Chipper Jones (Source: wikipedia.org)
Chipper Jones has been one of the most versatile players in Major League Baseball over the course of his 18-year career – all played in Atlanta with the Braves. Earlier today, he announced that the 2012 season will be his last. The question circulating among the baseball experts today: “Is Chipper Jones a Hall of Famer?”
Jones’ first season on the Braves Opening Day roster was the 1995 campaign. Although expected to be the starting shortstop that year, the switchhitter eventually settled more comfortably at third base. Chipper finished in second place for National League Rookie of the Year behind the Dodgers Japanese flamethrower Hideo Nomo. The 1995 season concluded with the Braves accomplishing a feat that had eluded them for their entire existence in Atlanta – a World Series Championship (a six-game victory over the Cleveland Indians).
Jones starred again on the 1996 National League Championship Braves edition. This time, Atlanta lost to the Yankees in six games, but Chipper Jones had established himself as one of baseball’s best young talents.
In 1999, Chipper won his first and only National League MVP Award, slugging 45 home runs with a .319 batting average, 110 RBI, and 41 doubles. The Braves were swept in the World Series by the Yankees that year, but at this point, Jones was one of the best players in all of baseball.
In the twenty-first century, Chipper shifted to left field in Atlanta. The Braves haven’t returned to the Fall Classic since 1999, but Jones led Atlanta to NL East Titles every year from 2000-2005 and then to a Wild Card playoff spot in 2010.
Chipper’s legacy will always be matched against two of the game’s all-time great switchhitters: Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray (both Hall of Famers).
From an offensive perspective, here is the career comparison:
Jones Mantle Murray
HR 454 536 504
RBI 1,561 1,509 1,917
Average .304 .298 .287
Hits 2,615 2,415 3,255
Seasons 18 18 21
World Series Rings 1 7 1
League MVPs 1 3 0
Triple Crowns 0 1 0
All-Star Seasons 7 17 8
Braves legendary former manager Bobby Cox today made a pitch for his former player to be inducted as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Sorry, Bobby, I have all the respect in the world for you, but I have to disagree, not only on the first-ballot selection, but in Chipper’s Hall of Fame status at all.
As always for a finance guy, the numbers tell the story:
For Mantle, the 7 World Championships, 1 Triple Crown in 1956, 17 All-Star Selections, and 3 AL MVP Awards are overwhelmingly powerful credentials. When you factor in the injuries that plagued Mantle for much of his career, there really is no question that The Mick is a Hall of Famer.
For Eddie Murray, the big numbers are 3,255 hits, 504 home runs, and the longevity of 21 Major League seasons with five different teams (most notably the Baltimore Orioles with whom he earned a World Series Ring in 1983 and the Los Angeles Dodgers). Only 28 players have ever accumulated 3,000 hits. Only 25 players have ever whacked 500 home runs. Murray’s 504 dingers puts him last on that list. Still, the hits and home run totals earn Eddie Murray a seat at an exclusive table of baseball’s all-time greats.
Chipper Jones, although a feared switchhitter for almost his entire career, is not in the class of Mantle or Murray. A .304 batting average in this era of mediocre pitching, expansion, and performance enhancement is not nearly as impressive as let’s say Jim Rice’s .298 career batting average from 1974-1989 against dominant American League pitching.
Unfortunately, Chipper also was not a “Primetime Player” in the postseason. Despite 12 trips to the playoffs in Atlanta, Jones only won one World Series in his first season. Players are measured heavily according to how they perform on the biggest stages. And October was not Chipper’s best month. When I combine his several postseason failures with not sticking around long enough to acquire 500 home runs or 3,000 hits, my final summary is that Chipper Jones has been a very good Major League Baseball player and an All-Star (although in less than half of his big league seasons). But in my eyes, Chipper Jones is NOT a Hall of Famer.