No. 56: Chipper Jones

I very seriously considered putting Joe DiMaggio in this slot for obvious reasons but couldn’t justify it … and figured some might miss the point and send lots of angry emails.

* * *

Here’s something you might not know: Chipper Jones played 300 more games at third base (1,992 games) than George Brett (1,692). Still, for some reason, many people do not seem to think of Chipper as a pure third baseman.

It’s a weird thing. I think it’s because Jones — and he might be the only significant player to have this happen — moved off third base to left field in his prime (he spent his age 30 and 31 seasons in left field) and then moved BACK to third base for the remainder of his career. The defensive spectrum is not supposed to go counterclockwise like that. The defensive numbers suggest Chipper was as good or better a third baseman late in his career as he was early.

Best I can tell, three times in the history of the amateur draft, a team has selected a (relatively) local high school player with the No. 1 overall pick over a more hyped (and pricier) pitching prospect.

In 1990, the Braves took Jacksonville’s Chipper Jones over Todd Van Poppel.

In 2001, the Twins took St. Paul catcher Joe Mauer over Mark Prior.

In 2004, the Padres took San Diego’s Matt Bush over Justin Verlander.*

The last of these, of course, is one of the most disastrous decisions in baseball history. But that seems predictable.

*Doug Mientkiewicz, after facing Verlander for the first time, was told that Verlander had been the second pick in the draft. He said with incredulity in his voice: “Wait, who was the first pick? And you better say it was Pujols.” Hearing it was Matt Bush did not make Mientkiewicz happy.

What’s more fascinating, I think, is that it worked so well the first two times. Taking a local product does not seem like the most promising thought process. And the fact that all three choices were driven by financial considerations doesn’t make it any better. But, damn it, the Braves got a Hall of Fame player instead of a pitching bust, and the Twins got a possible Hall of Famer over a dazzling pitcher who had only one healthy season in the big leagues.

Larry Wayne Jones Jr. — he was called “Chipper” because he was a chip off the old block, the block being his father Larry Wayne Jones Sr. — was one of those natural ballplayers who could do more or less everything growing up. He pitched. He played shortstop. He switch-hit. He was the fastest kid, the strongest kid, the hardest-throwing kid. He was sort of like a character out of an Alfred Slote book.

One thing that has always fascinated me: Chipper’s baseball hero was Mickey Mantle. That’s fascinating because Chipper Jones is five years younger than I am and by the time I started following baseball the Mick was long retired. My guess is that the Mick was Larry Sr.’s favorite player, and he transferred some of that love to his son. Larry Sr. was everything to the chip of his block. Larry Sr. was a math teacher and a coach — he had been a college baseball player — and he taught his son how to play baseball. Mostly he taught his son how switch-hit. Larry Sr. was Chipper’s first and only personal hitting coach. In the big leagues, Chipper said he talked to his father every night.

It’s easy an easy thing to miss if you only saw Chipper as an older player — and he sort of limped around — but when he was young, Chipper was fast and loose and athletic. He stole 40 bases his first full minor league season and stole as many as 25 in his early big league years. He began his career as a shortstop. The Braves determined that at 6-foot-4 he was too tall to be a shortstop in the big leagues, especially after he blew out his ACL before his rookie season. Even so, he was a legitimately great player by his second full season — he hit .309/.393/.590 with 40 homers, 114 runs, 110 RBIs and 14 out of 15 stolen bases.

That was the year, 1996, that the Atlanta Braves could have become a dynasty. They had won four pennants in five seasons (not counting the lost strike season) and were defending World Series champions. They promptly destroyed the Yankees in the first two games of the World Series, both games at Yankee Stadium. In Game 1, Andruw Jones hit two home runs and John Smoltz more or less kept the Yankees frustrated. In Game 2, Greg Maddux was magical and the Yankees never stood a chance.

So, returning home to Atlanta with a commanding 2-0 lead and on the brink of consecutive World Series championships — that was about as good as it ever got for Atlanta baseball. I always remember Gerry Faust telling me that after Notre Dame beat LSU in his first game, his team was ranked No. 1 in the country. They then played Michigan and Faust says, “What I should have done was take a picture of the scoreboard before the game started and retired.” Michigan crushed Notre Dame and it never got any better for Faust at Notre Dame.

