Jones doesn’t want it to end this way

 

Andruw Jones is trying to convince Texas -- and everybody else -- that he can still play.

  Two years ago, Andruw Jones seemed to be on a path toward Cooperstown. Now, he is trying to avoid being released from his second team in two months and is facing questions that at one time never would have seemed fathomable.

  Do you still love the game?

  “No doubt. This is what I was born to do.”

  Do you understand why people doubt your dedication?

  “I’m working hard every day. I’m trying to do as much to show people what I can do when I get on the field.”

  What do you do if nobody wants you?

  “I’m not sure what’s going on right now. I guess I’ll find out soon. But I want to play.”

  By the time he was 29, Jones had won nine Gold Gloves, hit 342 home runs — well on a pace for 600 —played in five All-Star Games and placed as high as second in MVP voting as recently as 2005. He played through injuries. He was neither a clubhouse problem nor a chemical creation.

  Now, Jones is, at best, a curiosity. He’s in the Texas Rangers’ camp in Arizona as a non-roster player. They considered releasing him last Friday but decided to keep him through the weekend. Now they’re exploring keeping Jones as a part-time designated hitter. But no decision has been made and putting him on the roster would mean spending $6 million to release Frank Catalanotto.

  The Rangers also could release Jones or send him to the minors. It doesn’t appear Jones will opt out of his contract Monday because, well, he doesn’t have a lot of options. How did we get here?

  “I feel good. My swing is good. I had one bad year,” he said by phone. “I don’t really care what people think. Whatever team I play for, they’ll see I can still play. I’m sure Texas has seen my work ethic and what I can do.”

  He’s only 31. He should be in his prime. But he finds himself speaking like everybody in baseball is sitting in a jury box. You’re OK? Prove it.

  Terry Pendleton can’t explain it. The Braves’ hitting coach saw what happened to Jones in Los Angeles last season: The .158 batting average, the three home runs and 14 RBI in 75 games (he hit three homers alone in the 1996 post-season as a rookie). The bottom fell out. But Pendleton, unlike others, doesn’t attribute the descent to weight issues.

  “I don’t think weight has anything to do with it,” he said. “Andruw’s as strong as an ox. I think it’s a mental thing to tell you the truth. He’s trying to do too much and there might be a lack of confidence. I wish I could help him get through that mental block.”

  The Dodgers signed Jones for two years and $36 million. Cash, meet blowtorch. Jones struggled. He was dropped to eighth in the order. He hurt his knee, had surgery and went on the disabled list.

  In January, L.A. decided to pay him the balance just to go away.

  It’s believed the Braves were open to bringing him into camp. But Jones, at the behest of agent Scott Boras, opted for a minor-league deal with the Rangers so he could work with hitting instructor Rudy Jaramillo.

  “This was all about working with Rudy,” said Jones, who is hitting .273 in the spring with one homer in 33 at-bats. “I knew the Rangers were set in the outfield and I’d have a hard time cracking the lineup.”

  He’s probably a little stunned himself about what’s happened. But in his mind, to acknowledge that would be like accepting it.

  “I can still be an everyday player,” he said.

  An unexpected declaration for a would-be Hall of Famer.

63 comments Add your comment

A Real Fan

March 22nd, 2009
4:47 pm

I feel for Andruw. I hope he can get his swing back. Maybe the Braves will let him play in Gwinnett.

Barney Strickland

March 22nd, 2009
5:17 pm

At least we no longer have to see that goofy smile as he grounds out into a double play. He should make the HOF as a rally killer. He never was a student of the game- just a terrific physical speciman who got old and fat. Get lost Andruw Jones !!

Leland

March 22nd, 2009
5:34 pm

Dear Mr. JS–not. Your pal, Leland

JSS

March 22nd, 2009
5:35 pm

Worry about yourself, oh I forgot, you have to have a conscience and a brain to be capable of doing either of those things… Sleaze…

You need to be worried about that 90 games a year drain playing third base for the Braves… Any comment, or are going to lie and imply some sexual innuendo to that? People talking a doing their Oscar Mayer, you’re a hypocrite…

Delete that…

DunderChief

March 22nd, 2009
6:16 pm

JSS — Make sure to take your schizophrenia meds before you post next time

Bill

March 22nd, 2009
6:33 pm

He wouldn’t be the first player to fudge on his age.

