Escape from L.A.?

Andruw_K.jpgThis Hollywood masterpiece doesn’t involve Kurt Russell reprising the role of Snake Plisskin, though some may theorize that Andruw Jones
don the eyepatch in an attempt to reverse his recent fortunes. Before
the new year could make it through its opening day, speculation has the
Los Angeles Dodgers trying to buy out and/or unload Jones and his
enormous contract.

It was just a week ago that we were watching everyone squash a rumored trade to the New York Mets for Luis Castillo.
Now reports are stating that Jones and the Dodgers have reached an
agreement that would defer the remaining 22.1 million owed over the
next several years. The club has agreed to trade or release Jones as
well.

Top priority in Dodgersland has been given to bringing back Manny Ramirez.
And why not? Ramirez seems to be hitting better with age. Getting the
slugger who reversed the team’s fortunes following his trade deadline
acquisition will no doubt take a large sum of the green stuff – and I’m
not talking new year’s collards.

Dumping Jones money, or at least breaking it into several years worth
of small payments rather than a lump sum should allow Los Angeles to
get to the business of getting to the table with Ramirez.I don’t have
to tell the average baseball fan that if the bitter long-term rival San
Francisco Giants are earnest in their decision to pursue Ramirez, then
it behooves Colletti to step things up and seal the deal.

Andruw_08_Disgust.jpgFollowing
the bouncing ball would point to the fairly obvious fact that L.A.
could save some money by unloading Jones to another team, but that
won’t be easy after he followed a .222-26-94 season with his horrendous
.158-3-14 campaign that was highlighed by injury for the first time in
a 13-year career. More alarming and dissuading for a potential buyer
would be the 76 strikeouts in 209 at-bats. Jones also missed out on
winning his 11th Gold Glove Award as well.

It would probably
be silly to go from those stat-lines to suggest that the Braves would
be an excellent place for Andruw to find employment if indeed he is
released from his duties out West. What could playing in Atlanta do for
Andruw now that it wasn’t doing for him in 2007 – his original
career-worst season?

The Dodgers have solved what became a rather expensive dilemma with
Andruw. No other team is going to be interested in taking on any
portion of his salary unless or until he proves he can be productive
again. You can probably safely assume that any interested club will
allow the Dodger to release and assume the majority of the deal and
then sign him for the Major League minimum.

mays_mets_sm.jpgHomecoming stories haven’t been a source of happy endings in Atlanta as of late – Tom Glavine last season for example. But more to the point of once great center fielders in decline, take Willie Mays
in the Mets years for example. Anyone who saw Mays falling down in the
outfield and struggling to run the bases in his final years probably
sees the similarities between the two. What Jones may is the
opportunity to get his career back on track… something that Mays was
not allowed to do because of age and mileage. It is doubtful this road
to redemption would lead back to Atlanta – but I wouldn’t say
impossible.

At 32-years old this April, Jones should still be
in the prime years of his career. The opposite has shown the past two
seasons. Strikeouts have soared while his power numbers have hit the
skids. Another thing that soared to new heights was Jones’ weight last spring when he reported to his first Dodger camp. The fans definitely noticed. See for yourself.

Andruw_spring.jpgIt got worse from there for Andruw, who was soon dubbed “tubbo” by the L.A. Times’ T.J. Simers.
He was the clever reporter who got Andruw to step on the scales to
register at 248 pounds. Yikes. Either way, Andruw’s usual relaxed
assuredness translated into a cavalier attitude in his new
surroundings. It was his complete lack of production made him anything
but a fan favorite. By the end of April, the smile that Braves fans
know as a Jones trademark could bring the blood of any Dodger fan to a
steady boil. Off-speed pitches became kryptonite and knee surgery
slowed the season to a crawl. Fast forward to September and the boys in
blue were making their playoff run without Jones, who essentially sent
himself home after a third DL stint.

Now Jones is down in
Aguilas, trying to get his entire career back on track this winter.
Various reports have stated that he is “looking forward” to his next
time out on the free agent market, while still others state that he has
slimmed down. Whatever the case may be, hitting .188 in half a dozen
games isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire.

To make
matters more tragic, I’ll suggest you spend some time on Youtube and do
a quick search for “Andruw Jones.” If you don’t find a Dodger fan-made
hate video within your first page of results, then you just aren’t
paying attention. Here’s one. And here’s another. Same game, but you get the idea.

If it was a knee injury that sapped his numbers last season, then Jones
will have to get things back on track and show the baseball world that
the reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Till next time,

G-Mc

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