The Braves famously lost four straight games in that 1996 Series. The crusher was Game 4, which Atlanta led 6-0 early and 6-3 going into the eighth. That’s when reliever Mark Wohlers gave up a single to Charlie Hayes, a single to Darryl Strawberry and a home run to Jim Leyritz. The fact that those Hayes, Strawberry and pinch-hitter Leyritz was so prominent in the lineup should tell you that we’re talking about a very different era of Yankees baseball. The 1996 Yankees did not have a single every day player with a WAR higher than 4.0.

In Game 5, Andy Pettitte smothered the Braves and outdueled Smoltz. In Game 6, the Yankees got to Maddux with three runs in the third inning and held on for dear life and won their first World Series in almost two decades. In the celebration, I remember seeing Wade Boggs riding a horse. The 1996 Braves were way better than that Yankees team, I think. But after losing that, they never came close to winning the World Series again. They only reached the World Series once more, that as 1999, and THAT Yankees team was way better than the Braves and everyone else.

Chipper Jones was consistently brilliant — or brilliantly consistent — for six years between 1998 and 2003. The lowest he hit in that time was .305, his worst on-base percentage was .402, his lowest slugging percentage was .517. He hit between 26 and 45 home runs every year, drove in 100 runs every year, scored 100 runs every year but one. He won one MVP in that span — in 1999 he hit .319 with 45 homers and 110 RBIs — but it’s not entirely clear that was his best overall season. He, like Hank Aaron and Albert Pujols, doesn’t seem to have a best season because his good ones looked so much alike.

The second half of his career was spottier, largely because of injuries. He led the league in OPS as a 35-year old and in batting average as a 36-year-old. After that his power was sapped and his batting averages plummeted. He seemed a potential 500-home run guy when he was in his mid-30s, but the injuries weighed on him and the ball stopped jumping out of the park as his body broke down. He finished with 468 homers, which probably helps his Hall of Fame chances more than it hurts. Voters aren’t too crazy about the Steroid Era guys who put up a big home run numbers.

Jones has said he was tempted to take steroids but he did not, at least in part because he couldn’t imagine explaining the betrayal to his father. Obviously, we can’t know anything for sure, but that’s a nice sentiment. I’ve never liked at all the way baseball players who used (or may have used) steroids have taken almost all the blame for a game that was obviously fractured in many different places. I’ve never liked the way people so easily discount baseball greatness because of steroid use as if that’s the only factor for baseball greatness. I’ve never liked the way a nation that is obviously hooked on performance enhancing drugs — from Viagra to extra-strength everything to energy drinks to these pharmaceuticals with more side effects than the gamma radiation that turns Bruce Banner into the Hulk — can get so preachy about some baseball player who were doing what baseball players always have always done: Push the edge.

That said, there’s something touching about Jones’ comments about his father. I’d rather believe it. I’d rather hope there were players who refused to use steroids — even though there was almost no chance of getting caught — because they would never be able to look their father in the eye after that. I hope that as a father myself.

120 thoughts on “No. 56: Chipper Jones

  1. CT Bold

    Local schmocal; that had nothing to do with the Braves’ decision, something they acknowledged at the time. Von Poppel told the Braves he wouldn’t sign with them – they were terrible and had been for 6 years. Which is why Jones’ thanked VP at the Turner Field ceremony honoring him in last season.

    Reply
  2. bl

    A) I don’t know anyone who thinks of Chipper Jones as anything other than a 3rd baseman. So maybe only super-insiders think of him as something else.

    B) this is the first selection I don’t understand. Again, me and everyone I know abslutely agree that Chipper is a Hall of Famer. But 56th player overall? That seems like such a stretch.

    I think Joe has a personal affection for Chipper, and that’s great. That’s what baseball is all about. Chipper just doesn’t seem to belong on this list.

    Reply
    1. Ed

      I think you’re really undervaluing Chipper Jones.

      He’s 31st all time in WAR among position players, ahead of people like Ken Griffey Jr. and Pete Rose. He has a pretty strong argument to be considered as one of the three best 3B in baseball history.

      At the very least it’s a good thing he’s above Jeter on this list, because I can’t see any way you could argue that Jeter was a better player than Chipper Jones (outside of throwing out random stuff like leadership).

      Reply
      1. bl

        I wouldn’t argue with you that I undervalue him. While I now totally agree with the sabermetric view of players I have to admit that while I was just a fan of the game with no idea about sabermetrics I was a “feel” judger. And the players that played while I felt that way will definitely be viewed in that light. So, Chipper always felt like a great player, but I “feel” like I can pretty easily rank 100 players before I even consider Chipper. Which I also admit is my problem, not Chipper’s. This is why I love this list; it makes me think of players in a whole new way. Plus, I love the stories.

