I see it all the time in my other sport, boxing. Many times you find guys that are younger than most but completely washed up before their time. One example of that would be Fernando “El Feroz” Vargas who won his first title at just 21and was put in against a living legend at 23 years of age (Tito Trinidad). On that night Vargas was crushed & humiliated but that didn’t stop his management team from putting him in against a very much in his prime and unstoppable Oscar De La Hoya less than two years later. After getting his brains beat in Vargas would never be the same fighter again. Can you imagine that? Over the hill by the age of 25.
In a way I look at Andruw Jones the same way. Andruw became a superstar in 1996 at just 19 years of age. Much like other prospects, he too was labeled the “Next Griffey” but unlike all the other guys with that label, he came the closest to living up to the title. If you are a Braves fan or even a Jones supporter than you could very well fill up an entire post on Andruw’s storied 13 year career. Let’s start with the 10 Gold Gloves and move onto the 5 All-Star appearances. Then you can gaze deeply at his career numbers which brings 7 seasons with 30+ home runs, including 51 in 2005. But let’s take a closer look for a moment.
For 4 straight season from ’97-’00 Andruw was pretty great at stealing bases. He was just 3 bags short of a 30-30 season at the age 21 but after 2000 it’s like he completely gave up and since has had double digits in steals just once, in 2001 (11). Despite all that there is one streak that Andruw has managed to keep alive since 1997, though…100 strikeouts or more every single year. That includes last year when he hit a miserable .222.
It’s early in the year but already 13 games into the season Andruw is hitting .114 with no home runs and a sad 2 R.B.I. So what exactly went wrong? Was it coming in at almost 250 lbs. that killed his season? Did Andruw lose his love for the game or is it something much deeper than that? I don’t know about you but I am willing to bet that if Andruw doesn’t give the Dodgers 25 home runs, 75 R.B.I, and hits at least .240 some of the fans won’t be too happy about the $36.2 million the team spent acquiring Andruw’s services.
It’s sad because something tells me the man could have hit 45 home runs every year and finished out his career in Atlanta with 700+ home runs. Maybe then we’d be labeling that hot, young prospect the “Next Andruw”.