Ken Stallings

March 22nd, 2009
6:49 pm

How many player do you think Terry Pendleton called “knot head?” Only one that I know of, Andruw Jones! The reason is Terry saw what all other knowledgable baseball fans saw. Andruw had flaws in his approach at the plate. He constantly tried to pull the outside slider and changeup vice going to the opposite field.

When he got into short term streaks of doing it, he raked the ball. But those times were few and he’d go right back to trying to pull those pitches and instead top over them hitting weak grounders, too often resulting in double plays.

This is why Bobby Cox had such a challenge with Jones. When he was using a proper approach at the plate he was among the most dangerous hitters in the game, a natural number four cleanup type hitter. But when he went back into his frequent bad habits, he was a liability.

This would be bad enough except that he compounded his lack of hitting discipline with poor conditioning. His weight gains were widely known and very apparent. While other talented players studied and worked their games, Andruw relied upon his raw talent far too long. And by doing so he set himself up for this fall.

The people who worked so hard to get Andruw to work harder at his game are not surprised by this, but are no doubt disappointed and sad. Andruw isn’t the first player to experience this nor will he be the last.

At least he has the satisfaction of making huge sums of money which if he was wise with it will provide for himself for the rest of his life.

JT

March 22nd, 2009
7:56 pm

JSS – Can I get you another beer? That post was completely incoherent.

AJ will never get back to his high water mark. We have all known a guy like Andruw. `Very talented but now real work ethic. How great was the decision to not sink 30 million on him last year? Kudos Shurholtz.

jed

March 22nd, 2009
8:02 pm

i’m sure atlanta would sign andruw and let him try to pull it together in AAA this year. of course, i’d be really surprised to see andruw make that sacrifice, even if it meant saving his career. i’ll always be a fan of andruw. watching him in CF was a great thing, no doubt. but if you saw his 2007 season, you know that andruw’s biggest problem is andruw. wont take advice and seems somewhere along the line to have lost interest in the game. but the braves should re-sign him, put him in gwinnet and see if he can work his way back. nothing to lose there.

Old Gator

March 22nd, 2009
8:35 pm

Seems like a good fit for the Braves AAA club. People in the Atlanta area should support his attempt to return to form. Worth the gamble.

Salty Dawg

March 22nd, 2009
8:36 pm

Part of me says the Braves should offer him a spot in Gwinnett and see if he can get his sh!t together. Not much chance any team is going to sign him for a starting role and if he is going to be in the minors I’m sure he’d rather be close to home. Then again, the other part of me wonders why the Braves would do such a thing. What’s in it for them? Best case scenario he gets it together and ends up signing with another team. The Braves don’t need him in the OF, so if they did give him a spot in AAA it would be nothing more than a favor.

Jeff Schultz

March 22nd, 2009
8:53 pm

The whole Andruw-to-Gwinnett scenario is interesting but I’m not sure how realistic. On one hand it makes sense because he lives there. But think of this: 1) He’s a proud guy. It’s going to be hard enough for him psychologically to play in the minor leagues. I would think it would be even harder to play in the minors for the organization that he played so many years in the majors for. But maybe not; 2) The Braves’ moves this off-season certainly indicate they are turning the page on the past (other than bringing back Glavine, which was a low-risk inexpensive option, plus he’s a LH pitcher). Would they want to AJ in Gwinnett, where he would be a bigger story than their prospects? I dunno. The whole thing sounds kind of strange to me.

sean

March 22nd, 2009
9:09 pm

like most latin players jones obviously lied about his true age when he was originally signed by the braves. he probably closer to 40 than 31.

Ryan

March 22nd, 2009
9:10 pm

What’s this nonsense everyone keeps spouting that Andruw had one bad year?

Despite the power numbers, I’d say that .222 average in 2007 was pee-yoo stinky.

It’s easy to see those power numbers differently now, but watching him that year was horrible. LA was only an extension of what Braves fans saw in his last year here.

WestPalmDawg

March 22nd, 2009
9:25 pm

If you feel sorry for him, close your eyes and picture him on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the Ted going down after flailing at 3 sliders 4 ft out of the K-zone…..and then walking back to the dugout with a smirk…..and then having the same at bat 3 more times, the last with the bases loaded….and then leaving the clubhouse to get in his silver Murcialago.

