Sunday, April 17, 2011

Andruw Jones

Andruw Rudolf Jones (born April 23, 1977, in Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles) is a Major League Baseball outfielder for the New York Yankees. During his first two years with the Atlanta Braves, Jones most often appeared as a right fielder. However, from 1998 until 2009, he played almost exclusively in center field. Aside from 1996, when he appeared in just 32 games after being called up from the minors, Jones appeared in 150 or more games in each year of his career up to 2008, when he appeared in only 75 games. Jones has been a noted defensive specialist, and won the Rawlings Gold Glove Award for outfielders every year from 1998 through 2007. Jones has appeared in the All-Star Game five times, and he won both the Hank Aaron Award and a Silver Slugger Award for outfielders in 2005. In 2002, he was the inaugural National League All-Star Final Vote winner. 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 at the age of 19 years, 180 days, breaking Mickey Mantle's record of 20 years, 362 days - on Mantle's birthday.

Jones became the Braves' everyday right fielder in 1997, but he accumulated a disappointing .231 batting average. In 1998, he moved to center field nearly full-time, and had a much more encouraging season. His average improved to .271, he hit 31 homers, and stole 27 bases. He also won his first of ten straight Gold Glove Awards. Whether he was in the batter's box or gliding under a fly ball to make an easy basket catch, Jones played the game in a very relaxed manner.[citation needed] This temporarily earned him the ire of manager Bobby Cox in June 1998 in an incident in which Cox pulled Jones out of a game, in the midst of an inning, because he felt Jones had lazily allowed a single to drop in center field. Still just 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 moderate-breakout season with his bat in 2000 with career highs up til that point in batting average (.303), home runs (36), and RBIs (104). He also earned his first All-Star Game appearance. However, in 2001, Jones' batting average fell and his strikeouts went up. By now, Jones had gained nearly 30 pounds since arriving at the Major Leagues, greatly diminishing his speed on the basepaths (he would not steal more than 11 bases after 2001).[citation needed] He maintained a similar batting performance in 2002, but was still playing superb defense. In 2003, with the power-hitting Gary Sheffield in the line-up, Jones achieved a new career high-water-mark in RBIs, with 116. Unfortunately, he took a step backward in 2004 when he hit fewer than 30 homers and struck out 147 times. Prior to the 2005 season, Jones increased his workout regimen and, following advice given by Willie Mays, widened his batting stance.[citation needed] The result was his most productive offensive season ever. On September 14, 2005, Jones hit his 300th career home run which went 430 feet (130 m) off Philadelphia Phillies reliever Geoff Geary in a 12–4 Phillies win. The ball landed in the upper deck in left field at Citizens Bank Park. 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. Jones' torrid hitting in the summer, especially while teammate Chipper Jones was out with an injury, helped carry the Braves to their 14th consecutive division championship. He finished just behind St. Louis Cardinals' first baseman Albert Pujols in the 2005 NL MVP vote.

Before the 2006 season, Jones played in the World Baseball Classic for the Netherlands. Jones finished the 2006 season with 41 home runs and 129 RBIs. 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. He won his ninth consecutive Gold Glove award.Coming into the last year of his contract with the Braves, many fans and sports analysts alike felt that 2007 would be the last year in which Jones would be a Brave, mostly because of his potential value on the market that the Braves would not be able to afford. Jones, however, had an unexpectedly poor start to the season, striking out 51 times in 41 games and carrying a batting average in the low .200s for the majority of April and May. On December 5, 2007, Jones agreed to a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, worth $36.2 million. After showing up out of shape and over 20 pounds overweight, he continued to struggle, hitting below .200 for most of the season. Additionally, he had only 10 hits in 116 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Due to his lack of production, Jones was dropped to eighth in the Dodger line-up. This was the first time since 1998 that Jones had hit eighth in any line-up. On April 19, Jones hit his first home run as a Dodger, at Turner Field against his former Braves teammates. On February 8, 2009, Jones signed a one-year minor league contract with the Texas Rangers; the deal paid him $500,000 for making the major league team, and offered $1 million in incentives. Jones reportedly turned down a similar offer from the New York Yankees to compete for their center field job and expressed an interest in staying with the Rangers even though he would likely not be a starter. He earned the Rangers' final roster spot. He was originally planned to pinch-hit for the Rangers, but found a starting outfield role due to an injury to Josh Hamilton. Jones ultimately hit only .214 for the season, but did have 17 home runs in 82 games - a comeback of sorts for the slugger. On November 25, 2009, Jones signed a $500,000 deal for 2010 with up to an additional $1 million in performance bonuses. Unlike what he had done with the Braves and Dodgers in previous seasons, Jones showed up to camp in shape, a full 30 pounds under his previous weight.[citation needed] On July 11 he hit his 400th home run. He finished the year with nineteen home runs in 278 at bats. He scored 41 runs, had 48 RBI and 64 base hits in 107 games, the most games he has appeared in since 2007. On January 20, 2011, Jones and the New York Yankees agreed to a contract for the 2011 season for $2 million, with an additional $1.2 million in performance bonuses. In his first Yankees at-bat on April 5th, 2011, Jones hit a home run over the left field wall at Yankees Stadium off the Minnesota Twins' Brian Duensing.

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