The honors keep piling up for Braves’ outfielder Andruw Jones, who was named today as the Major League Baseball Player of the Year and the National League’s Outstanding Player during the Players Choice Awards.
Jones has already won the Hank Aaron Award this offseason, along with the Silver Slugger Award, his eighth Gold Glove Award, and was named The Sporting News‘ Player of the Year.
Major league players from every team voted on the awards before the end of the season. David Ortiz of the Red Sox was named the American League’s Outstanding Player. Angels’ righty Bartolo Colon was named the American League’s Outstanding Pitcher, while the award went to Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals in the National League. Huston Street (Athletics) and Willy Taveras (Astros) won the Outstanding Rookie honors, while Jason Giambi of the Yankees and Ken Griffey, Jr. of the Reds won the Comeback Player Awards.
There were early indications that Jones had possibly turned the corner and was becoming the player many envisioned he’d become when he burst onto the scene back in 1996. He hit .396 in spring training with 10 home runs and 21 RBI in 48 at bats, and he showed a significant change in his batting stance. Then he struggled for the first two months of the season, hitting only .262 with 12 home runs and 30 RBI in his first 187 at bats.
But when Chipper Jones went down with a foot injury in early June, Braves’ pitcher John Smoltz told Andruw the team was counting on him to pick up the slack. Jones responded with a fantastic hot streak, as he hit .311 with 15 home runs and 37 RBI in the next 37 games. Jones’ offensive explosion kept the Braves afloat until Chipper Jones returned, and by then he was off to his best season as a professional player.
Jones led both leagues with 51 home runs and the National League with 128 RBI. His .263 batting average is pointed out by his critics that he did not have the best season of any NL player, but that statistic was damaged by two major slumps, one at the beginning of the season and one at the end. The Braves could have easily fallen off after Chipper Jones was injured, but Andruw Jones saved the team with a tremendous performance in the final four months of the season (39 home runs and 98 RBI).
For the seven seasons prior to 2005, Jones had averaged 32.4 home runs and 97.5 RBI - very good numbers, but far below the expectations he set for himself with his fantastic debut in 1996. With his increase in production, Jones has now become one of the elite players in the National League.
The big award is still to come, as the National League will announce its winner of the Most Valuable Player award on November 15th. Jones will have stiff competition, however, as Cardinals’ first baseman Albert Pujols and Cubs’ first baseman Derrick Lee are also solid candidates.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.