        Reply
        1. Simon

          I also found this to be high – but upon further inspection, maybe not. For a high-avg high-OBP slugger, Chipper has remarkably little black ink (4 –> 426th) or even grey ink (107 –> 202nd). I think that that made him less noticeable during his career, even when he was killing the Mets yet again. He played in a strange era. 50 home runs lost a lot of its meaning, and that was before Barry Bonds started OBPing over .500 every year. 40 and 30 home run seasons really stopped being special.

          I don’t know when 3B first became a “slugging” position, but there are only 4 players who spent more than half the time at 3B who have even hit 400 home runs. There is only one who hit better than .300/.400/.500 – Chipper. 3B should get more respect as a difficult defensive postion, and although I guess this comes out with WAR, it would be nice if the stereotype could be adjusted too.

          Reply
    2. Fin Alyn

      The main reason I don’t think it’s a stretch, and why I like Joe’s take on the HoF and this list (though I disagree with some of the choices) is that it isn’t all about hitting. Are tehre a bunch of guys who might have been better hitters below Chipper on this list? Sure. How many played a real defensive position though? 3b, SS, 2b are all under represented and under appreciated by voters and the public in general.

      Reply
    3. Rick R

      Chipper Jones feels like an all-timer to me for a couple of reasons. First, there’s the name—Chipper Jones—what a great baseball name that is. Larry Jones would not have the same panache. More importantly, Chipper is one of the handful of players to have hit .300, had an OBP of .400, and slugged .500. Joe had an article on Chipper a few years ago that said only 14 players in baseball history who have played 2000 games have accomplished this feat (Joe repeats himself from time to time, but for some reason, he didn’t this time with Chipper, even though it’s a great stat, so I’ll do it for him—the 14 are Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Tris Speaker, Mel Ott, Harry Heilmann, Frank Thomas, Manny Ramirez, Edgar Martinez and Chipper Jones. If Albert Pujols plays in another 42 games he’ll join the club.) Finally, Jones was the offensive mainstay for one of the best teams of his generation, and his post-season OPS is a none too shabby .864, even though that’s a notch below his regular season OPS of .930, which can be expected given that he was playing against a higher caliber of competition in the post-season. He’s easily one of the ten best third basemen ever to play the game, and has a case for being in the top 5, along with Schmidt, Matthews, Boggs, and Brett (as I still think that Robinson and Santo are hugely overrated). He played the game the right way, he didn’t hang on too long, he named his kid Shea because he hit so well at Shea Stadium—if the only knock against him is that he got divorced twice, he’s all right by me. A first ballot Hall of Famer without a doubt.

      Reply
      1. Doug

        So what you’re saying is that if Larry Walker had had the foresight to give himself a good baseball nickname, he would already be in the Hall of Fame by now?

        (Agree w/ everything else, good insight, and a great post from Joe)

        Reply
      2. Nick

        how many switch-hitters have played infield positions other than 1B for a vast majority of their careers and posted a CAREER slash line of .300/.400/.500? how many ‘steroid era” players look virtually the same from entering the league to leaving it? Chipper, Jeter, Griffey Jr. We bemoan CJ’s & KGJ’s lack of “durability”–some of the more short-sighted “fans” even using this as a reason to knock chipper’s placement on this list–while simultaneously considering them the bastions of non-PED integrity. If chipper had played the same game that Clemens, bonds, McGwire, sosa, palmeiro, schilling (yeah, I mean that), manny, Ortiz, belle, luis gonzalez, piazza (ditto), andruw jones, Sheffield, pudge, juan gonzalez, and yes, a-rod played with needles and creams, he might be taking his victory lap around the league NEXT year instead of when his body ACTUALLY, broke down. you know, like actual, normal, unenhanced bodies do after 20-30 YEARS of intensely specific daily destruction. he was far superior to jeter (no. 57) and stands alongside Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Griffey, McGriff, Jeter, Johnson, Pedro, Walker, Thome, Thomas, Biggio, probably Bagwell, & Halladay as the ONLY players (plus jeter and rivera) that anyone can justify believing in from the 1992-2012 era. No.56 is probably low, if anything. if I see Eddie Murray or Jim Rice or Cal Ripken and their ilk listed higher…well…that would be a shame

        Reply
    4. Geoff

      Couldn’t disagree more strongly, which is why I included him in my “locks” for the last 56 spots. Chipper is the 5th greatest 3B ever to play (I think this is actually fairly clear-cut, which is surprising), a pretty strong case for this ranking.

