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KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES IN ATLANTA JUST GOT A LITTLE HARDER A SEPTEMBER-PROSPECTS PREVIEW THE HALL CALL

Aug. 26, 1996
Aug. 26, 1996

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Aug. 26, 1996

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College Football '96

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES IN ATLANTA JUST GOT A LITTLE HARDER A SEPTEMBER-PROSPECTS PREVIEW THE HALL CALL

BRAVE MOVES

This is an article from the Aug. 26, 1996 issue Original Layout

With the best record in baseball and a seven-game lead in the
National League East, the Braves didn't grow cautious, they got
more daring. They traded for Marlins third baseman Terry
Pendleton; they moved All-Star Chipper Jones from third to
shortstop, where he hadn't played regularly since 1993 (and that
was in the minor leagues, before he had major knee surgery in
1994); and they called up 19-year-old Andruw Jones from Triple A
Richmond, put him in rightfield and made him number 2 in the
batting order. Those are a lot of changes for a successful team.
They could backfire and hurt clubhouse chemistry, but it's more
likely they will make Atlanta a stronger team when October
arrives.

First off, Pendleton is one of the game's true leaders and is
still a good clutch hitter. Secondly, Andruw Jones might be the
reliable rightfielder the Braves have lacked since David Justice
dislocated his shoulder in May. Calling Jones up on Aug. 14 gave
the Braves two weeks to determine whether he's ready to play in
the major leagues; if he is, they can add him to their playoff
roster by the midnight Aug. 31 deadline. "If he's as good as
everyone says," says Atlanta first baseman Fred McGriff, "he'll
be O.K. up here." Finally, by moving Chipper Jones to shortstop,
the Braves have a 30-homer, 100-RBI man in their middle infield
instead of light-hitting Rafael Belliard or Ed Giovanola.

Jeff Blauser, who was the starting shortstop until mid-July,
when he broke his left hand, is due back in a couple of weeks.
But he wasn't playing very well (.248 average, 22 errors) when
he got hurt, and if Jones proves he can play short, the Braves
will probably keep him there through the postseason.

The key is Andruw Jones, who is thought to be the first player
since Phillies pitcher Pat Combs in 1989 to start a season in A
ball and go on to Double A, Triple A and the big leagues in the
same year. Along the way Jones hit a combined .339 with 34
homers, 92 RBIs and 30 steals. And he's as good defensively as
he is offensively: Some scouts say he's on a par with Atlanta's
Gold Glove centerfielder, Marquis Grissom.

Jones is from Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles. He speaks
four languages: Dutch, English, Spanish and Papiamento (the
Creole language of the Dutch Caribbean islands). He went to a
Braves tryout camp in his homeland in 1993 and was so impressive
that he was signed at age 16 by Braves scout Giovanni Viceisza.
Bobby Dews, the minor league field coordinator for the Braves,
told Atlanta manager Bobby Cox, "When Andruw gets to the big
leagues, he'll be an All-Star every year."

In his debut on Aug. 15 Jones went 1 for 5 with an RBI single,
had an outfield assist and made a throwing error in an 8-5 win
over the Phillies. He had a better second game, belting a triple
and a homer in a 5-4 victory over the Pirates on Aug. 16. He
admits he was surprised to have been called up so soon, but he
is not awed about being the youngest player in the majors. "I
don't worry about age," he says.

PROSPECTS ON PARADE

Andruw Jones isn't the only top prospect to watch over the next
few weeks. Here are four others whom baseball people are excited
about and hoping to get a glimpse of when rosters are expanded
in September.

--Vladimir Guerrero, outfielder, Expos. Hitting .363 with 17
homers at Double A Harrisburg, Pa., Guerrero, 20, had an
impressive .446 on-base percentage at week's end because he
walks a fair amount (48 times in 427 plate appearances) and
doesn't strike out much (36 times). But what impresses Montreal
general manager Jim Beattie most about the 6'2", 180-pound
Guerrero is his attitude. "How many guys have we seen who have
great tools but bad makeup?" Beattie says. "He'll hit a routine
grounder to shortstop and beat it out, because he always runs
hard."

