Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Andruw Jones' Slow Start Sows Discontent

It's hardly what you would call a shrill crescendo, but the murmur of discontent over Andruw Jones and the general state of the Dodgers outfield is flying all the warning flags of a gathering storm.

Jones so far in the young season cannot even hit his weight, with Fox Sports Radio's Ben Maller the most recent to join the chorus of boo-birds over Jones' poor performance after signing a two-year contract for more than $18 million a year.

More than just the fact that Jones is not hitting, to some observers it seems he has gained so much weight and lost so much speed that he no longer can field with the same effectiveness that made him a Gold Glover for the Braves.

"He looks terrible," intones Maller, wondering whether Jones will ever reach the 30-homer threshold again, let alone 40. Maller sees Jones as being too heavy, too slow and too old, though Jones has insisted he is the same weight as when he led the league with 51 homers a scant three seasons ago.

Maller is hardly alone in the criticism.

"He doesn't look like the same player to me," remarked Padres broadcaster Jerry Coleman after watching Jones come up short in an attempt to run down a deep fly in a recent game in San Diego.

If Jones .115 batting average were attributable to merely a slow start that would be one thing. But this is nothing new, Jones having hit just .214 for the spring and .222 all last year.

The player Jones usurped in center field, Juan Pierre, is doing even worse at .067, but at least he has an excuse as an everyday player who has been cruelly benched by manager Joe Torre, then pulled in and out of the lineup from day to day. It's hardly a circumstance in which Pierre can be expected to find his rhythm.

So far Pierre and fellow outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier have borne the punishment for Jones' shortcomings, as Jones is being given every opportunity to play everyday at the expense of the others. How much longer this continues only Torre can tell, but bets are good that unless Jones finds himself in a week or two, he will be permitted to stink up Chavez Ravine for months to come.