Neyer: Is Andruw Jones the best major leaguer to head to Japan?

From SABR member Rob Neyer at Baseball Nation on December 10, 2012:

Upon the news that Andruw Jones will be plying his trade next season with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, I got to wondering if Jones might be the best major leaguer ever to play for a Japanese team. It’s quite possible that I’ve missed someone great, but before you ask, I left Alfonso Soriano off because he began his career in Japan. Anyway, here are my top 10 major leaguers in Japan …

1. Andruw Jones (60 Wins Above Replacement)
It’s really, really, really close. But with a very small timeline adjustment — I believe that players today are better than players from, say, 40 years ago — Jones just aces the No. 2 man. He probably won’t get much Hall of Fame support because a) so much of his value was tied up in his defense, and b) the ballot’s going to be wildly overstuffed with great players when Jones shows up on it. But he was, for a number of years, a tremendous player.

2. Reggie Smith (61 Wins+)
Speaking of tremendous players, Reggie Smith was quite a bit like Andruw Jones. Outstanding defensive outfielder, didn’t age particularly well, and was (in Smith’s case) utterly snubbed by Hall of Fame voters. In his first and only appearance on the BBWAA’s ballot, he got three votes and fell off forever. Late in his career, Smith had a lot of problems staying healthy, but was still an outstanding hitter in 1982, his only season with the San Francisco Giants and his last season in the majors. In ’83 he joined Tokyo’s Yomiuri Giants, and spent two injury- and controversy-filled seasons there.

3. Larry Doby (47)
Doby played for the Chunichi Dragons in 1962; it wasn’t until 36 years later that Doby went into the Hall of Fame. I wasn’t wild about his candidacy and I’m still not, but he probably did lose a major-league season or three because of MLB’s color line.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: December 10, 2012. Last Updated: December 10, 2012.