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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

July 9, 2009 at 4:36 PM

Why I’ll never be a talent evaluator, part XVI

I’ve written before about how wrong I was about a trio of Mariners that I thought was through as major-league caliber players.

I was also wrong about Andruw Jones, who is at Safeco tonight fresh off hitting three home runs last night for the Rangers. But I’m not the only one. Just about everyone who saw him struggle through a .158 season last year for the Dodgers — who essentially paid him $20 million to disappear — had the same conclusion: That you could stick a fork in Jones’ career, at age 32.

Here’s what I blogged on March 18 after watching Jones stumble through a spring training game in Surprise, Arizona:

  • I took in a Rangers’ game with my family in Surprise last week, and we sat in the outfield grass, right near center fielder Andruw Jones, who is fighting for his baseball life as a non-roster player for Texas. I was amazed how bad he looked in center field. He hit a home run that day against the Dodgers, and also drove one to the warning track. But Jones stumbled and fell down going back on a ball that in his prime he would have hauled in with ease, and he let what looked to me like a routine fly drop in front of him. It’s looking like Jones is not going to make the Rangers.

    I was wrong. Jones did make the Rangers. And I was wrong in concluding that he was done. Turns out, he’s been a productive force for the Rangers. Though his batting average is just .250, Jones’ slugging percentage of .581 (in 160 at-bats) would be tied for fourth in the American League (with Russell Branyan, actually) if he had enough at-bats to qualify. He has 14 home runs and 34 RBIs, pretty good numbers for a part-time player (one who is rapidly gaining playing time).

    Credit Jones for turning his career around. Credit Texas hitting guru Rudy Jaramillo for helping him do so. And file away this lesson for future use: When it comes to judging a struggling player’s career, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

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