When word came down over the weekend the Texas Rangers were looking at Andruw Jones for the final roster spot, Rangers fans were quick to express their outrage. Now, I can understand the outrage, but the principle argument among the fanbase, and in the media, was fear of another Sammy Sosa. This is simply irrational and completely irrelevant.
First, let's look at the facts. Andruw Jones played in the Majors in 2008, Sammy Sosa hadn't played in over a year when he signed with the Rangers. Jones may not have exactly hit the cover off the ball with the Dodgers last year and played a very poor center field, but he still saw Major League pitching.
Sammy Sosa was 38 years old the year he played in Texas; Jones is seven years younger at 31. Jones may not be the center fielder he once was, but that won't be his job in 2009. He is strictly a hitter, period. For that, I trust Rudy Jaramillo to assess his potential contribution to the club. Rudy is the reason the Rangers signed Jones in the first place; clearly, he sees Jones has some left in the tank.
Jones is three years removed from hitting 41 home runs in a National League park known for its pitchers for a reason. Hitting at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington for a full season in addition to Rudy fixing his swing might just bring out the Andruw Jones of old. If nothing else, he could provide more than Sosa in '07, which was a decent year for Sammy; he did hit 21 home runs and drive in 92. Would the Rangers get that out of Frank Catalanotto?
The final roster spot will come down to Catalanotto and Jones. The Rangers have made that point very clear. This is where the argument should lie, not a comparison between Jones and Sosa.
The Rangers' reasoning for using Jones instead of Catalanotto is simple: they have too many left-handed bats in the lineup. With Josh Hamilton, Hank Blalock, Chris Davis, and David Murphy expected to be in the lineup most nights, the Rangers need some power from the right side; especially against tough left-handed pitching.
The argument for Catalanotto is his ability to come off the bench and make solid contact. In terms of pitch hitting, Catalanotto is the better choice over Jones. Which do the Rangers need more? A late-inning pitch hitter or a right-handed DH against tough lefthanders?
Considering the lefties in the AL West, I would lean toward the right-handed DH, provided Jones has truly begun to climb out of the wilderness. He's got two weeks to prove his swing is back. If he does, the Rangers should buy out Catalanotto and give the spot to Jones. If he doesn't, Catalanotto gets the final roster spot. The Rangers made no guarantees to Jones when he decided not to opt out of his contract.
It'll be a fight to the finish for Jones and Catalanotto. May the best player win.