Andruw Jones gains votes, remains far short of Hall of Fame

Andruw Jones was one of the best defensive players in MLB history. (File photo)

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Andruw Jones was one of the best defensive players in MLB history. (File photo)

Former Braves star Andruw Jones was denied a spot in baseball’s Hall of Fame for the fifth consecutive year in voting announced Tuesday night, but his candidacy continued to gain momentum toward possible eventual induction.

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Jones, a defensive sensation in center field who also hit 434 home runs in a 17-year major-league career, received votes on 41.4% of ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, well short of the 75% required for election.

But his vote total was his highest in five years of eligibility, following 33.9% in 2021, 19.4% in 2020, 7.5% in 2019 and 7.3% in 2018.

He is eligible to remain on the ballot for five more years, and his upward movement in the voting has encouraged his supporters that he eventually could gain induction. Surges in vote totals aren’t unusual in the later years of players’ eligibility, with Larry Walker, elected in 2020 in his final year on the ballot, a recent example.

Already, the electorate is looking more favorably on Jones’ candidacy. He drew votes on 163 of 394 ballots cast this year. By comparison, he got just 31 votes in 2018, 32 in 2019, 77 in 2020 and 136 in 2021.

Jones played his first 12 major-league seasons with the Braves, 1996 through 2007, wowing fans, teammates and opponents alike with his defensive splendor. He won 10 consecutive Gold Glove awards from 1998 through 2007 and leads all outfielders in MLB history in career defensive WAR (wins above replacement).

He also was an offensive force in his prime, hitting 30 or more home runs in seven seasons with the Braves, including a career-high and National League-leading 51 in 2005. He had 100-plus RBIs in five seasons.

For much of his career, Jones – a five-time All-Star -- seemed on a clear path to Cooperstown. But his candidacy was weakened by a sharp falloff in production after age 30.

He hit .222 in 2007, his final season with the Braves, although he had 26 home runs and 94 RBIs that year. He had a cumulative .210 batting average the following five seasons with the Dodgers, Rangers, White Sox and Yankees. His career batting average dropped to .254.

Still, his defensive play – combined with his 434 homers – make him a strong Hall of Fame candidate in the minds of many observers.

Former teammate Tom Glavine, a Hall of Fame pitcher, said several years ago that “with all due respect to Willie Mays, who I never saw play, Andruw Jones was the best center fielder in our generation.”

Two other former Braves also received votes on more than 40% of the ballots in the tabulations announced Tuesday.

Billy Wagner, a relief pitcher who was with the Braves for the last of his 16 big-league seasons in 2010, drew votes on 51% of ballots in his seventh year of eligibility, up from 46.4% last year. Gary Sheffield, an outfielder who played for the Braves for two of his 22 big-league seasons (2002-03), got votes on 40.6% of ballots in his eighth year of eligibility, his percentage unchanged from last year.

Tim Hudson, a starting pitcher who was with the Braves from 2005-2013, more than half of his 17-year big-league career, was selected on just 3% of ballots, down from 5.2% last year. Because he fell below 5% this time, Hudson won’t be back on the ballot in the future.

David Ortiz was elected to the Hall in his first turn on the ballot, while Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were denied entry to Cooperstown in their final year under consideration by the BBWAA. Bonds got 66% of the vote, and Clemens was at 65.2%.

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