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Andruw Rudolf Jones [pronounced An-drew] (born April 23, 1977, in Willemstad, Curaçao, in the Netherlands Antilles) was an outfielder for the Atlanta Braves. He has collected nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards, a Silver Slugger Award, and a Hank Aaron Award. He now plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Andruw Jones signed with the Atlanta Braves organization as a free agent in 1993 at the age of 16. By 1996, he was being hailed as 'the next Griffey." The Braves brought Jones up to Atlanta on August 15,1996 when he was just 19 years-old. He spent his early time in the majors playing in right field because established center fielders Marquis Grissom and Kenny Lofton were already entrenched in the position.
In Game 1 of the 1996 World Series on October 20,1996, Jones was able to demonstrate his talents on the national stage. He connected for two home runs to left field on his first two at-bats as the Braves routed the New York Yankees 12-1. Jones became the youngest player ever to homer in the World Series (breaking Mickey Mantle's record.)
Jones became the Braves' everyday right fielder in 1997, but he posted a disappointing .231 average. Andruw moved to center field in 1998 and had a much more encouraging season. His average improved to .271, he belted 31 homers, and he stole 27 bases. He also won his first of nine straight Gold Glove Awards.
Whether he was in the batter's box or gliding under a fly ball to make a casual basket catch, Jones played the game in a very relaxed manner. This temporarily earned him the ire of manager Bobby Cox in June 1998 in an oft-forgotten incident when Cox pulled Jones out of a game because he felt Andruw had lazily allowed a single to drop in center field.
Still only 22 years-old, Jones had similar numbers in 1999, and though he was a dependable (he played all 162 games that season) and good player, many began to wonder if or when he would live up to the potential that they believed he possessed. He had a mini-breakout season in 2000 with career highs in average (.303), homers (36), and RBI (104). He also earned his first All-Star appearance.
However, in 2001 his average fell and his strikeouts went up. Plus, by now, Jones had gained nearly 30 pounds since reaching the majors, greatly diminishing his speed on the basepaths (he would not steal more than 11 bases after 2001). He maintained similar numbers in 2002, but was still playing superb defense. In 2003, with power-hitting Gary Sheffield in the lineup, Jones set a new career high in RBI (116). Unfortunately, he took a step backward in 2004 when he hit less than 30 homers and struck out a whopping 147 times.
Breakout in 2005
Although Andruw had developed into an outstanding center fielder and a solid offensive player, the general feeling shared by many fans and critics was that Jones had not lived up to the superstar expectations that had been pinned on him ten years before.
Prior to the 2005 season, Jones increased his workout regimen and, following advice given by Hall of Famer Willie Mays, widened his batting stance. The result was Andruw's most productive offensive season ever. Jones hit a major league leading 51 home runs, surpassing Hank Aaron's and Eddie Mathews' single-season club record. He also led the National League with a career-high 128 RBI. He finished just behind St. Louis Cardinals' first baseman Albert Pujols in the 2005 NL MVP vote.
2006 and Beyond
Jones played for the Netherlands in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, going 0-6 with two walks in 8 plate appearances. Jones continued to dominate opposing pitchers in 2006, finishing the season with 41 home runs and 129 RBI. Jones also became more selective at the plate (82 walks, as compared to 64 the prior season), which helped him score 107 runs during 2006, an increase of 12 over the prior year and his most in a single season since 2000. Jones remained the premier defensive center fielder in the National League, winning his ninth consecutive Gold Glove award.
Awards and Accomplishments
- Won Minor League Player of the Year Award in 1995 and 1996
- Jones was the youngest player in the National League in 1996
- 9-Time NL Gold Glove Award Winner (1998–2006)
- 5-Time All-Star (2000, 2002–03, 2005–06)
- Led the Majors with 51 home runs in 2005
- Holds Braves record for most home runs in a season (2005, with 51)
- Led the National League with 656 at bats in 2000
- Led the National League with 128 RBIs in 2005
- NL Silver Slugger Award for CF in 2005
- NL Hank Aaron Award as the best offensive player in 2005
- NL Player of the Month for June and August 2005.
- Major League Player of the Year for 2005
Andruw married his wife, Nicole, in 2002. They met in an Atlanta mall in 1998. Currently, they have a son, Druw, and a daughter, Madison.
- Homered in his first at-bat in Game 1 of the 1996 World Series against the New York Yankees, becoming the youngest player in Major League Baseball history to hit a home run in the postseason, passing Mickey Mantle who was two weeks shy of his 21st birthday when he homered in the 1952 World Series. Jones became just the fourth rookie (after Charlie Keller, Tony Kubek and Willie McGee) to homer twice in one World Series game and the second person to homer in his first two World Series at-bats.
- Is one of only five center fielders to record 400 putouts in a season six times. The others are Willie Mays, Richie Ashburn, Kirby Puckett, and Max Carey.
- Andruw strengthened his wrists as a teenager by swinging a sledgehammer like a baseball bat.
- Andruw was on an episode of Unique Whips on SPEED TV, in which he had his Buick customized.
A strong, well-balanced hitter, Jones has truly prodigious power. He's a dead-red hitter who can turn on any fastball and deposit it in the bleachers. He is also not averse to waiting pitchers out, as evidenced by his extremely solid walk rates. Jones still struggles with breaking balls, however, and can be quite streaky at the plate. His contact and bat-control skills are lacking as well, and he still doesn't have the best command of the strike zone. It often seems like Jones comes to the plate with an "all or nothing" approach. His speed and baserunning skills have eroded because of knee problems.
Defensively, Jones is one of the best center fielders of all time, and the jumps he gets on the ball are truly uncanny. His increased, um, size in recent years has hampered his speed, though, and his range is not exactly what it used to be as a result. Still, Jones is one of the top all-around players in baseball, thanks to his rare combination of power, patience, and defense.
- Signed as a non-drafted free agent by Atlanta Braves (July 1, 1993).
- Signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers (December 12, 2007).
- Signed as a Free Agent with Texas Rangers (February 8, 2009).