As a Braves fan, nothing ever became more routine than watching Andruw Jones go back on a fly ball in Turner Field’s outfield in the late 1990s and early 2000s and just knowing he was going to make the catch, even if it meant climbing the wall and leaping above the top of the fence.
Atlanta’s center fielder from 1996 to 2007 was such a reliable figure when it came to making plays in the field. Jones was a natural, and every step he took in pursuit of a baseball was art in motion. But now, 20 years after his major-league career began, it appears Jones will officially announce his retirement in the coming days or weeks, Fox Sports reported.
You probably swore Jones was already retired, but he didn’t leave baseball – he just left America. After finishing the 2012 season with the New York Yankees, he played two seasons overseas with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League. There, he was quite productive, hitting 50 home runs and winning one Pacific League title while making $7.3 million over two seasons.
But he didn’t play in the 2015 season, and now, it’s time for Jones to call it quits for good.
Although Dale Murphy remains the greatest center fielder in Braves history, Jones did just fine for himself in the 11 seasons he played in Atlanta. He won 10 consecutive(!) Gold Gloves, one of the best streaks for an outfielder, and hit 434 home runs, which ties him at No. 44 all-time with Juan Gonzalez.
The five-time All-Star made just 50 errors in his 17-year Major League Baseball career, amassing a fielding percentage of .990. As a center fielder, he was even better, and while Atlanta fans (and coaches) sometimes had gripes about his hustle, nobody could ever question that he was one of the most naturally gifted athletes on the field when the Braves came to town.
Some might argue otherwise, but I believe the Braves should retire the No. 25 Jones wore in Atlanta. He was a magical player that was as key as any to the Braves’ success in the late-90s and early 2000s. Without his stellar defense and abilities at the plate, those teams wouldn’t have been quite as good.
And though he’s eligible to go into the Hall of Fame in the same year as longtime teammate Chipper Jones (2018), it’s not likely that Andruw will get enough votes. Therefore, it would be deserving to honor him in some way, after all he did for the franchise. Anyone who can be described as “better than everyone but Dale Murphy” should be remembered by the fans and team forever.
I’ll leave you with my favorite moment of his great career – when his first two World Series at-bats were home runs. The Braves would go on to win Game 1 of the 1996 World Series by a 12-1 score over the Yankees in their stadium, a World Series that still stings Braves fans to this day. But man, what a pair of moments these were.
Thanks for everything you gave Atlanta, Andruw.
Image via YES NetworkFollow @Sean_Breslin