For the second time this month, a former Twin has been called out as one of the biggest “Bums” in another team’s history. A couple weeks ago, Lasorda’s Lair named Dave Goltz the 8th worst Dodger bust. Now Jacque Jones is taking his lumps as Tigers bum #9, according to Motor City Bengals, Fansided’s excellent Detroit Tiger site.
(By the way, the trend of Top 10 Bum lists seems to be sweeping Fansided’s MLB network like wildfire. Does this mean we can look forward to a Top 10 Twins Bums list in the future? Perhaps.)
Jones was a big part of the early-2000s Twins revival. A free-swinging lefty with power, he saw his first Big League action in 1999, when he hit .289 in 95 games. The next year, 2000, he became Minnesota’s starting left fielder, and he didn’t relinquish that title until he departed for Chicago after 2005. His 19 homers in that first full season led the powerless Twins, and he improved on that total afterwards, topping 20 or more round trippers three times from 2002 to 2005. During his Twins career, he hit a respectable .279/.327/.455 with 132 homers, 476 RBI, and 189 doubles.
Jones’ best year as a Twin was probably 2002. He put up a .300/.341/.511 line and hit 27 homers. More notably, he was the team’s primary leadoff hitter. Given his inability to draw a walk and his middle of the order power, Jones was far from an ideal leadoff guy. But he acquitted himself very well, and he led the team to its first division title in 11 years.
Leadoff hitting and power were not Jones’ only tools, though. His primary asset was his glove. The early 2000s Twins teams succeeded because of great pitching, and those pitchers were helped by a heavy dose of amazing fielding. Jones and center fielder Torii Hunter filled highlight reels with their acrobatic catches and amazing range. In 2002, Jones’ UZR/150 was a staggering 18.7 (meaning that his brilliant glove work saved the team almost 19 runs compared to an average left fielder). After the 2003 acquisition of Shannon Stewart, Jones shifted to right field. He wasn’t as dominant on the right side, but he was still solid.
The greatest moment of Jones’ career with the Twins had to be Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS. Just four days after his father passed away from cancer, Jones returned to the lineup to face the New York Yankees in the Bronx. Jones turned personal tragedy into team triumph when he hit a home run off Mike Mussina in the sixth inning to give the Twins a 2-0 lead that they held for the win. I’d like to say that nobody remembers Jones’ homer because it was lost in the dozens of Twins playoff wins over the years, but that’s not the case. That game was the last time the Twins won a postseason game.
By the time Jones got to Detroit, he was 33 years old, and the Tigers should have realized that he was past his prime. Jones hit .285 in each of his two seasons with the Cubs, but his power plummeted. In 2006 he raked 27 homers and notched a .499 slugging percentage, but he fell to just five home runs and a .400 SLG the next year. Still, the Tigers traded for Jones, and he hit just .165 in 24 games before his release. The Marlins picked him up later that year, but he did no better. After a year playing for the Independent minor league Newark Bears, Jones came back to the Twins for a Spring Training tryout in 2010. He did not make the team.
Jones was hired by the Padres earlier this month as a minor league hitting instructor. Hopefully his coaching career will be as successful as his stint with the Twins, and nothing like his time with the Tigers.