From Atlanta to LA: Center Fielder Andruw Jones Struggles in Dodger Blue

Kevin LuchanskyAnalyst IMay 13, 2008

Can anyone explain the plate struggles of five time All-Star Andruw Jones?

One thing is for certain: the Dodgers center fielder and 10-time Gold Glove winner has no explanation.

“I'm doing whatever I can to help the team win, even if I'm not hitting. I know I'm better than this," Jones said.

The former slugger skyrocketed out of the minors and into the majors with the Braves in late 1996. Jones was signed by Atlanta at the ripe young age of 16, and spent just two years in the minors.

In both seasons, ’95 and ’96, Jones was named the Minor League Player of the Year.

I can still recall the Braves' pennant run of ’96. After stunning the Cards in a best-of-seven series in which the Braves were down 3-1, the World Series was set.  

It was said to be a clash of the '90s titans – the Yankees and Braves.

In Game 1 a young, light-skinned outfielder, sporting No. 25, made his way to the plate.

Scouts had tabbed Jones as “the next Griffey.”

“Is this kid supposed to be any good?” I asked my father.

Almost before the words were completely out of my mouth, young Andruw connected and sent one about five rows deep into the Fulton County Stadium seats.

“I think that might have just answered your question,” my father answered.  

As a 10-year-old Braves fan, I was more than excited to have Jones donning the Atlanta tomahawk across his chest. In the Braves 12-1 Game 1 rout of the Yankees, Jones managed to send another one out of the stadium, carrying the Atlanta faithful into frenzy.

The Braves organization already had a talented young star by the name of Jones, first name Chipper. Chipper experienced a lot of success in his 1995 rookie season, finishing second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting to the Dodgers’ Hideo Nomo.

The Jones pair reminded me of the “Martinez Brothers” in Seattle, Edgar and Tino. They had the potential to do great things in Atlanta.

Andruw spent 12 successful seasons in Atlanta, despite not winning a ring. Jones was much a part of the Braves’ 14 consecutive NL East titles, an MLB record.

In the 2007-08 off season, Jones agreed to a two-year deal with the Dodgers, signing for $36.2 million.

There is the saying that some players are “worth every penny.”

So far this season, Jones has been worth next to nothing.

In 112 at-bats this season, Andruw is hitting a dismal .160, and has driven in only five runs.

Even if Andruw were to have a down season, he was expected to hit at least 25 home runs. With just one jack this season, Jones is on pace for just four or five.

To put things in perspective, two of the National League’s best pitchers, Carlos Zambrano and Micah Owings, have just as many home runs as Jones, and each have a higher batting average.

Jones’ poor production this season is hardly what the Dodgers and first-year manager Joe Torre were looking for from the 2005 NL Silver Slugger award winner.

Andruw was brought to LA because of his history of power production and was expected to produce around 30 home runs.  In 2007, Jeff Kent led all Dodgers with 20 home runs and not one of the Boys in Blue had 90 runs batted in—catcher Russell Martin had 87.

Since 1997, the Willemstad, Curacao native has never finished a season with less than 26 home runs. More impressively, Jones has appeared in 150 games or more in each season of his career, aside from his rookie campaign in 1996.

The LA media have criticized Jones’ weight this season, but from the looks of it, Andruw still has the range and the speed to play center field.

This season, Jones may not reach the 150 game plateau—but it won’t be due to injury or fielding ability.

Torre may just have to bench the $18.1 million-a-year investment.


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