Phormer Phillies Philes: Ron Jones (Sigh)

[editor's note, by dajafi] Sad news for Phils phans today: one-time phenom OF Ron Jones died last Sunday at age 42.

Ron Jones, an outfielder who played 97 games for the Phillies from 1988 to 1991, died June 4. He was 42. A news release from the Big League Baseball Academy in Houston, where Jones was a co-partner with former big-leaguer Charlie Hayes, said he died of natural causes.

Here's a link to Jones's Baseball Reference page. And here's the full-length feature we ran on Jones last July. On behalf of everyone at The Good Phight, we offer condolences to the friends and family of Ron Jones.

There are 3 things you need to know about Ron Jones:  

  1. He could hit.  
  2. He broke my heart.  
  3. He hated Canada.  
You see, Jones, despite amassing only 239 Major League at bats, typifies the fortunes of the Phillies (and its fans) from the mid 1980s on into today.  

I suppose a little background is needed on my third point above. Jones was drafted in 1982 by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 14th round, but refused to sign. The following year, des Expos de Montreal nabbed the outfielder from Seguin, Texas and Wharton Junior College with the 42nd overall pick. Once again, Jones refused to sign. Finally, in October of 1984, Jones, who was by then 20, signed with the Phillies as an amateur free agent. Why the hell would he sign with the Phillies, you ask? Well, believe it or not, at one time they were a credible organization. Made the playoffs, got to the World Series (did it the year before, in fact), all of that stuff. Look it up, I'm serious.  

Jones hit the ground running in low A ball with Bend of the Northwest League in 1985, posting a .315 AVG and .472 SLG, with 10 home runs and 60 RBIs in only 286 at bats. The following year he moved on to Clearwater and there Jones put up a Nintendo line, and did it in only 108 games:  

.371 AVG, .524 SLG, 7 HR, 18 2B, 12 3B, 73 RBI, 76 R  

Jones concluded the season by skipping AA and was called up to AAA Portland of the Pacific Coast League.

So just where are we now? Jones is a hitting fool, the Phils are starting to stink, and the Mets are free-basing their way to either a dynasty or a train wreck (remember the Mets). 1987 comes and Jones is with Maine of the International League, another Phils' AAA affiliate, playing with some of the greats that comprise the Phillies legacy (and may just make it into this feature in the future): Jeff Stone, Steve Jeltz, and Chris James, to name a few. His numbers that first year aren't particularly great: .247 AVG, .380 SLG, 32 RBI in 316 at bats. He improves upon those, particularly the power numbers, in `88, highlighted by his 16 HR and 75 RBI. But he would not finish 1988 in Maine...  

Jones was called up to Philadelphia in late August, and damn did he impress. In about a month's time he hit .290 with 8 HR and 26 RBI. The future looked incredibly bright for the left handed hitter, and fans were excited (the team went 65-96 that season; they took what they could get).  

Well, any excitement over Jones came to a halt 12 games into the 1989 season. Against the Mets, at Shea, and off to a hot start (in an admittedly small sampling) with a .934 OPS- Jones blew out his knee on a play in the outfield and was lost for the season.  

I remember watching that game, and cringing at that play, with my stepfather. He was a "lifer" and the person chiefly responsible for my following the Phils, and the Jones injury left him truly frustrated: as he put it, "that kid was going to be good."  

Unfortunately, "was" proved a prophetic word. Jones rehabbed and made it back for the 1990 season, picking up where he left off: .276/.373/.466/.839- 3 HR, 7 RBI. A point I feel obliged to note here is the progression Jones made with respect to getting on base. He went from 2 walks in 33 games after initially being called up to 9 in only 40 plate appearances in 1989, and then 9 more in his first 67 plate appearances in 1990. This was a sign of considerable growth as a hitter and bode well for Jones as a solid, everyday right fielder... right?  

Nope. He only made it twice as far as the year before--24 games. Jones' other knee blew out, this time at the Vet against the Astros. The second injury, for all intents and purposes, ended the career of Ron Jones. He fought back and managed to come to the plate 26 more times in 1991, but to no avail: his legs couldn't hold up.  

I don't quite know if my fascination with Jones as a kid was due to that September tease, or the night he got hurt at Shea (and how it, like many random, seemingly inconsequential memories stays with me in the place normally reserved for those more critical--perhaps due to a dearth of the latter). It probably turns out to be a bit of both: the promise and the punch in the gut (that I've come to take without flinching as I've hardened in Phandom). Regardless, his minor league numbers and those few at bats he got in the bigs hint at the potential for him to have been a contributor to what were largely lousy Phils teams of the early 1990s.