Over the past couple years, I have heard talk on sports radio, and during televised games about Chipper Jones' career and if he is worthy of the Hall of Fame.
It is to early to worry about the Hall; however, it is not to early to discuss how great of a ball player Chipper has been and after winning a batting title in 2008, he still is.
In his career, through the 2008 season, Jones is a .310/.408/.548 hitter with 408 home runs, 1,243 walks, and 1,374 RBI's in 2,023 games. He is behind only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray on the all-time career home run list for a switch hitter.
He is considered one of the game's best all-around hitters, and one of the best switch hitters in the history of the game.
Jones is the only switch hitter in Major League Baseball history to have a .300+ career (.310 at the end of the 2008 season) batting average and 400 home runs.
If Chipper had not had to battle injuries the last few years, his numbers would even be greater. I know all ballplayers, especially third basemen, battle injuries, but those of you who follow the Atlanta Braves on a regular basis know what I mean when I tell you Chipper has battled "freak" injuries, and a lot of them.
In 2007, Chipper was the healthiest he had been since 2004, He was getting close to playing in 150 games. Then in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chipper was on second base, when Jeff Francouer grounded to third base with Chipper running on the play (because Frenchy can't take a pitch, and let Chipper swipe one).
Chipper flipped over Pittsburgh's Jose Bautista and injured his right thumb, causing him to miss 20 games.
He played 134 games, his most since 2004, and he finished sixth in the Most Valuable Player voting, his best showing since he won the award in 1999.
"Last year could have been my best all-around year. I was in the running for a Gold Glove—my errors were way down, and my fielding percentage was up—and I challenged for a batting title. And I hit .300 and drove in 100 and scored 100 just like I did when I was a younger cat," Jones said.
Early June 2005, Chipper injures his foot and misses 37 games. He comes back in August 2005, and in his first game back against the red hot Reds he homers and drives in four runs to stop the Reds five-game winning streak in a 12-2 win.
In the game, however, the Reds' Ryan Freel hit a sharp ground ball forcing Chipper to dive to his left. Chipper strained his rotator cuff, landing him back on the DL.
To make a very long story shorter, and to not make this article sound like a Medical Journal. I give it to you like this.
Chipper played in 109 games in 2005. He played in 110 in 2006 and 134 in 2007. Most experts said the old man was washed up.
In 2008, Chipper Jones had one of his greatest seasons. He hit the 400th homerun of his career off the Florida Marlins' Ricky Nolasco on June 5.
At the break, Chipper was batting .414 with 15 home runs and was picked to start the All-Star game. He received the most votes by the fans, managers, and players of all the NL third basemen.
Chipper won his first batting title at the age of 36, hitting .364, one point off Mickey Mantle's all time mark for switch hitters.
Throughout Chipper's career, he has won:
World Series title (1995)
TSN Rookie of the Year (1995)
6 time All-Star
NL MVP (1999)
2 time Silver Slugger
8 consecutive 100+ RBI seasons
14 consecutive 20+ HR seasons
Most HR in a season by a NL switch hitter (45-tied Lance Berkman)
MLB record most consecutive games with an extra base hit (14-tied Paul Waner)
Former Met GM and current ESPN analyst Steve Phillips called Chipper "The Derek Jeter of the National League." Great compliment by a rival that Chipper beat up on for years, so much so that Chipper named his son Shea (named after Shea Stadium).
As for the Hall of Fame, everyone has their own opinion on the matter.
When Chipper was asked his opinion in 2007, he said, "I am one of the guy's who if I was to quit right now, I would not make it in. I am on the cusp. The next five or six years will tell the tale."
If Chipper can play anywhere close to 150 games a season for the next four or five seasons. He should end his career with around 540 HRs and 1600 RBIs. And with his glove, maybe another Gold Glove or two.
So you make the call.
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