While Doubleday Double Talk strives to bring the best in baseball information, opinion, and analysis, in the end, we are also big fans.
Perhaps no Hall of Fame class in recent memory brings both aspects of my fandom together than this coming Class of 2018.
I grew up a Braves fan after reading a book about Dale Murphy in a library, then when Terry Pendleton (from the same town I lived in and played 3B like me) became a Braves I got to meet him once before a Braves/Dodgers game. The rest is history.
I went to college in San Diego in 2001 and as I didn’t live very close to a Major League stadium growing up (halfway between SF and LA) so having a Major League team just down the street, even if it was dilapidated Qualcomm Stadium was great! I arrived just in time to see the end of Tony Gwynn’s great Padres career and as the Padres entered Petco Park in 2004 even got a chance to see a playoff game in 2006 against the Cardinals. Still only the second MLB playoff game I’ve been to, and tough to beat the first one since it was Game 6 of the 2002 World Series.
All that to say – while I am critical of some of the recent Hall of Fame choices like Jack Morris and Alan Trammel this year but even Pudge from last year, I am happy this year’s class and will focus this post on the greatness of Chipper Jones.
Chipper was a consummate professional his entire career, winning the MVP Award in 1999 and ending with 468 home runs as a switch hitter in 19 years played. He was always at the top of the game and transcended just enough to get into the Hall of Fame. I don’t consider him a surefire Hall of Fame player by my own standards but definitely did enough.
By my definition, a Hall of Fame player should truly be not just “better than most” at his position during his playing days, but so FAR above the rest. That is why I am against a guy like Alan Trammel or Omar Vizquel, who I feel were very good players but not transcendent.
On an intangible level, Chipper had the ability to rise to the occasion that so many other “really good” players just never can. Who can forget his walk-off against the Phillies in what turned out to be his final home run?
The Braves had returned to the playoffs in 2010 after a 5-year layoff and only Chipper remained connecting the past. Bobby Cox had retired after 2010. Maddux left after 2003. Smoltz after 2008. Glavine after ’02, then to finish things up with the Braves in 2008. In that time Chipper had played left field for a while even to help make the Braves better. In 2011 they collapsed at the end of the season and Chipper had missed the final few weeks after a back injury to miss the single wild card spot to the Cardinals.
Now in 2012, the Braves were looking for another playoff run. They were down to to the Phillies in early September and after they had rallied for a few runs against closer Jonathan Papelbon, Chipper stepped up with the Braves down by 2 with two outs and two men on. What I remember most about this home run was not at all being surprised that it happened. Because that is what Chipper Jones always did:
Chipper was a leader, and it wasn’t by accident that young Freddie Freeman was brought up in 2010 as well, as he would carry the Braves mantle that was passed from Dale Murphy to Terry Pendleton to Chipper and still carries it to this day. Players who do play the right way. Who take even financial cuts for the sake of the team. I remember him coaching Adam LaRoche and his immaturity. He mentored Mark DeRosa, tried to save John Rocker from himself, and helped countless other young Braves along the way. That is how you build a team that wins 14 consecutive division titles.