On the day when Chipper Jones’ number will be retired by the Atlanta Braves (and he will be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame), it is easy to think back on the tremendous accomplishments of number 10.
After all, Jones’ career averages of .303 (BA), .401 (OBP), and .529 (slugging) are almost legendary at this point, and he hit a staggering 468 home runs in his illustrious career. Those numbers don’t even begin to tell the story, however, as Chipper was an 8-time all-star, former MVP winner (1999), and is 31st all-time in WAR among position players (and 3rd among third basemen).
Just take a look at his MVP season of 1999 and try to hold back the hysteria.
.319/.441/.633 (for a ridiculous OPS of 1.074). 41 doubles. 45 home runs. 116 runs scored. 25 steals. 125 walks. 169 OPS+. 7.3 WAR.
If that stat line happened today, the internet would explode (see Cabrera, Miguel), but Chipper produced three separate seasons with 7.0+ WAR, and he did it without a hint of PED scandal. In short, he’s one of the greatest 3rd basemen of all-time from a statistical standpoint, and with his nearly 10% career walk-rate coupled with being one of the best, natural switch-hitters ever, he’s basically a stathead’s dream.
Admittedly, I grew up in the midst of his career, and frankly, I wasn’t a fan of his work. I know you’re thinking, “How in the world are you a diehard Braves fan who grew up in the 1990′s and you don’t like Chipper Jones?!”, and really, you have a fair point. With that said, I didn’t always like the guy that we saw off of the field (affairs, etc.), and his general “good ‘ole boy” disposition also isn’t my favorite. Also, when you are in the middle of a fantastic run like this, it can be tough to see the forest through the trees… until I realized, later in life, that Chipper just completed probably the single greatest run of a player on a team that I will cover.
Don’t believe me? Well, consider these things. Jones has the highest WAR among all Braves players in the Atlanta era (Maddux has more, but not while with the Braves). He is, without question, both a top-5 3rd basemen of all-time and a top-5 switch hitter of all-time. And, here’s the kicker:
Chipper Jones played his ENTIRE career with one team.
In the era of free agency, social media, and player movement, Chipper Jones was drafted (out of high school) by the Atlanta Braves, and he played a staggering 18 seasons without taking a single at-bat for another franchise. I can think of only two players in semi-recent memory (Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn) who have completed that many seasons while never leaving one city. Two.
That means something to me. Chipper Jones was in my everyday life for 7 months a year from the time that I was 9 years old until after I turned 26, and when I think about that, it makes me forget that I was never a “fan” of his. I will probably look back with more of a “twinkle in my eye” when I think about Smoltz, Glavine, and Maddux, but Chipper’s contributions stand on their own.
When I watch the unveiling of the #10 in left field on Friday night, the memories will flood in, and honestly, it may get a tad bit dusty and/or misty at Turner Field. And that, more than anything, reminds me of just how much Chipper Jones meant to both the city of Atlanta and the Atlanta Braves franchise.