      What’s interesting to me is how close Adrian Beltre is pretty close to this group. He’s about 2-3 good seasons from catching up to Chipper in overall value (although the shape is his performance is obviously quite different). The fact that he’s not in Joe’s top-100 gives you an idea of how close all these guys are between 50 and 100. Assuming Beltre was say 110 on the list right now, and he needs three good seasons to catch Chipper, that means that each big season in that range is worth about 18 spots in the rankings. In other words, one good year and he’s about even with Biggio, two and catches Tony Gwynn, three and he catches Chipper. And he’s still be “only” 38. He’s a pretty good bet to reach 3,000 hits, and has an outside chance at 500 HR.

      If you had told anyone after the 2005 or 2009 seasons that Beltre would wind up in this position they probably would have had you committed; I’m not sure there’s been another player of this caliber to mail in two prime seasons the way he did. But over the last four years he’s been unbelievably consistent and probably one of the five best players in the game, and 7 of the 10 most similar players are in the HOF (How’d you get on there, Aramis??). Pretty amazing.

      Reply
      1. Carl

        Beltre close to Chipper Jones? You’ve GOT to be kidding:

        1) Beltre is a .282/.334/.478 hitter to-date, not close to the .300/400/500 club or Chipper’s .303/.401/.529.

        2) Chipper had a 141 OPS+, Beltre is at 114.

        3) Chipper had 1600+ runs and 1600+ RBIs. Beltre would need 6 more seasons at his 2013 level to reach those milestones, not “2-3″.

        4) Chipper was an 8-time AS, won 1 MVP and received MVP votes 12 times. Beltre has 3 AS games, has 0 MVPs and has received MVP votes 5 times.

        PS Don’t look now but Beltre had negative WAR last year and had below league-average range in both 2012 and 2013. Neither is likely to improve in his mid 30s and could eventually lead to the “over-rated defense” reputation, which could (along w voters from Seattle) kill his HoF chances.

        Reply
        1. Geoff

          “Beltre close to Chipper Jones? You’ve GOT to be kidding:”

          Nope. TOTALLY serious.

          1) Beltre is a .282/.334/.478 hitter to-date, not close to the .300/400/500 club or Chipper’s .303/.401/.529.

          Neutralized –
          Chipper: .297/.393/.517
          Beltre: .283/.334/.478 (LA/Seattle is basically a wash w/ Boston/Texas)

          2) Chipper had a 141 OPS+, Beltre is at 114.

          Chipper is obviously a better hitter. Beltre is obviously a better fielder.

          3) Chipper had 1600+ runs and 1600+ RBIs. Beltre would need 6 more seasons at his 2013 level to reach those milestones, not “2-3″.

          It’s hard to pack this much nonsense into two lines, beginning with the fact that you’re focused on R and RBI, but I appreciate the effort. Beltre could easily catch Chipper in RBI in 3-4 seasons, not six, for what that’s worth. Also, if Beltre has a another three good/excellent seasons, are you going to start saying how Chipper’s not close because he’s way behind Beltre in hits?

          4) Chipper was an 8-time AS, won 1 MVP and received MVP votes 12 times. Beltre has 3 AS games, has 0 MVPs and has received MVP votes 5 times.

          This is a horsesh*t argument for a whole host of reasons. It’s not Beltre’s fault he didn’t get any MVP love in 2006 or 2008, when he was one of the 10 best players in the league. MVP “votes” and ASG’s are manufactured “Jack Morris” type arguments that don’t actually tell you anything about how good a player was.

          “PS Don’t look now but Beltre had negative WAR last year and had below league-average range in both 2012 and 2013. Neither is likely to improve in his mid 30s and could eventually lead to the “over-rated defense” reputation, which could (along w voters from Seattle) kill his HoF chances.”

          Beltre’s WAR the past two seasons: 12.5. Beltre has *already* earned a spot in Cooperstown. Pretty sure that declining defensively in his mid-late 30′s isn’t going to undo that.

          Reply
          1. Carl

            Geoff,

            Points 1 & 2 – I think we agree that Chipper was way ahead of Beltre offensively.

            Points 3 – You’re quite correct that I chose counting stats to show that Beltre is significantly behind Chipper in runs and RBIs. Note that he’s also way ahead in hits, doubles, triples, and SB. However, I had not realized that 3 more 2013-like seasons will have Beltre near Chipper in RBIs and hits. Perfectly reasonable to dismiss counting stats if you agree and seem wont to do.