The Master

March 22nd, 2009
9:32 pm

What is wrong with you idiots? How do you have any idea whether Andruw Jones has a work ethic or not? Who are you to question whether he tries hard?
Are you suggesting he had a great work ethic for 10 years, then just quit? That’s absurd. He is one of the most exciting players the Braves have ever had.
Have a little compassion, you jerks.

ben

March 22nd, 2009
9:33 pm

he should walk away. banging into those walls really killed his hitting. he might still get in on defense. the bravos should retire his number.

DHD

March 22nd, 2009
10:03 pm

How many Andruw stories do we need?????? Get over it.

Sage of Bluesland

March 22nd, 2009
10:29 pm

Andruw Jones?!

Please. We’ve lost in so many different ways with him, we can lose just as easily without him–and his annoying grins upon striking out…

Move along, nothing more to see here…

Sage of Bluesland

March 22nd, 2009
10:32 pm

All of these ridiculous Andruw stories reminds me of another rah-rah Hero: Keith Brooking, late of the Falcons and master of the ankle-grab eight yards downfield.

Don’t go away mad…Just, for the love of Atlanta, GO AWAY!!!

(With “leaders” like these, I don’t wonder why these local sports teams have usually stunk…)

Harpie

March 22nd, 2009
10:39 pm

ONE bad year? Andruw, you can’t count, either….

jethro bodine

March 22nd, 2009
11:03 pm

I really liked Andrew. I think he was a basically good human being. But he couldn’t understand that he was getting older, his body was changing, and he needed to compensate in order to remain at a high level. And he just couldn’t do it. Kept trying to rely on his raw youthful talent which had long since slipped away.

Another issue was listening to a knucklehead like Boras. Boras ain’t a nice guy and wasn’t a good fit for Andruw.

romebravesfan

March 22nd, 2009
11:11 pm

AAA Gwinett? Being him to Class A Rome! He could be a role model TO our youngest Braves…how not to take care of your body and lead by laziness! MAYBE EARN HIS KEEP BY SELLING PROGRAMS & TAKNG NAPS IN THE BULLPEN.

Bob in SF

March 22nd, 2009
11:29 pm

You would have to think a lower level team like the Nationals, Pirates, Padres or Orioles would take a flyer on him just in case he did turn it around, then move him at the trading deadline to a contender for whatever they could get.

jay

March 23rd, 2009
12:33 am

andruw jones got lazy for a year. he is back in shape and it working on his swing u guys are a bunch of morons if u think he is a bad player. he was the greatest center feilder to ever play the game and also one of the good power hitters. most of u guys on here a idiots

Anthony

March 23rd, 2009
12:41 am

To all of you with short “what have you done for me lately” attitudes, give me a break. You all talk about Andruw like he was the worst player we had around here. Personally, I’d like to see him do well but even if he doesn’t make it back all the way to stardom he has still given us true fans alot of good memories to look back upon. If not with his bat all the time then certainly with his glove. All you negatives out there could have found a lot worse center fielders. There were plenty of other teams that would’ve loved to have him during his time here. You people sure like to kick somebody when they’re down but it sure is funny. There isn’t anybody calling ya’ll up to come play. And you’re right there on their side when they’re doing good. Good Luck Andruw and Thanks for the memories. The good out number the bad the way I see it.

Dr. Warren

March 23rd, 2009
2:32 am

After last season, I saw a television piece about Andruw and his wife and their extremely comfortable existence at home. They were joking around with some female friend of theirs. He seemed, frankly, to be having a great time in general and non-chalant about baseball. I sensed his lack of seriousness clearly. They were even talking about his motivation to play anymore. Look, here’s a 31-year-old guy who just made $36 million for doing nothing, on top of the $100+ million he already has. He’s been playing in the bigs since he was 19. Isn’t it possible that at least one super-rich potential Hall of Famer will turn 30 or 31 and just lose his drive to play anymore? This is obviously what has happened to Andruw Jones.

Robbie Gillies

March 23rd, 2009
3:13 am

Boros? Hmm never heard of em. Maybe if he had had Scott BORAS as his agent he’d be getting a 5-year $120 million contract from the Yankees…

David

March 23rd, 2009
7:45 am

Gwinnett. Andruw can’t afford to be proud, that is ridiculous. Go to the minors and prove you still can play.

