March 26, 2012
With the announcement that Chipper Jones will retire from Major League Baseball after the season, the Braves’ third baseman will wrap up an excellent career after this summer. Jones has not only been a pillar for the franchise, but one of baseball’s best players over the past 20 years. The question is sure to be there during the season: Is he a Hall of Famer?
One big thing that will help Jones is that he’s thus far avoided the rampant speculation of steroids that other stars in this generation haven’t. Jones has put up numbers that are widely believed to be honest and therefore, will stand out even more than many of his peers. About those numbers – heading into this season, Jones has amassed 454 home runs, 1,561 RBI, and 2,615 hits. He’s a career .304 hitter, won an MVP award in 1999, and also took home a batting title at the age of 36 in 2008.
Another thing to like about Jones’ credentials is that he finished in the top ten in Most Valuable Player voting six times over his career. Jones wasn’t only voted the league’s best player through that 1999 Award, but he’s been among the top players for a good portion of his career. That’s also evidenced by his seven All-Star selections.
Jones was somewhat of a quiet superstar. He never put up mind-boggling numbers compared to some of his contemporaries such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey, Jr., Sammy Sosa, or Alex Rodriguez, but his consistency was his allure. He had eight seasons with at least 25 home runs and 100 RBI. That consistency also included staying healthy. In eight of his first nine full seasons, he played in at least 150 games. In addition, other than the strike-shortened 1994 (when he missed the full season due to injury) and 2010 when he played 95 games, Jones has reached the 100-game mark in every other season of his 18-year career.
And for everything that Jones has done in his career, there’s also what he didn’t do that was significant. In an era when 100 strikeouts is commonplace for power hitters, Jones never reached that mark.
Then there was the winning. Few, even Jones himself, would likely argue that the Braves underachieved when it came to winning World Series titles. From 1995 – 2005, the Braves reached the playoffs 11 consecutive times, but won the championship only once (1995). While that’s a bit disappointing, to even reach the postseason that many times is ridiculous. Atlanta did that largely behind strong pitching from future Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine, but Jones’ performances had a lot to do with it and in many of those seasons, he was the team’s biggest offensive threat.
I’ll be the first to admit that Jones doesn’t have monster Hall of Fame numbers. Barring an unbelievable 2012 season or a postponement of his retirement, he’s not going to get to 500 home runs – the long-time standard for induction before the steroid era. He also doesn’t have 3,000 hits or 2,000 RBI – both big milestones. But Jones’ numbers are surely good enough in my opinion and his track record in helping Atlanta to so many postseason appearances should put him over the top.