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Chipper Jones

Chipper Jones

Position(s):
SS, 3B, LF, OF, RF, DH
Born:
April 24, 1972
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 4"
Weight:
210 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-11-1993 with ATL
Allstar Selections:
1999 MVP, 1999 SS, 2000 SS

One of the top third basemen in National League history, Chipper Jones has been one of baseball’s best hitters since first becoming a member of the Atlanta Braves starting lineup in 1995.  Although he also spent two full seasons in the outfield, Jones trails only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews in career home runs among players who primarily manned the hot corner.  His 436 homers also place him third on the all-time list among switch-hitters, behind only Mickey Mantle (536) and Eddie Murray (504).  The only switch-hitter in Major League Baseball history to have a career batting average in excess of .300 (.306 at the end of the 2010 season) and 400 or more home runs, Jones is exceeded only by Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews on the Braves all-time home run list.  The third baseman surpassed 20 home runs 14 straight times between 1995 and 2008, reaching the 30-homer plateau on six separate occasions during that period.  He also knocked in more than 100 runs eight straight times at one point, while also topping 100 runs scored and batting over .300 in seven out of those eight seasons.  Jones has surpassed the .300-mark a total of 10 times during his career, capturing the National League batting title in 2008 when he posted a major-league best .364 batting average and .470 on-base percentage. 

Early career

Born in Deland, Florida on April 24, 1972, Larry Wayne Jones attended the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida for three years before being selected by the Atlanta Braves at the age of 18 with the first overall pick of the 1990 amateur draft.  After spending the next three years advancing through Atlanta’s farm system, Jones made his major league debut with the club in September of 1993, coming up with two hits in his three official at-bats the remainder of the season.

Originally a shortstop, Jones reported to spring training in 1994 expecting to compete for the starting left field job left vacant when the previous year’s starter Ron Gant broke his leg during an offseason dirt bike accident.  However, Jones ended up missing the entire campaign as well after he suffered an ACL tear in his left knee during the preseason.

Returning to the Braves fully recuperated in 1995, Jones replaced Terry Pendleton as the team’s starting third baseman, hitting 23 homers, driving in 86 runs, scoring 87 others, and batting .265 for the eventual world champions, en route to earning a second-place finish to Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Hideo Nomo in the N.L. Rookie of the Year balloting.  On the flip side, the young third baseman committed 25 errors in the field – the second-highest total compiled by any player at his position in the senior circuit.  However, Jones’ ability as a hitter more than compensated for any defensive shortcomings he may have displayed his first few seasons.  He continued to excel at the plate in his first postseason, accumulating 20 hits in 55 at-bats during Atlanta’s three postseason series, for a combined batting average of .364, with three home runs, eight runs batted in, and 10 runs scored.

Ascension into stardom

Jones developed into a star the following year, hitting 30 home runs, driving in 110 runs, scoring 114 others, and batting .309 in just his second full season, in helping the Braves capture their second of seven consecutive N.L. East titles.  His outstanding performance earned him his first All-Star selection and a fourth-place finish in the league MVP voting.  So impressed with Jones was Peter Gammons that the noted baseball analyst declared that the 24-year-old third baseman was "clearly the foundation of the next generation."  Meanwhile, Philadelphia outfielder Lenny Dykstra stated, “I think Chipper Jones is not human.  I think he’s been created by Ted Turner (Braves owner) and some scientists.”

Jones continued to support the claims made by both men over the course of the next two seasons, combining for 55 home runs, while posting batting averages of .295 and .313, respectively, and surpassing the century-mark in RBIs and runs scored both years.  He earned a spot on the All-Star Team and a ninth-place finish in the league MVP balloting both times.

After failing to advance to the World Series in either of the previous two campaigns, the Braves returned to the Fall Classic in 1999.  Although the Yankees victimized them in four straight games, the pain from the defeat was lessened somewhat when the baseball writers named Jones the National League’s Most Valuable Player.  In perhaps his finest all-around season, the power-hitting third baseman hit a career-high 45 home runs, knocked in 110 runs, scored 116 others, batted .319, and accumulated a career-best 126 bases on balls, en route to compiling an exceptional .441 on-base percentage.  Along the way, Jones continued to terrorize the pitching staff of Atlanta’s chief competitors, the New York Mets.  Always a thorn in the side of the Mets, Jones performed particularly well against them in 1999, slugging seven home runs, batting .400, and compiling a .510 on-base percentage.  Jones followed up his MVP season with another two outstanding campaigns, posting batting averages of .311 and .330 in 2000 and 2001, respectively, while also totaling 74 home runs, 213 RBIs, and 231 runs scored.

Shift to the outfield and move back to third

Jones’ mediocre fielding and the arrival of Vinny Castilla prompted Atlanta manager Bobby Cox to move the longtime third baseman to left field prior to the start of the 2002 season.  Jones remained in left the next two years, topping 25 homers, driving in better than 100 runs, and batting over .300 both times.  He returned to his old position in 2004 and subsequently suffered through three injury-marred campaigns.  Yet, he remained a productive hitter, topping 20 homers in each of those years, while also driving in more than 85 runs and batting over .290 twice.  Healthy again in 2007, Jones hit 29 home runs, knocked in 102 runs, scored 108 others, and finished second in the N.L. batting race with a mark of .337.  He then led the league in hitting in 2008 with a career-high batting average of .364, while also topping the circuit with a .470 on-base percentage. 

After a somewhat subpar 2009 campaign, Jones saw his performance continue to decline in 2010.  Having met with Atlanta Braves management at midseason to discuss the possibility of retiring at the end of the year, the third baseman subsequently found his season cut short by a torn ACL in his left knee.  Jones later decided to return to the Braves in 2011 after having surgery performed on the injured knee, stating in his August 13 press conference, "I don't want the fans' final image of me to be one of me hurt on the field."

Jones enters the 2011 season with 436 career home runs, 1,491 runs batted in, 1,505 runs scored, 2,490 hits, a .306 batting average, and a .405 on-base percentage.  In addition to surpassing 30 homers six times and batting over .300 on 10 separate occasions, he has driven in more than 100 runs nine times, scored more than 100 runs eight times, accumulated more than 40 doubles three times, and compiled an on-base percentage in excess of .400 on 10 separate occasions.  Jones has been selected to six All-Star teams and has finished in the top 10 in the league MVP voting a total of six times. 

by: Bob_Cohen
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Tagged:
1995 World Series, All Star, Atlanta Braves, Batting title, Chipper Jones, MVP, Silver Slugger Award, World Baseball Classic, switch hitter
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