Jackson Newspapers - Ripley, WV
  • Chipper Jones: It's Cooperstown or bust

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  • ATLANTA - The Atlanta Braves fell to the Saint Louis Cardinals 6-3 on Friday night in the National League's one game Wildcard Playoff.
    Major League Baseball lost one of the game's most outspoken ambassadors but more importantly one of the most prolific switch hitters in the history of the game.
    Over his 19-year playing career, Jones stole the heart of old school fans with his high socks, willingness to play hurt and his effort to emulate his (and his father's) hero, Mickey Mantle in everything he did.
    Jones helped bring a championship to a victory starved Braves franchise that put it all together in 1995 with a World Series defeat of the Cleveland Indians.
    The slugger was part of Atlanta's 14 straight division titles, a feat that will likely be burned into the record books forever.
    Jones' unselfishness carried over to the field when he offered to play in the outfield prior to the start of the 2002 season.
    The slugger announced his willingness to move from third base to left field to make adequate room for the incoming Vinny Castilla.
    Jones proved solid in left field, but following premature playoff exits in 2002 and 2003, he moved back to his regular position of third base.
    Jones' many accolades include the Sporting News Rookie of the Year, the National League's 1999 Most Valuable Player and a batting title in 2008 when he hit .364.
    The DeLand, Florida native's statistics stack up well against Hall of Famers from all eras. His numbers boast a .303 career average, 468 homeruns, 1623 runs batted in, a slugging percentage of .529, a .401 on base percentage. He had 2726 hits, 549 doubles and 38 triples.
    The third bagger's numbers compare favorable with legendary switch hitters Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray.
    Pete Rose had gaudy numbers as the all time hits leader (4,256) but lacked the power numbers of this trio.
    Murray played for 21 seasons. He batted .300+ seven times, hit 20+ homeruns 16 times, had 100+ RBI six times, won a homerun title and an RBI crown. He was welcomed into the Hall of Fame in 2003.
    Mantle played for 18 seasons. He won three MVP awards, one Triple Crown, one batting title, batted .300+ 10 times, hit over 50 HR twice, over 40 HR twice, over 30 HR five times and drove in 100+ runs four times.
    He won four homerun titles, and one RBI crown. He entered the Hall of Fame in 1974.
    Mantle was an outfielder and Murray was a first baseman. Jones clearly had the most taxing defensive position at a Major League hot corner.
    Jones fielded third base at a .954 clip that ranks in the top ten percent of players in his era. While he was never a Gold Glove winner, David Wright (Mets) won the award with 21 errors 1n 2007. Chipper had only nine. He wasn't just carjacked. He was robbed.
    Page 2 of 2 - Of the main criteria that make a player Hall of Fame worthy, Jones hits .333, making one of the three primary benchmarks.
    He barely missed 500 home runs (468) and fell just shy of three thousand hits (2726). He did however produce a .300 career batting average (.303).
    Jones belongs in the same breath with fellow third basemen Mike Schmidt (548 homeruns), George Brett (3,154 hits), Wade Boggs (3,010 hits) Brooks Robinson (2,848 hits) and Ron Santo (342 homeruns).
    While Schmidt is the holy-grail, Jones' power numbers put him in a class that Boggs, Santo, Robinson and Brett can only envy.
    The most important factor for Jones is that he is perceived as a clean player. While he played through the era of the Popeye forearms and cartoonish tape measure homeruns, Jones has always been held to a higher standard and never on any level been associated with the chemically engineered freaks that stalked the batters box like crazed professional wrestlers in the late 90's and beyond.
    Jones will surely be making that speech from a podium in Cooperstown five years from now.
    If he does not, it will be the biggest travesty this side of Dale Murphy, but that is another story.
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