            Point 4 – I think are valid, you don’t. Oh well A2D.

            Your point that Beltre has already earned a spot in Cooperstown is something I would like to hear more about. His 50.2 OWar seems a tad low, although another sveral yeas like 2013 would certainly make him a HoFer.

            I just honestly don’t see Beltre as great w the glove, nor understand his 20 DWar. The stats show me that his career range factor per game (PO + A)/G is exactly league average. So to me, he’s not reaching more balls than other 3B. His fielding percentage is .958, which seemed low to me. In 2008, Beltre won a GG, and had 3.1 DWar, more than anyone in baseball. But, his RF/G was 2.68, below the league RF/G of 2.71 and his RF/9 of 2.77 was barely above the league average of 2.74. That year his fielding percentage was .964. So if he’s not reaching more balls (RF/G or RF/(), and isn’t great at balls he does reach (fielding percentage), please explain to me how he gets all the DWar, which is what wold make his case for a spot in Cooperstown.

            I ask sincerely.

          2. ingres77

            @Carl

            If you want to know how many balls a fielder gets to, use UZR or even something like Total Zone. They are based off location data, not just number of plays made. UZR is a far better indicator of range, considering it factors in all aspects of fielding, not just putouts and assists. Range Factor is better than Fielding Percentage, but it’s not as good as other methods.

            While I disagree that Beltre is already a Hall of Famer, he is unquestionably a phenomenal fielder. Possibly one of the five best ever to field the position.

          3. Ian R.

            @Carl – First of all, I’m, not sure whether you’re getting your numbers, but Beltre’s career RF/9 is 2.77. The league average in that span is 2.68. A difference of .09 plays per nine innings doesn’t seem like much, but consider that Beltre has played over 19,000 innings in the field. That’s a difference of 190 plays, which goes a long way toward explaining his defensive contributions.

            Second, as Geoff said, range factor is an imperfect metric because it doesn’t account for batted-ball data. An inferior third baseman on a squad with a bunch of ground-ball pitchers may make more plays than a superior third baseman on a team with mostly fly-ball and strikeout pitchers. Numbers like TZ and UZR are better metrics because they measure the player’s performance on balls that were actually hit in his fielding zone.

            Third, Beltre is a pretty clear-cut case because the eye test and the stats agree. Many people in baseball will tell you that Beltre is the best third baseman they’ve ever seen, and the stats back up that assertion.

          4. Carl

            Hi Ian R,

            My stats for RF/G (which I just double-checked) are from baseballreference. You have the same RF/9 which BR has. That stat shows him above average as you say. I do not have an “eye test” for Adrian as I have seldom seen him play. I do expect a player’s stats to back up what others eye tests – aka reputation say. I was honestly shocked to see that Beltre’s didn’t, at least what I was seeing form the stats. I appreciate your (and others) feedback to use other measurements.

          5. Geoff

            Ingres and Ian did a great job explaining the defensive metrics.

            My point about Beltre having already earned a spot in Cooperstown was just that; I think he’s already an above-average HOF 3B, and like Scott Rolen, I would happily vote for him. I think that if he retired today, he’d get eventually, but I think it might take a really long time.

            I think that if he continues to age gracefully and has 2-3 more seasons, he’ll reach 3,000 hits and sail in within a few ballots, although I’m sure you’ll have lots of clowns writing about how he didn’t “feel” like a HOFer.

            FWIW, I’ve probably see Beltre play in person 15-20 times, and more than 100 times on TV. I think he and Rolen were the two best defensive 3B I had ever seen until Machado came along. Beltre might not be Brooks Robinson (relative to his peers — I’m sure he’s way better than Brooks in an absolute sense), but he’s not far behind, and he’s a significantly better hitter than Robinson was.

          6. ingres77

            @Geoff

            I’m not really sure what you mean by, “relative to his peers — I’m sure he’s way better than Brooks in an absolute sense”. That doesn’t really make much sense.

            In the 50s and 60s, Eddie Matthews stood above everyone else thanks to his marvelous hitting. But Brooks Robinson wasn’t far behind (thanks to his defense) and Ron Santo is in his class. All three are rightfully Hall of Famers. No one else of the era is in that group.

            Since 2000, Beltre is nestled firmly in a group of excellent players: Scott Rolen, Chipper Jones (the best of the bunch), and David Wright. You can even throw in Arod (a better pure player), Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman (probably better players than Beltre, but they haven’t played as long).

