Posted: Monday June 27, 2005 1:05PM; Updated: Monday June 27, 2005 5:26PM
Andruw Jones has nine HRs in his past 11 games.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Have you seen the latest MLB All-Star voting results? Take a glance at the current National League outfielder rankings. Your leader is Carlos Beltran, who is batting a robust .262 with nine home runs. In second place is the fragile Jim Edmonds, who makes plenty of wonderful catches but almost always acts as though he just finished the Ironman triathlon afterwards, milking the moment for all it's worth.
Way down there in 10th place? Andruw Jones, the major league home run leader and the man Bobby Cox always calls "the best center fielder in the game." He plays every day, he's always smiling, he's carrying his team. What else are you looking for, people?
In some ways, the lack of recognition for Jones is not that surprising. He's always been underappreciated, even on his own team. While he's in the lineup consistently -- in eight full seasons, he's never missed more than nine games in any year -- Atlanta has always been Chipper Jones' town. Go to a game at Turner Field, and you'll see more "10"s than at the Slam Dunk Contest. To be fair, Chipper has historically been the better all-around offensive player, though I've always argued that his matador play in the field should be factored in when evaluating his all-around game.
Andruw is third in the National League in putouts, where he's always among the league leaders. The feat is remarkable, not only because the Braves pitchers don't give up a lot of outfield shots, but also because it demonstrates Andruw's ability to catch anything hit near him. Against the Orioles Sunday, Miguel Tejada ripped one into the right-center gap. Just as Joe Simpson said, "Andruw might not have room for that one," Jones snagged the ball on a dead run, about six inches shy of the wall. The cameras then cut to shot of Tejada, a look of wonder on his face.
Right now, Andruw is the Braves. Four of their top five starting pitchers have been injured (though Horacio Ramirez should return tonight). Chipper Jones is on the DL. Andruw's bookends in the outfield are two rookies and Brian Jordan, who's playing worse than either rookie. In March and April, Andruw hit .239 with three home runs. In June he hitting .314 with 12 home runs (including five in the last week). What's really crazy about his dream season is that he hasn't had a hit to right field at home all year. Andruw has never been anything resembling an opposite field hitter, but to have 41 hits, all to the same part of the park ... well, you figure at some point the defenses will put the shift on him.
Despite the talent Andruw's always oozed, his offensive inconsistency has prevented him from breaking through. When he was younger, we all believed he was going to be unstoppable. At 19, he came up late in the '96 season and hit two homers in the World Series, which made him the youngest player in history to go yard in the Fall Classic. Since then, he's been always really good, but never consistently great. Until right now. And it probably doesn't help that he makes it look so easy, getting to balls no one else does thank to his position and reaction time. Half the time he sets up on fly balls so quickly that he has time to make his signature grab, kind of a lazy snatch just to the left of his head.
The media blesses the guys who get hot and stay that way for a month or so, and with Andruw, he generally gets white hot and then ice cold from week to week.
I'm guessing that at this point, Andruw's chances of starting in the All-Star Game are somewhere between slim and none -- he's too far back with too little time left. But the Braves are three out of first, and Andruw will still come to play every day, catching everything that moves, pulling every pitch that comes his way. Maybe now you'll notice.
Game Of The Week
In honor of Annika Sorenstam's struggles on the greens this weekend, I thought we'd play some extreme mini-golf. I got a 67 on the first round. Second round, I got it down to 60. Third round, 44. (Yes, wifey was out of town this weekend.) The 16th hole is ridiculous.
NBA Draft Link Of The Week
To note Tuesday night's NBA Draft, I wanted to include some kind of Jay Bilas link, commemorating the ESPN commentator who last year proclaimed Josh Smith the rookie "most likely to be bust." So I Googled "Jay Bilas," and the first link to come up was to some Duke Alumni page, which had a bad link to this site. But I used the attorney search page and it took me to this page, which had a Bilas bio that details his work defending a costume shop against the creators of Barney. More important, it also mentions that Bilas was "in a full-length motion picture." Really? Wonder why the name isn't mentioned? So I looked Mr. Bilas up on imdb.com and discovered that he appeared alongside Dolph Lundgren in I Come In Peace. Bilas played the role of Good Alien. Anyone out there seen this? Can we get a review?
Glory Of The Internet Link Of The Week
I'm not sure whatever happened to that Tuesday Morning Quarterback guy, but I bet he has this bookmarked.