Guerrero, one of nine children, still sends most of his $1,200
monthly paycheck home to the Dominican Republic so his parents
can build a house. The Expos actually left Guerrero at Double A
this year so that his attitude wouldn't be spoiled. He would
have been promoted, but Triple A Ottawa is not in the playoffs
and has some unhappy veterans, so Guerrero remains at
Harrisburg, where there's a great atmosphere and a pennant race.
There's a chance Guerrero won't be called up because nowadays
general managers don't want players unnecessarily accruing
service time, but he'll definitely compete for an every-day job
in Montreal in '97. Mets scout Carmen Fusco says Guerrero is "as
complete a player as I've ever seen."

--Dmitri Young, first baseman, Cardinals. This switch-hitter is
batting .334 with 15 homers and 15 steals for Triple A
Louisville. He was the fourth overall pick in the '91 draft, and
recently he has helped his stock rise by dropping some 20
pounds, to 240. (Last year with Double A Arkansas, Young heard
chants of "Pork Chop!" from the fans in Wichita.)

--Mike Cameron, outfielder, White Sox. He is hitting .293 with
27 homers and 70 RBIs for Double A Birmingham and should replace
Danny Tartabull in right next year.

--Nomar Garciaparra, shortstop, Red Sox. A brilliant defensive
player and a born leader, Garciaparra could move shortstop John
Valentin to second base or third (if third baseman Tim Naehring
were to become a free agent and leave) next year.

NO ROOM IN THE HALL

Although no players were voted into the Hall of Fame this year
(except those inducted by the veterans' committee), there might
soon be a logjam at the gates of Cooperstown. And some deserving
players are going to be left out in the crush because it's
unlikely that the Baseball Writers Association of America will
induct, say, six players in any year. In 1999 five players with
Hall credentials will be eligible: Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount and
George Brett are locks for induction, Carlton Fisk is highly
probable and Dale Murphy is borderline. In 2000, Goose Gossage
(possible) and Jack Morris (shaky) head the list of newly
eligible players. Then in 2001, Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield
are sure bets. And the following year Ozzie Smith should be
inducted, and he'll be joined by Eddie Murray and Dennis
Eckersley, if those two call it quits after this season.

One of the players who could get overlooked in the clutter of
candidates is outfielder Andre Dawson, who last week announced
his retirement, effective at the end of the season. His omission
would be a shame: The Hawk belongs in the Hall.

Dawson has a career average of .280 (Ralph Kiner and Reggie
Jackson are the only Hall of Fame outfielders with lower
lifetime batting averages), but he has 437 homers (only Dave
Kingman, with 442, has more and is not in the Hall), 1,587 RBIs
(more than Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Willie Stargell)
and 314 steals. Bobby Bonds, Barry Bonds and Willie Mays are the
only others in the 300-homer, 300-steal club. Dawson also has
had more than 50 extra-base hits in 13 seasons. The only
National League players who had more were Hank Aaron (18
seasons) and Stan Musial (16). And Dawson was the MVP in 1987
with the Cubs, becoming the first player voted MVP from a
last-place team.

Dawson won eight Gold Gloves and had one of the strongest
throwing arms in history. "And as far as character, there was no
one better," says Phillies coach Larry Bowa. Dawson played hard
every night even though he had sore, scarred knees most of the
last seven years of his career. Some of his numbers may be
borderline for the Hall, but his class should put him in.

SHORT HOPS

Orioles DH Eddie Murray has led a Baltimore resurgence by
hitting seven homers in fewer than 100 at bats since returning
to the O's in a trade on July 21. At week's end he needed only
two homers to reach 500 for his career, and he recently passed
another milestone that put him in exclusive company: He hit into
his 300th double play. Here are the top five in that category
since World War II (accurate records weren't kept before then):
Hank Aaron (328), Carl Yastrzemski (323), Dave Winfield (319),
Jim Rice (315) and Murray (303)....Through Sunday, Reds reliever
Lee Smith needed five more appearances to pass Lindy McDaniel
(987) for the most career appearances by a pitcher who has never
pitched in a World Series.

COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS The journey from Curacao to Atlanta has been a quick swing for 19-year-old Andruw Jones. [Andruw Jones batting]