Big Al

March 23rd, 2009
8:12 am

If I remember correctly, Andrew had his best years while spending a lot of time at the Gold Club. Bring back the Gold Club and resign Andrew.

bigcooterb

March 23rd, 2009
9:00 am

If Andruw thinks he only had one bad year, it is no wonder he was never able to see that he needed to listen to his coaches.

Slugger

March 23rd, 2009
9:34 am

Anyone think Andruw might have ADD or something of the sort? It would explain the volatility of his performance.

OldSchoolDawg

March 23rd, 2009
9:37 am

Andruw, I’ve got three words for you: Grab Some Pine!

Your approach at the plate has always been amateurish. You’ve always overswung, tried to pull every pitch, tried to go yard everytime.

You were never willing to use the whole field, take the outside pitch the other way, or cut down your swing with two strikes to make more contact. For years, you got by on your amazing athletic ability. Now, you must pay for your hard-headedness.

Why didn’t you listen to TP? You thought you knew more than that oldschool baseball lifer. You were selfish and greedy. You thought it would hurt your all-important numbers (HRs, RBIs, Slugging, etc.). You thought it would hurt your salary, your ‘market value.’ Tell me Andrew, what is your market value now?

Grab some pine, buddy. Have a seat next to Marlon Byrd and Frank Catalanotto and all the other Ranger bench jockeys.

Dave

March 23rd, 2009
9:45 am

In my opinion Terry Pendleton is doing Andrew a disservice when he says this comment”“I don’t think weight has anything to do with it,” he said. “Andruw’s as strong as an ox.”
Andrew is 31 years old it used to be a lot of teams wanted him because his defensive prowess was so awesome. With the weight he is not the same in the field as he once was. Nobody can tell me a 31 year old player who did what he did over many years is over the hill. He just needs to get in great shape first. If he can prove he is the same defensive player he used to be and this will help with his confidence at the plate knowing he is still one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. Terry Pendleton could not fix Andrew while he was here. Andrew needs to get things worked out elsewhere and find somebody who Andrew will listen to. Atlanta is going young we had our shot at trying to fix Andrew we failed at it no need to revisit it..

richbrave

March 23rd, 2009
10:01 am

I’m concerned about his health. Could something be wrong physiologically? I don’t mean HGH or steroids, I mean latent health issues. Has he been checked out to see if his eye-hand coordination has dimished? Do clubs establish a bench-mark which they periodically moniter?

Jeff Schultz

March 23rd, 2009
10:12 am

I agree — to an extent — that weight and the knee and increasingly bad habits caught up with Jones. But I also think Pendleton’s right — nobody drops off the face of the earth like this unless there are mental issues. You don’t go from a 30-40 home run hitter to what happened last year (and to an extent, the year before) unless some of your wires a crossed, so to speak.

Slugger: I’m not sure people develop ADD at 30.

NRBraindead

March 23rd, 2009
10:17 am

Andruw was an amazing defensive player at one time, but his arm is not what it used to be. He never developed into the kind of hitter his considerable talent suggested he would become. Is it “sad” that Andruw may not be in the majors? Not when you compare it to the millions of people out of work worried about keeping their homes and feeding their families. Andruw has no such worries, and if he really wants to play in the majors, he’ll do everything it takes to get back there, including a stint in the minors. Watching Andruw in the outfield was a thing of beauty, but I shed no tears for him.

Jeff Schultz

March 23rd, 2009
10:17 am

Robbie: Fixed the typo, thanks. Boras did talk to the Yankees but — like everybody else — they weren’t guaranteeing a job, only a chance to come to spring as a non-roster player.

matt

March 23rd, 2009
10:28 am

Did I read that the Rangers were thinking about having AJ be their DH?!?!?!? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Jim Goodwin

March 23rd, 2009
10:28 am

To “Jay” who thinks Andrew is the best center fielder to play the game, ever heard of Joe D or Mickey Mantle?
Get a life!

Adam

March 23rd, 2009
10:29 am

Actually Jeff, ‘Adult ADD’ is not uncommon to develop in the late 20’s and early 30’s.

Andruw’s problem is DEFINITELY mental. Put him on Ridilin and that guy will be back nearly to his prime in no time. Try it. Guaranteed.

