their skills in the field instead of in front of the plate. Derek Jeter was a unanimous first-ballot Hall of Fame candidate in 2020, no matter what. However, there is a reason why fans and critics remember Jeter more as a hitter than a position player (again, not disagreeing with Jeter being in the Hall of Fame). I must ask, then, will a time come when the Hall of Fame recognizes those whose defense contributed to the game?
“The Curacao Kid’s” time in Atlanta and Major League Baseball was nothing short of unforgettable. He was a staple on the legendary ‘90s Braves teams, including taking them to two Championship Series and World Series. The Atlanta Braves retired his number in 2022 and inducted him into their Hall of Fame in 2016. With the final results only hours away, it will be a matter of time before the BBWAA decides to vote Jones into the Hall of Fame or leave him for next year's ballot. Regardless of the consensus on his offense or how the Hall functions as an institution, Andruw Jones earned his spot with the upper echelons of baseball royalty. I can only hope that others feel the same.