I turned to an educated numbers-cruncher. I asked Thibodaux to assess the Andruw arc. His response:
“Jones now looks like he might be on a path to eventual induction. From what we can tell, he’s likely to drop from his current 41% in the tracking to somewhere in the low 30s in the final results. (Most candidates suffer this sort of drop from the pre-announcement tracking to the final result.) That’s significant improvement and will be 10-15% better than last year’s 19.4%. While a finish in the low-30 range might not seem all that exciting, the jump this year is – and usually indicates further improvement in future voting cycles is possible and maybe even likely. Larry Walker didn’t get into the 30s until his eighth year on the ballot. Then he got in the 50s in his ninth year, and then he was elected to the Hall of Fame in his 10th.”
Then: “Jones’ path is likely to be longer, as there’s no last-year-on-the-ballot imperative (for him) anytime soon, but the path is there. A scenario that strikes me as possible is for Jones to cross the 40% mark next year and then 50% the following year. If he’s above 50% with four years of eligibility left, you have to like his chances.”
Again going by Thibodaux’s data, the 2021 Hall of Fame class – results will be revealed Tuesday – could number zero. Only Curt Schilling, in his ninth go-around, is truly close at 74.5%. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, also in their ninth appearances, are around 72%, and most of those apt to vote for those two are those of us who make their votes public before the announcement. (My ballot: Bonds, Clemens, Todd Helton, A. Jones, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Schilling, Gary Sheffield and Billy Wagner.) One way or another, Bonds and Clemens and Schilling will be off the ballot after next year, at which point Jones, as Thibodaux noted, will have four years left.
Sentimentality plays a role in HOF voting. Walker went from 54.6% in his penultimate appearance to 76.6 in his last. Same player, same career stats, but clearly a slew of voters said, “What the heck; it’s now or never.” Also: Walker wasn’t lumped among the steroids set, which remains a matter of raging debate. My policy regarding alleged PED users: If MLB has allowed their numbers to stay on the books – and it absolutely has – that’s what I go by.
I have no idea how many of Bonds’ homers would have been loud outs if not for steroids. I have no idea how many of Clemens’ strikeouts would have otherwise been doubles in the gap. I cannot know the unknowable. I can only know what was.
Back to A. Jones: If we check Baseball-Reference WAR, he’s the sixth-best player on the 2021 ballot. (Ahead of him: Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, Rolen and Ramirez.) He’s among the greatest center fielders ever. He won 10 Gold Gloves. He leads all outfielders – all who ever played, mind you – in career Defensive WAR. He led the National League in Defensive WAR – this encompasses all positions – four times in five seasons. He had seven years of 30-plus homers. Had the final third of his career been a bit better, he’d have his place in Cooperstown by now.
It’s not my mission in life to make Andruw Jones a Hall of Famer, but I’m glad to know more and more people are seeing him the way I saw him, and I saw him a lot. He won’t make it this year, or next. There is, however, an increasing chance he’ll make it before long. Fingers crossed.