Chipper on Hall of Fame bubble
LOS ANGELES — As Braves third baseman Chipper Jones is making his farewell tour around Major League Baseball before he retires at the end of the season, the recurring question has been whether he is dead bang, first ballot Hall of Famer.
“Why not? He’s pretty much at the top of every category,” said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium. “He’s played a long time. He’s been consistent. He’s been productive. I mean, yeah.”
Actually, that description accurately depicts, Mattingly, who isn’t in the Hall of Fame and may never be.
Like Mattingly, Jones has been a fine player with excellent credentials, but he plays a position that’s inhabited in the Hall by some of the all-time greats. There are only 14 third basemen enshrined. Of the most recent, Wade Boggs and George Brett each have in excess of 3,000 hits. Mike Schmidt and Eddie Matthews both hit more than 500 homers.
Jones went into action against the Dodgers on Wednesday night with 2,624 hits and 457 homers. Very nice. Schmidt’s 548 homers are tops among third basemen. Brett’s 3,154 hits are the most among the pure third sackers. As a switch-hitter, Eddie Murray is way beyond Chipper in both categories with 3,255 hits and 504 homers. Mickey Mantle, a fair switch-hitter in his own right, has the most at 536.
Jones is a .304 lifetime hitter. Boggs hit .328. As the stat freaks reminded me last winter when I left Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell of my Hall of Fame ballot, I should have taken a close look at OPS — on base, plus slugging percentage. Bagwell’s .948 OPS is 22nd in history, but it’s still far down the list of first basemen.
Using the same metric, Jones at .935 is 31st. Mantle at .977, is 11th and the top switch-hitter. Alex Rodriguez at 20th with a .952 OPS is tops among third baseman. A-Rod, who came up as a shortstop, has played his entire nine-year Yankees tenure at third. Veering away from third baseman for a moment, Todd Helton, a first baseman, is 15th at .970. Larry Walker, an outfielder, is 16th at .965. Neither Helton nor Walker are getting into the Hal of Fame any time soon, if ever.
He may ultimately be voted in, but this all puts Chipper firmly on the Hall of Fame bubble.