            Brooks Robinson stands out in his era, at his position. Beltre doesn’t. Even if you want to argue defensive merits, Brooks Robinson was a class unto himself, far outdistancing Clete Boyer. Beltre? I don’t know that he was demonstrably better than Scott Rolen, and he wasn’t head and shoulders better than Placido Polanco (in the field, only).

            If you don’t mean “contemporaries”, but are instead talking about third basemen in general – I still don’t know that what you said is true. Career-wise, Beltre is in the company of some excellent players: Buddy Bell, Sal Bando, Graig Nettles, Ron Santo, Ken Boyer….But Santo is the only Hall of Famer of the group – and I don’t know that that is unfair.

            Third base, historically, is under-represented in the Hall. Is Beltre a tic-better than Sal Bando? Perhaps. Is the difference enough to warrant induction? I don’t think so.

            To me, Beltre is the third base equivalent of Jorge Posada. Both are excellent players, and both compare well to other players at their position. Both positions are under-represented in the Hall, and both players fall just outside the Hall of Fame group.

            Besides which, Beltre has a few things working against him: he played in the steroid era (we’ve seen how that impacted players with no ties to the juice), and struggled offensively for the first half of his career. He didn’t have his first really good season at the plate until age 25, and was unable to be consistently good until his 30s. That’s going to hurt him.

          7. Geoff

            I don’t think we really disagree in our evaluation of Beltre. I think Beltre is still a couple of seasons away from locking up a place in the HOF, but I think if he get’s to 3,000 hits he’s a sure thing (unless some sort of PED allegation surfaces). I would vote for him if he retired today, but I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t.

            I’m an advocate for judging players relative to their peers, so I agree that Beltre didn’t stand out the way Robinson did defensively, although Rolen/Beltre isn’t that far behind Robinson/Boyer. I also think Beltre was a vastly superior hitter to Robinson.

            I think you’re being a bit harsh in saying that Beltre “struggled offensively for the first half of his career.” He reached the big leagues at 19, was a good player at 20, and a star at 21. He’s been good or great every year since his age 24 season, but gets a bad rap for putting up two mediocre offensive season with the Mariners. JAWS has him as the 8th greatest 3B in history, sandwiched between Santo/Robinson and Molitor/Rolen. I think Rolen’s a notch the below (due to injuries), but I think you could basically throw the other four in a hat and not go wrong. Jorge Posada, by comparison, is 16th among catchers, a little worse than Gene Tenace and a little better than Jason Kendall. If he hadn’t been drafted by the Yankees, no one would think of him as a HOF candidate.

            If you run a WAR comparison between Beltre, Chipper, and Jeter (http://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?players=639,826,97), you get a pretty good picture of how awesome he’s been. Those guys are obviously still ahead in career value, but the gap is closing fast. It also helps that Beltre has a signature season that’s arguably the greatest year any 3B has ever had.

            Finally, I know this will rile up the Brooks fans, but the point I was making about “absolute” value is something I brought up in another thread (can’t remember which one), but there’s something a little strange to me about accepting as gospel that Brooks is the “greatest defensive 3B of all time). As I’ve said, players are judged relative to their peers, so maybe it’s fair to call him the best, but the notion that Brooks was literally as good defensively as Beltre, Rolen, Machado, Arenado, etc. is preposterous. It’s easy to suspend believe when you’re arguing that, say, Walter Johnson was the greatest pitcher (for example), but we actually have plenty of video of Robinson playing 3B. The best example of this is the 1970 WS. Sure, he played great, but actually look at the highlight reel. Of all the “great” plays he made, I would say only one was truly spectacular (the grounder to his right in which he had to throw from foul territory. There’s another play where he dives to his right, into foul territory, that was very good, as well. But the other 3-4 plays I expect most modern 3B to make consistently, and Machado makes plays that match or exceed Brooks’ best on a regular basis.

          8. ingres77

            @Geoff

            Let’s be honest, here. The defensive wizards in the Hall got in based on reputation. Brooks Robinson, Ozzie Smith, Bill Mazeroski…the numbers support what history tells us about how brilliant they were in the field, but it’s the legend that got them enshrined. I don’t think Beltre has that same legend. Though he certainly has excellent numbers, people don’t talk about Beltre with misty-eyed wonder like they do Brooks Robinson. Or, hell, Ken Griffey Jr. His first All Star game was 2010 – 12 years into his career. If Beltre wants in the Hall, he needs to have a more legendary glove.

