Iconic Canadian musician Neil Young famously coined the phrase, “It’s better to burn out than fade away,” but Andruw Jones would respectfully disagree. While appearing at the Atlanta Braves Fan Fest this past weekend at Turner Field, Jones indicated he will formally announce his retirement from professional baseball in the near future. Jones last played in the majors in 2012, and spent 2013 and 2014 playing for Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. He did not play organized baseball in 2015 and as recently as last summer, Jones was still hoping to catch on with an MLB team. He now appears ready to call it a career.
All told, Jones played 17 years in Major League Baseball, slugged 434 home runs, compiled a .254 career batting average, and made five All-Star Game appearances. The “Curacao Kid,” famously made his World Series debut in 1996, and at 19 years old became the youngest player in baseball history to hit a home run in the Fall Classic. However, it was on defense where Andruw Jones made his mark.
From 1997 to 2007 Jones compiled 10 straight Gold Gloves in center field, and played some of the best defense the game has ever seen. In fact, since 1954, Jones leads all center fielders in defensive runs saved with 254 — no other player even has 200. From the years 1998 to 2006, Jones’ average WAR was a fantastic 6.1. In his prime, Jones played an incredibly shallow center field, but could track down any ball hit to the fence as well. He had a knack for taking away would-be hits with his patented diving catch heading towards the infield. No one previously, or since has made catching a shallow liner look more routine than Andruw Jones. During his Hall of Fame induction speech, John Smoltz praised Jones in saying, “A special thanks to the greatest center fielder that I’ve ever seen in Andruw Jones.” Rest assured there are dozens of fellow Braves pitchers during the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s who would sing similar praises for Jones.
The merits of Jones’ own Hall of Fame credentials are debatable, and in all likelihood he will not have a plaque in Cooperstown. Jones certainly peaked at a very young age, and he experienced a steep decline once he hit 30 years old. But there is no denying the fact that Jones has left a legacy in Atlanta, around the league and in his native Curacao. He is idolized in his home country, and no doubt helped to pave the way for current players Kenley Jansen, Jurickson Profar, and Andrelton Simmons. When Andruw Jones finally does file his retirement papers with the Commissioner’s Office, he will walk away with his head held high, and for one tiny country in the Caribbean, his star most certainly will not fade away.