Some people never learn.
Referring to Chipper Jones, a lead writer for a respected national Web site this morning throws away the line that the Braves third baseman is “likely headed to Cooperstown when his career ends.”
That comment appeared less than 24 hours after baseball writers had again proven to be unblinking sentries in front of the Hall of Fame. Daily journalism is littered with future-Hall-of-Famer-this and headed-to-Cooperstown-that, but time and again we see that it ain’t easy sneaking through baseball’s pearly gates.
In the myopic prism of his era, Jones is a terrific player.
His career card entering the 2010 season, which will be his 16th:
.307 average with 426 homers, 1,145 RBIs, 7-time All-Star.
Here are some other sets of numbers:
(a) .312-309-1,261 and 7-time All=Star.
(b) .290-339-1,493 and 7-time All-Star.
(c) .288-399-1,425 and 5-time All-Star.
(d) .284-493-1,550 and 5-time All-Star.
(e) .265-398-1,266 and 7-time All-Star.
Pretty comparable, huh? The point? None of the five belonging to those numbers made the Hall of Fame on the most recent ballot. None even came close.
In order, they were (a) Edgar Martinez, (b) Dave Parker), (c) Andres Galarraga, (d) Fred McGriff and (e) Dale Murphy. Combined, they received 478 votes — or slightly more than the 420 which made Andre Dawson the year’s lone selectee.
In fact, Galarraga, didn’t even make the 5 percent cut required to remain on the ballot for next winter’s election.
This is not to pass judgment on Chipper or his future chances, only on those who too lightly wield Cooperstown-knighting swords.
Larry Jones isn’t so Chipper these days.
The guy at the not-so-hot corner for the Braves keeps talking about making next season his last if 2010 turns out to be as personally frustrating as 2009 has been.
“The game is not fun to me when I’m not playing up to my standards,” is how Chipper Jones puts it.
And this is what he’s talking about:
Jones is in danger of the biggest decline of any reigning batting champ in National League history (among batting-race qualifiers, to discount injury-caused drops).
His average of .269 entering tonight’s key game against the Phillies represents a drop of 95 points off his NL-leading .364 average of last season.
The “record” drop of 97 points belongs to the Cardinals’ Willie McGee, who led the NL with .353 in 1985 then slumped to .256 in 1986.
You might say that Willie’s average fell down an elevator shaft, but two decades earlier Norm Cash had gone for the full ride in that elevator.
Up: Cash, a slugging Detroit first baseman, jacked his average by 75 points to take the 1961 title at .361.
Down: In 1962, Cash hit .243. That 118-point drop is the Major League record for defending batting champs.