One of the things I love most about the game of baseball is it sometimes allows ceremony to overrule competition. And then, in some very rare cases, you get the best of both worlds.
If Chipper Jones was batting under the Mendoza Line, he would still make for a legitimate All-Star selection. One of the greatest switch-hitters in history, Jones has been in the game for two decades, hitting for a Hall of Fame-worthy .304 career batting average in over 10,000 at bats. However, Jones, 40, is still going strong, hitting .295 with five home runs and 21 RBIs, while leading all major league third basemen in RBIs per at bat.
More importantly, he is an epic gamer, as evidenced by every stage of his career. In his rookie season of 1995, the Braves won their only World Series since moving to Atlanta, and the franchise’s first since 1957. The Braves would go on to qualify for the postseason in each of the next 10 seasons, including their last World Series appearance of 1999 when Jones won the NL MVP while slugging a career-high 45 home runs.
In 2002, to allow for the Braves to add offense by signing free agent third baseman Vinny Castilla, Jones converted to left field; one of the most unheralded results of which was it ended his run as a perennial All-Star. After moving back to third base in 2004, he increased his batting average in five consecutive seasons, culminating in a 2008 season when he led the majors with a .364 average, becoming just the ninth switch-hitter in the history of baseball to win a big-league batting crown.
Now, in his farewell season, the Braves are rolling atop the NL East, and it would be difficult to not credit Jones as the biggest reason why. With Jones on the shelf for the first four games of the year, Atlanta started off 0-4. Since Jones’ return, the Braves have posted a 19-9 record, and are 15-6 in games which he has appeared.
Not to mention, Jones has one of those great enduring nicknames that has transcended the game to the point that most aren’t even aware of his real name. Did you know it’s Larry Wayne Jones? I didn’t.
Sure, David Freese and David Wright, each 29, are off to phenomenal starts. But, the two figure to contend for the starting All-Star nod for years to come. This year, fans need to embrace ceremony – not to mention the win-loss record – and elect Chipper Jones.