Andruw Jones is a mystery. He is a riddle. He is an entity that has become a fixture, a lost soul in some weird part-time baseball purgatory. Even with the body of a manatee, he was once the most graceful outfielder the game had to offer. He had a gift for tracking down tiny white baseballs. He had a certain sixth sense. It was something that he could see and understand. It seemed he could hear voices... voices that told him where to run to and stand. He was once a great and mighty treasure, a gloved savant with a decent bat. He had power and as he became a more mature player, he improved his ability to get on base. He was good. He was very good.
The topic of his explosion onto the national scene came up in passing during a conversation I had today with Alex Belth. We were discussing the varying stages of Lucian Freud’s art. This led to a discussion of the arts in general. I don’t want to get into too much detail (in part, because I don’t want to step on the nice points made during the podcast), but Lucian’s death led to a greater discussion of the young artist as a thing. We chatted a little about Peter Bogdanovich and Gay Talese. Mozart popped into my mind, Belth mentioned Coppola.
In regard to the arch of Andruw Jones, Coppola seems like the safest bet for some loose and flimsy analogous banter. He burst onto the scene in the 1970s four cinematic masterpieces (for the purpose of the analogy, we'll consider his work in the 1960s as sort of his time in the minors). It is hard to find a better, more prolific run than the creative burst of brilliance Coppola gave the world in the 1970s. After co-writing Patton with Edward North, he unleashed the first two Godfather flicks, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now. Apocalypse Now seemed to break him. He still exists. He still directs. There are occasional moments of brilliance, but things were never the same after Apocalypse Now.
I’m not sure Andruw Jones has an Apocalypse Now. He had the Gold Club, but the Gold Club wasn’t directly related to the field, to his art. Fangraphs’ fielding metrics rank him second, behind Brooks Robinson, in the still somewhat nebulous realm of fielding stat. Still, he is in the inner circle of fielding good, fielding great. Sadly, it seems he will probably be a forgotten afterthought. Maybe someday someone will tout his Hall of Fame case (they probably already are), but I have a pretty good feeling he might become this generation’s Ron Santo (or Ted Simmons): a great, brilliant tree falling in an empty forrest.