            And I don’t know how he can go about doing that. He has a great glove. He’s been around for long enough for everyone to know that he has one. But he only has 4 Gold Glove and 3 All Star games. That hurts him – not because those things are inherently meaningful, but because they are indicative of how he is perceived.

            30 years from now? Who knows.

            You are correct that Posada is “16th among catchers” (in WAR, I suppose), but so what? The “16th best shortstop”, according to WAR is somewhere in the neighborhood of Joe Tinker (a famous early 20th century SS who sailed into the Hall) or Pee Wee Reese (who missed three years in the prime of his career, and still has about as much WAR as Duke Snider, and more than Dave Winfield). Regardless, Posada isn’t “16th among catchers”. He’s 14th. King Kelly and Brian Downing didn’t play their whole careers behind the dish (right field and DH, respectively). Besides that, Buck Ewing played the entirety of his career before 1900, to say nothing of the three other players ahead of him who played prior to integration. I could easily make the case for Posada being the 10th best catcher of all time. But that’s beside the point.

            Catcher is a weird position. The average Hall of Famer has about 70 WAR, and some positions (the outfield, for instance) are better represented than others. Third base, for instance, is underrepresented in the Hall – only 12 non-Negro League players (compared to shortstop, which has almost twice that number). Catcher has 13 players, and 8 of them finished their careers before integration. So, since Jackie Robinson entered the majors, only 5 players were good enough for the Hall of Fame? By my count, Ted Simmons should’ve been inducted already. Joe Torre should’ve been inducted as a catcher first. And Gene Tenace and Jorge Posada have strong cases. The average HOF catcher has 50 WAR – easily the lowest average among all positions. Posada has 43, and Tenace has 47 – both are easily within a standard deviation of the mean.

            I think your reasoning for why Brooks Robinson wasn’t nearly as defensively capable as Beltre is grossly inadequate. The “eye test” will only take you so far. More to the point, how many games have you watched? Because a full seasons worth of UZR data isn’t enough for us to adequately judge someone’s capabilities in the field – you need three. How reliable is your “eye test” from a handful of games?

            Not very.

            TZ rates him as far and away the best fielding third baseman in history. Fangraphs defensive rating ranks him as the 2nd best fielder of all time. Period. Not second best third basemen, second best fielder. Behind only Ozzie Smith. Ahead of Cal Ripkin, Willie Mays, Ivan Rodriguez, Mark Belanger, Andruw Jones…..everyone. I’ll take that over a handful of games watched on TV 50 years after the fact.

          9. Geoff

            @ingres77,

            I agree, let’s be honest here.

            First of all, what’s the point of the “@” sign? You do realize that doing that won’t send a notification to my facebook or twitter account, right?

            Second of all, the eye test. Please don’t condescend to me. I grew up going to 20-30 games per year, and played baseball through college. Then I worked as a performance analyst and scout for two Major League teams for five years, at which time I was seeing about 100 big league games per year, along with another 50-100 professional and amateur games. I can’t even tell you how many games I’ve watched on TV in my life.

            Third, I don’t anyone’s talked about any player with “misty-eyed wonder” since (perhaps) Ken Griffey Jr. early in his career. For better or worse (better, almost entirely), there’s not much mystery anymore with big league players, as we all get to see them play whenever we want. You don’t have much myth-making when nonsensical stories can be dismissed with a few clicks. No one is getting into the HOF because they were “viewed as legendary” anymore; they’re getting in because the voters (correctly or otherwise) believe their performance warranted it.

            Fourth, no one is arguing that Beltre belongs in the HOF solely on the basis of his defense, so the comparison to Robinson, Smith, and Mazeroskki is patently ridiculous. Beltre is a vastly superior hitter to any of those guys. He’s been worth significantly more offensively in 16 seasons than Robinson was in 23, and Mazeroski is, frankly, a joke as a HOFer.

            Fifth, those are some serious hoops you’ve jumped through to make Posada’s HOF case. You want to make a case that Posada is the 10th best catcher ever? Go for it: which three of these guys is Posada is better than?

            Bench
            Berra
            Carter
            Cochrane
            Dickey
            Fisk
            Gibson
            Mauer
            Piazza
            Rodriguez
            Simmons
            Torre

            I don’t think there’s a serious baseball fan that would consider taking Posada over any of the guys on this list.

