Andruw Jones Deserves Cooperstown Niche

Andruw Jones won 10 straight Gold Gloves from sterling defensive play in center field.Carl Fredrickson Digi360), Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.0

By Dan Schlossberg

My favorite baseball writer is Jayson Stark. I love his irreverent style, his knowledge of the game, and his commentaries in The Athletic and on the MLB Network.

Until now.

Upon publication of the 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, Stark insisted that Andruw Jones should not be admitted to the gallery of plaques.

I strongly and emphatically disagree with my fellow graduate of Syracuse University’s terrific Newhouse School of Journalism.

Stark says he won’t vote for Jones because he faded when he hit his 30s — suffering a syndrome called Advanced Athletic Age that also afflicted Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton, and a host of other Hall of Fame incumbents.

Jayson conveniently forgets that Jones was a big-league star at age 19, hitting home runs in his first two World Series at-bats and playing the dickens out of center field. Dave O’Brien, who also writes for The Athletic, says Jones was not just good but the best center-fielder he ever saw.

O’Brien also points out that power of the player, whose 434 home runs including a franchise-record 51 in 2005, the year he also led the National League with 128 runs batted in and finished a close second in voting for Most Valuable Player.

If Ozzie Smith is in Cooperstown because of his defensive excellence, O’Brien says, Jones belongs too — plus he produced prodigious power that the spray-hitting Smith did not. In fact, Jones is in rare company with 10 consecutive Gold Gloves.

Of the four other outfielders who did that difficult feat, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, and Ken Griffey, Jr. are in the Hall of Fame and Ichiro will join them the minute he becomes eligible.

Without Jones as their center-fielder, the records of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz would not have been so good — or the record of the Atlanta Braves during the time Bobby Cox was manager and John Schuerholz was general manager. Those men also owe their Cooperstown plaque to the man from Curacao.

On the current Hall of Fame ballot, which lists 13 newcomers plus 17 holdovers from last year, Jones and Gary Sheffield (509 home runs) are easy picks. It’s also easy to eliminate suspected steroids cheats Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, and Alex Rodriguez and the equally-repulsive Curt Schilling, whose inflammable political pop-offs make him an unworthy member of a club reserved for honor and respectability.

At least Andy Pettitte apologized early for his drug abuse, so he deserves a “yes” vote, as Pete Rose would have had he not lied about gambling for 25 years.

For the defense-only crowd, maybe “yes” on Scott Rolen and “no” on Omar Vizquel, the poor-man’s Ozzie Smith and lately accused of multiple sexual harrassment cases.

Jeff Kent, who hit a lot of home runs for a second baseman, and pitchers Tim Hudson and Mark Buehrle, both 200-game winners, are border-liners, along with flame-throwing left-handed closer Billy Wagner.

There’s one other “yes” vote among the Schlossberg choices: former Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who hit .316 with 369 home runs over 17 seasons but made the “mistake” of spending his entire 17-year career in the rarefied air of Denver. If Larry Walker is in, there’s no logical reason to keep Helton out.

They round out this year’s choices, with Andruw as the top of the list.

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Latino Sports, Ball Nine, and Here’s The Pitch, among others. His e.mail is

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Detroit Tigers: Evaluating the System for Seasons Ahead

