In late 2007, Atlanta Braves free agent outfielder Andruw Jones agreed to a two-year deal with the L.A. Dodgers. The contract agreed to was short but very profitable, as Jones is currently earning—I mean receiving—$18.1 million per season.
In 75 games last season, Jones batted a league-worst .158, including 76 strikeouts. Not quite the numbers Dodgers fans were expecting to see, and not quite the player that was well worth the money in Atlanta. Some of Jones' swings were outright embarrassing and quite honestly were painful to watch.
He always seemed to be off balance and fooled by any off-speed pitch.
Then suddenly, Jones and the Dodgers announced that Andruw was suffering from an injured knee. It was obvious that Jones was not healthy and his knee was bothering him, but coming into spring training 20 pounds overweight surely did not help his cause. Don't expect Andruw to admit that though.
As we approach the New Year and a new baseball season in 2009, a healthier and slimmer Andruw Jones can be spotted in the Dominican Republic playing winter ball with the Agullas Cibaenas.
On the Agullas' website, Andruw Jones completed an interview where he basically states that he is already looking ahead to the 2009 free agency period. What a shocker.
Could we have another J.D. Drew on our hands?
Jones is quoted as saying on the Agullas' website, "After the next season I'll be a free agent again. I have to regain my confidence in the game, get the injury out of my mind, and run like normal. That confidence is what I've come to look for with the Agullas."
It is easy to understand a player having a rough or underachieving year due to an injury, but showing up before the season out of shape, not ready to play is not. Jones can blame his problems on his knee injury all he wants, but I'm not buying it, and neither should you.
Jones had his first 50-homer season in 2007; not coincidentally, that was also his "contract year." Although his batting average that year was low and his strikeout total was high, any player who hits 50 homers and drives in over 100 runs is going to get paid...and paid well.
So seeing Jones' recent comments, I am not surprised that he is taking his "job" more seriously now that more money is on the line. How many players are we going to let get away with theft?
How can we forget Darren Dreifort? I think he ate more In-N-Out double-doubles than he pitched games in L.A. Then we had Adrian Beltre struggling to reach his potential—that was until his contract year, of course. Next we had J.D. Drew. I don't even think I need to get into any details because any team who has had Drew knows what I mean.
Now we have come to a similar situation with Andruw Jones, and at this point I know what is coming...a solid season with numerous highlight reel plays and a glimpse of the player we thought we were getting for two years, not one.
Whatever happened to the good old days when ballplayers played hard for the sake of playing hard? What happened to earning what you get paid?
While the fans poured into Dodger Stadium last season in record numbers hoping to see that 10-time Gold Glove winner and slugger wearing that jersey number 25, he was handling a pack of Skoal instead of a bat and glove.
The fans paid for their tickets. They paid the outrageous stadium food and beverage prices. They paid their 25 bucks for his jersey and another 20 for a hat.
All of us went to work, earned our pay, and still, because we are true fans...we chose to use our "extra" money to go watch our favorite team play. Yet one of the guys we thought we would call our favorite players chose to show up to his job out of shape and unprepared. It's too bad the consequences can't be the same as it would be for our jobs, right?
It is players like Mr. Andruw Jones who can make baseball exciting and fun to watch, but it is also players like Jones who make us realize how unimportant the fans really are.
Players like Jones and Drew can thank the fans all they want and say how much they want to prove to us all how great they really are, but all of us should know by now that it is not our respect they are after. It is our money.
The only thing I know for sure about Andruw Jones is this: If he has another "career year" in his "contract year" and the Dodgers renew his deal, Jones won't be the only one proving how unimportant the fans really are.