JSS

March 23rd, 2009
10:32 am

Dunderchief and JT, stay out of issues that are not addressed to you… Jeff “Benny the Beaver” Schultz knows what was meant by the comments that I posted… Only you stupid like your ilk go around self-medicating on alcohol; and only pseudo-idiot like Jeff Schultz goes trying act like what went wrong with Andruw Jones. It was a 4 decline, even his 51 homer year was full of warning signs about his swing and swing selection…

Hey Benny, I do know this, I know a certain sports columnist who daily writes columns that show signs of ADHD, narcissism, and and makes choices in content that show borderline tendencies that get most people 15 years to life in the State Penitentiary in Jackson…

Delete that….

All I'm Saying...

March 23rd, 2009
10:35 am

Many years ago, I read a quote from Dave Winfield (who I believe is in the HOF) where he talked about advising John Olerud when they were both with the Blue Jays that Olerud should have himself videotaped when he was in the middle of a hitting hot streak (which happened often for JO) and to consult that footage when he was slumping.

Why do I bring this up? A). I don’t think Andruw had anyone to mentor him when he first showed up in 1996; B). His early and subsequent years of success convinced him of his approach; C). His decline is also part and parcel with playing a huge number of games as a centerfielder (most physically demanding position on field next to catcher and the one least acknowledged as such);

All I'm Saying...

March 23rd, 2009
10:39 am

So what should AJ do now? He needs to A). Swallow his pride, B). Go to AA or A to get his swing back, C). Play another less physically demanding outfield position (say, left field), and D). Get with an AL team where he can also DH. I think he can do all of the above with the Texas Rangers. Simple strategy with the hardest part being part A. It would be the worst thing for him to re-join the Braves and play in Gwinnett as the hecklers would ride him rough.

richbrave

March 23rd, 2009
10:54 am

Well, JEFF you say that you think its mental. I’m not so sure. AJ never gave the appearance that he worried about too much. I wouldn’t think his mental approach to the game would be inhibiting his career now.

LEU

March 23rd, 2009
10:59 am

Pendleton couldn’t help AJ over several years and now he comments that his problems are mental. Has Pendleton ever helped anyone? (See: Francoeur, J.) He just props himself up on the dugout rail and gets his big salary for doing nothing of substance. Somebody said it best above, AJ needs to catch on with a low team and hope that he does well, then get traded to a contender.

Jeff Schultz

March 23rd, 2009
11:00 am

Adam: Don’t mean to turn this in to RX.com, but … Adult ADD is common but what I know about it is those adults had it as kids (maybe it just didn’t manifest itself as much, or maybe nobody cared because they were “kids.” Regardless, the thought that AJ suddenly developed ADD at 30 doesn’t seem likely to me, and you’re the first to broach that possibility. But if there’s a problem, I would agree that Ritalin would help. Maybe you know this already but there’s been stories about some athletes taking Ritalin to help keep them alert.

All I’m Saying: I think one of Andruw’s problems in his career (related to too many strikeouts and batting .avg) is stubborness. To a degree, so much came easy to him early, and that can have an adverse effect later. That’s why Pendleton and others had a hard time getting through to him. That said, TP’s a big fan of AJ.

Josh

March 23rd, 2009
11:32 am

Jim Goodwin, ever heard of a guy named Willie Mayes. He had 660 career HR’s and was the greatest defensive center fielder everrrr. Only a Yankee would named Joe D and Mick above The “Say Hey Kid.”

scott

March 23rd, 2009
11:38 am

Andruw was always a streaky, stubborn, gifted hitter. His lack of coachability (remember when Bobby benched him for not running out a ground ball?) slowly changed over time, but his stubborn approach to hitting his way was always a two-edged sword. I think the Braves have turned the page and we will never see him in a Braves uniform again. His consistent inability to put the ball in play and instead strike out killed us.

If Boras was not his agent, he might still be a Brave. Think about it; Bobby said “We want him back, but that’s too much (money)” or words to that effect.

matt

March 23rd, 2009
12:00 pm

Didn’t any of you play with that kid who was so much better than everyone else? As you got older though it seemed as though everyone else caught up to him or even surpassed him? Maybe that’s what happened to AJ. He had been able to get by with natural ability and perform at a high level. As his body got older and he didn’t take care of it his performance started to slide. Now, he’s trying to get on with a AAA team instead of closing in on 600 HR.