I vividly remember fighting my way through a crowd of autograph hoards and hounds at Shea Stadium hoping to get Andruw Jones to sign my baseball card. At the time, Jones was on top of the baseball world leading the Braves atop the division and producing gargantuan numbers that catapulted him a top the MVP rankings. I was seriously excited at the thought of getting Jones's autograph thinking that maybe in 15-20 years, Jones would be in the hall of fame as one of the greatest center fielders to ever play the game.
Well, after tense moments of elbowing and shoving, I got the autograph. Woooooooooooo! Satisfied with my conquest, I placed the card into a protective holder thinking that I would hold onto this card forever as a momento to when I met the great Andruw Jones before a game at Shea Stadium.
Anyone think I could get .50 cents for that autograph now?
Because wow, Jones has been terrible over the past two seasons. Jones went from being an MVP candidate and one of the top power hitters in baseball to one of the biggest mysteries seemingly overnight. Jones's swing has become long, ugly, and pull happy while he seems to have lost the ability to go the other way.
In 2007, Jones struggled with the Braves in his final season with the team by hitting only .222 with 26 home runs. Baseball people feared that Jones had lost a step and was now on the decline, but the Dodgers decided to take a chance on the one time wonder boy by giving him a two year contract.
And then in 2008 Jones bottomed out to historic lows. Jones looked lost for the entire season and hit only .158 for the entire season. Let's soak that in for a moment: .158. Can it get any worse than that? On top of that, Jones only hit 3 home runs while driving in a Rey Ordonez-esque 14 RBIs.
By the end of 2008, the Dodgers released Jones after he agreed to defer some money on his contract. Jones apparently thought that he would be able to latch on with another team (BRAVES) and prove to them that he could still be a productive player. Even though he has been around forever, Jones is only 31 years old and should be entering the prime of his career right now.
But to date, Jones has had no real suitors. The Braves reportedly have no interest in bringing Jones back on a major league deal despite his long ties with the club. Even though Jones hit below the Mendoza line last season, he still feels as though he is worthy of a major league deal. Someone please explain to me how this makes sense.
So that brings us to the big question, if Jones will not accept a minor league deal, is he done? I actually think so. I cannot see any team taking a chance on Jones with a major deal this off season considering how terrible the market is right now. Jones on a minor league deal is no risk, but Jones on a major league deal brings along risk because he takes up a valuable roster spot and will undoubtedly lobby hard for playing time based on his previous statistics.
If this is indeed the end for Jones, then his career will go down as one of the strangest in history. The rise and fall of Andruw Jones has gone from a Hollywood script to inexplicable and somewhat sad. Just another stark reminder of how quickly athletes rise and fall in their respective fields.