By Joe Underhill Another September and another losing season is coming to a close for the Detroit Tigers. The focus for Tigers fans now shifts to saying farewell to a future Hall of Famer in Miguel Cabrera, who has a legitimate chance to climb a few more spots on the all-time lists before his season ends. The focus for fans should be the auditions taking place in Detroit and on the farm for roles next year. The focus here will be on the Tigers currently under contract for next year and who fans should be keeping tabs on as AJ Hinch and Scott Harris work to put a playoff-caliber team on the field in Detroit for the first time in almost a decade. Outfield: Currently on the 40-man: Akil Baddoo, Kerry Carpenter, Riley Greene, Austin Meadows, and Parker Meadows. In the minors: Justyn-Henry Malloy (AAA), Wenceel Perez (AAA), Justice Bigbie (AA), Max Clark (low A). What do all of the full-time outfielders on the 40-man have in common? They are all left-handed hitters. Of this group, Austin Meadows has missed the majority of the past two seasons dealing with an injury and an anxiety disorder and is at the greatest risk of being non-tendered. Parker Meadows, Riley Greene, and Kerry Carpenter have solidified their roles. Akil Baddoo has the most to prove offensively, but his defense has been above average. Carpenter, OPS+ 136 and Greene OPS+ 116, have been the Tigers’ best hitters. Matt Vierling has played the majority of his games in the outfield but is being transitioned into more of a utility role by playing third base. Vierling plays strong outfield defense in the corners and can cover center in a pinch. Justyn-Henry Malloy and Wenceel Perez will come to spring training looking to compete for place on the roster. Malloy has a strong right-handed bat, slashing .292/.432/.509 including 23 home runs and over 100 walks. At AA, Justice Bigbie has been the story of the Tigers’ minor leagues. He has hit over .350 across high A and AA. Bigbie and Malloy share a challenge, though: defense. Both Malloy and Bigbie will figure into Detroit’s plans sooner rather than later due to their bats, but defense will determine how much playing time they’ll get. In the low minors, the most exciting prospect is Max Clark, who is already flashing the potential five-tool package that enticed the Tigers to select him third overall. Utility: Currently on the 40-man: Nick Maton, Zach McKinstry, Tyler Nevin, Wenceel Perez, Matt Vierling. Of this group, McKinstry and Vierling have pretty strong grips on utility roles, with Vierling being the only right-handed outfielder currently on the roster. McKinstry has been a very productive player, even though is OPS+ is only 80. With Parker Meadows moving Greene to a corner, Verling has begun to see more time at third base. Nevin can play all four corners but is more of an infielder. He has raked at AAA, slashing .326/.400/.543 for an OPS of .943. The only problem is he has not been able to translate that success at the major-league level, slashing only .132/.242/.189. Perez has made the shift from the dirt to the outfield this season and has taken to the outfield quite well. He is a switch-hitter who brings speed (25 steals) and an OPS of .802 across three levels in the minors in 2023. The challenge for Perez will be overcoming the “yips” that showed up on his throws from second base. His path to playing time will be tied to his ability to play the utility role. Infield: Currently on the 40-man: Javier Baez, Andy Ibanez, Ryan Kreidler, Eddys Leonard, Andre Lipcius, Nick Maton, Wenceel Perez, Zack Short, and Spencer Torkelson. In the minors: Colt Keith (AAA), Jace Jung (AA), Kevin McGonigle (low A). Javy Baez probably won’t exercise his buy-out after a bad year in Detroit. Baez has an opt-out, but based on how poorly his offensive season has gone, he is unlikely to utilize it. Baez has continued to play solid-to-above-average defense at shortstop. Torkelson’s power has come on since June and he now leads the team with 25 home runs and has risen his OPS+ above 100. Defensively the numbers don’t like Tork’s defense, but the eye test suggests he is a solid defender at first. Second and third base are the positions where there is the most movement. McKinstry, Short, Ibanez, Vierling, and now Lipcius are all seeing time at the positions. The Tigers are hoping Keith shows enough aplomb to be able to handle the majority timeshare at third base. The biggest defensive challenge for Keith is rebuilding his throwing strength after a shoulder injury in 2022. Kreidler won a sport on the initial roster, but injury derailed his season. Kreidler and Short are natural shortstops, who both bring plus defense, but question marks with the bat. Lipcius is auditioning to play second and third next season. Maton began the year with the Tigers but struggled with the bat. He’s hit well at AAA and will come to spring training competing for a spot. If Jung continues to hit and show solid defensive acumen, he will be in the picture at second base at some point in 2024. Catcher: Currently on the 40-man: Carson Kelly, Jake Rogers, Donny Sands (AAA). In the minors: Dillon Dingler (AAA). Catching depth is a major concern for the Tigers, who cut ties with Eric Haase and added Carson Kelley in mid-season. Rogers has shown a solid ability to hit for power (16 home runs) while playing excellent defense. Sands and Dingler are time-sharing in AAA and will be joining the competition in spring training. This is an area to expect to see the Tigers looking to add to the competition in the off-season. Starting Pitching: Currently on the 40-man: Beau Brieske, Alex Faedo, Matt Manning (IL), Casey Mize (IL), Reese Olson, Eduardo Rodriguez, Tarik Skubal, Spencer Turnbull, Joey Wentz. In the minors: Sawyer Gipson-Long (AAA), Keider Montero (AAA), Jack O’Loughlin (AAA), Ty Madden (AA), Brant Hurter (AA), Wilmer Flores (AA). The expectation is Eduardo Rodriguez will opt out at the end of the year, and it will be interesting to see if Scott Harris tries to resign him. Rodriguez has been rock-solid for the Tigers and seems to have enjoyed his time in Detroit. The rest of the rotation depth has a lot of question marks regarding health. Mize is still working his way back; Manning just suffered a second foot fracture as a result of a batted ball. Turnbull is working to rediscover his command and control of his pitches and has been optioned to the minors. The Tigers have been playing with using Brieske and Faedo out of the bullpen, but they will come to spring training as part of the competition for the rotation. Right now, the rotation is going to be anchored by Skubal and Olson, with the back three spots up for grabs. Olson has had a strong rookie year and has placed himself firmly in the rotation plan moving forward. This is an area where I would expect the Tigers to go after a veteran or two (similar to last year with Matthew Boyd and Michael Lorenzen). Bullpen: Currently on the 40-man: Tyler Alexander (IL), Miguel Diaz, Mason Englert (IL), Jason Foley, Garrett Hill (minors), Tyler Holton, Alex Lange, Freddy Pacheco, Andrew Vasquez, Will Vest, Brendan White, Trey Wingenter (minors). The bullpen has been a strength for the Tigers this year. Tyler Holton has been a phenomenal this year and worked into leverage situations. The same can be said for Jason Foley, Brendan White, and Will Vest, who are all young pitchers growing into reliable arms. The Tigers have also been deploying Beau Brieske and Alex Faedo in the bullpen and both have had good success. Depending on how the competition for the rotation plays out either or both could find themselves pitching in leverage situations in the bullpen. Expect a few low-profile signings/waiver claims in the off-season to build the competition going into spring training. Joe Underhill is a high school administrator and diehard baseball fan and fan of the city of Detroit. Joe currently writes for You can follow Joe on Twitter@TransplantedDet.

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