Braves legend Andruw Jones gains ground but still misses Hall of Fame

Andruw Jones authored an incredible career full of accomplishments, including an impressive string of Gold Glove Awards and a ton of home runs. During his prime, he was arguably the best center fielder in the game.

Jones was not elected into the Hall of Fame on the most recent ballot – those results were announced Tuesday – but he is getting much closer.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America only elected Scott Rolen, the iconic third baseman who played for the Cardinals and Phillies, into Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023. Jones appeared on 58.1% of the ballots cast in his sixth year on the ballot, leaving him in a favorable position to be elected in any of his four remaining years on the writers’ ballot.

In December, former Brave Fred McGriff was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Contemporary Era Committee, which voted during the winter meetings. Only Rolen will join him for induction into Cooperstown.

While Jones is not yet a Hall of Famer, Tuesday could be seen as encouraging for his future chances.

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Jones boasts an impressive case. And since his debut on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2018, he has appeared on a higher percentage of ballots cast each year.

In 2018, he was on 7.3% of ballots.

In 2019, he appeared on 7.5%.

In 2020, that number rose to 19.4%.

In 2021, it went to 33.9%.

In 2022, it jumped to 41.4%.

He is now at 58.1%. If his rise continues, he should be elected into the Hall of Fame within his 10-year window on the writers’ ballot.

Jones won 10 Gold Glove Awards – in a row! – from 1998 through 2007. During a 17-year career, Jones was an All-Star five times. He won one Silver Slugger Award.

Jones, who spent 12 seasons in Atlanta, hit .254 with an .853 OPS over 7,599 career at-bats. He finished with 434 home runs, including 51 – still a Braves single-season record – in 2005. Jones tallied 1,289 RBIs. He stole 152 bases.

Jones is one of the best center fielders in baseball history. There are a few telling statistics that strengthen his case and make you wonder why it has taken so long for him to climb toward the necessary 75%.

Jones is one of only four players in history to win 10 Gold Glove Awards and hit at least 400 home runs. The other three – Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Schmidt – were first-ballot Hall of Famers.

Then there’s this: According to FanGraphs, Jones compiled 67 Wins Above Replacement over his career, which puts him 11th all-time among center fielders.

Eight of the players ahead of Jones are Hall of Famers. One more (Mike Trout) is a future Hall of Famer. And another (Carlos Beltrán) may eventually be a Hall of Famer.

From 1996 through 2007 – the best years of Jones’ career – he amassed 64.3 WAR, the best mark in the majors during that time by around nine WAR, per FanGraphs.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Jones, now 45, signed with the Braves at 16 years old in 1993. In 1996, the Curaçao native debuted at 19 years old, beginning an illustrious big-league career full of exciting moments.

In 1996, Jones became the youngest player to homer in the World Series when he launched two bombs against the Yankees. In 2005, he finished second in National League MVP voting behind Albert Pujols. In the middle of it all, he won Gold Glove after Gold Glove.

In terms of his Hall of Fame case, Jones’ biggest knock might be his sharp decline. In 2008 with the Dodgers, Jones hit .158 with a .505 OPS. He recovered and had a couple of decent seasons as he finished his career, but he didn’t look like the Andruw Jones of old. (In fairness to Jones, he debuted at 19, so his decline perhaps came at an earlier age than others because he already had so many games and seasons under his belt).

Regardless, his 2023 jump in the voting, which continued a trend for his years on the ballot, puts him in position to perhaps be enshrined among baseball’s greats one day.

If and when he is elected into the Hall of Fame, Jones would join, among many others in Braves history, former teammates Chipper Jones, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, and their manager Bobby Cox, in Cooperstown. Jones and the others were part of a special run in which the Braves won 14 consecutive division titles, which is still a MLB record.

Billy Wagner, an All-Star closer for the Braves in his final season in 2010, appeared on 68.1% of ballots. Gary Sheffield, an All-Star for Atlanta in 2003, checked in at 55% this time around. Wagner is eligible to be on the ballot for two more years, while Sheffield will enter his final year on the ballot next time around.

While both played for the Braves, both are better known for their tenures with other clubs.