You can’t talk about the best center fielders in baseball history without mentioning Andruw Jones.
The outfield anchor for an Atlanta Braves team that won the NL East in each of his first 10 seasons (1996-2005), Jones won 10 consecutive Gold Glove awards from 1998-2007 and finished his career with 434 home runs.
One of the best top defensive players of his generation, Jones enters his fifth year on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot having seen a huge bump in support since he got of 7.3% of the vote his first year.
The Curaçao native received 33.9% last year and is hovering around 50% among 2022 voters according to Ryan Thibodeaux’s Hall of Fame tracker.
Jones burst onto the scene as a teenager – becoming the youngest player to ever homer in the World Series – and his career lived up to the expectations set that night in 1996 at Yankee Stadium.
As Jones’ candidacy trends upwards, let’s take a closer look at his Hall of Fame credentials:
The case for
Jones is one of only four players to have won 10 Gold Gloves with 400 career home runs – alongside first-ballot Hall of Famers in Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt and Ken Griffey Jr.
The center fielder’s 24.2 defensive WAR from 1998-2007 was the best of any position player, with future Hall of Famer Scott Rolen‘s 15.1 a not-so-close second.
Jones’ total 57.6 WAR in that stretch was third in baseball behind only Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds.
A delight to watch on defense, Jones played a famously shallow center field but seemed to prevent just about everything from getting over his head. With a smooth and graceful stride, Jones made running down fly balls at the warning track look all too easy.
The case against
Jones seemed to be on a more clear-cut Hall of Fame path but his rapid decline began around the time he was turning 30. After hitting 51 home runs with a .922 OPS in 2005 , his OPS dropped all the way to .724 by 2007 – unfortunately his contract year.
Still, the Dodgers gave him a two-year deal worth $36.1 million, one of the highest average annual values in baseball at the time. Things went sideways his first year with a new team and Jones was never able to get back on track.
Over Jones’ last five seasons in the majors, he hit .210 with the Dodgers, Rangers, White Sox and Yankees, never getting more than 300 at-bats in a season.
2018 – 7.3%
2019 – 7.5%
2020 – 19.4%
2021 – 33.9%
Unless Jones hits an unforeseen voting ceiling, things are looking pretty good!
He can be expected to get somewhere near 50% of the vote this year and you’d have to imagine that Jones can add another 25% over his last five years on the ballot.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Andruw Jones’ Hall of Fame case: Gold Glover was among best CF’s ever