            I believe Simmons and Torre (as a catcher) belong in the HOF, which would give you 18 HOF catchers. Piazza and Pudge will get there fairly soon, too, which would mean 20 catchers in the Hall. I’m not sure they’re underrepresented, and I’d be more inclined to kick a couple of guys out than to add more guys. You want to put Posada in? Better put in Tennace, Munson (7 ASG!), and Freehan (11 ASGs!!!). If you think the HOF should be 50% bigger, great; that’s what you’re really saying if you believe Posada belongs. If we’re going to start inducting everyone who’s within a standard deviation of the the HOF mean, that stage in Cooperstown is going to get awfully crowded.

            The comparison to shortstops is pretty funny, btw. Joe Tinker is 24th by JAWS, and is one of the worst HOF selections. The only reason he’s in is that he’s part of a famous poem. The inclusion of Reese actually supports my argument, as he would rank considerably higher than 17th among shortstops (easily in the top 10, in fact) if you give him credit for the ~18 WAR he lost during the three full seasons he missed.

            Finally, for someone who seems to understand the defensive metrics you site, it’s incredibly disingenuous to use something like Total Zone if you’re trying to show that Brooks Robinson is the best defensive 3B in absolute terms. Total Zone compares players to their peers, so while it shows that he was far better than third baseman of the 1960′s, it tells you nothing about how he compares to Adrian Beltre. Of course, this isn’t surprising since it’s well-established since improvement in the overall level of play makes it more difficult for the best players to stand out relative to their peers. Mark Belanger is currently about dead even with Ozzie Smith for career Total Zone. Do you really believe that if Belanger showed up at the Braves spring training camp, he’d even be able to compete with Andrelton Simmons defensively?

            I’ve been a baseball fan since the mid-1980′s, and even in just the last 30 years the level of play has increased dramatically. Watch a game from the 1980′s and it’s obvious how much more athletic today’s players are. Comparing the defense of players from 30 years ago to players today is night and day. I’ve also watched the 1960 WS and other games from that era, and many of the players look like they’d struggle in A-ball today. In fact, one of the things I find most striking is that guys like Mantle and Mays stand out precisely because they *look* like modern day players competing against guys that were clearly outclassed. Here, for example, is the Pirates catcher in that 1960 WS:

            http://caimages.collectors.com/psaimages/601/40656595/1967Topps506SmokyBurgessPSA8x35.jpg

            This guy makes the Molina brothers look like body builders by comparison. The idea that Brooks Robinson was actually as good as Adrian Beltre or Scott Rolen, let alone Manny Machado, is pretty laughable. Here’s a highlight real of Beltre from the 2012 season. You’d have to be delusional to believe that Brooks Robinson was fundamentally better than this:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHaZSvpoayY

            And just for fun, go to the 1:48 mark of this clip, so you can see Beltre make the Brooks play from the 1970 WS, only with a much stronger arm:

          10. ingres77

            @Geoff

            The @ sign is a courtesy. This board isn’t set up for easy communication. After a set number of responses, any reply you want to make has to be made to a parent post, not the one that’s actually being responded to. To prevent any confusion, it’s a courtesy to head your post with the name of the person you’re replying to.

            One would think these things would be self-evident.

            I don’t know what your back story is. I don’t know who you are. Therefore, I am not “condescending” to you. I am replying to the words you put in your post. Specifically, you were arguing that Beltre is “clearly” better than Brooks because you’ve watched a few games. If that isn’t “the eye test”, I don’t know what is. If you have a modicum of intelligence, and you are at all familiar with Joe’s posts, then you should be able to predict how much water such an argument will probably hold here. Maybe it shouldn’t be dismissed, but you’ve got to do better than that.

            How many votes did Jack Morris receive on this most recent ballot? How many ballots did it take to get Tom Glavine in the Hall compared to, say, Mike Mussina? Or Kevin Brown? Tim Raines? Please tell me, again, how no one is getting into the Hall because of their “legend”. How it’s all logic and rainbows and reasoned argument….

            Of the catchers you listed, I put Posada above Torre (1500 games behind the plate vs. 903. He accumulated roughly 30 WAR as a catcher before moving to 1B, then 3B, where he won his MVP), Cochrane (comparable WAR, but played pre-integration), Mauer (while he’s played more games at C than Torre, I don’t know that he’ll be able to stay at that position much longer. Despite being better in practically every way, durability isn’t irrelevant). Not to mention that Posada was one of the best after age 30 that I can recall, and got a late start to his career because he was blocked by a seasoned veteran the organization didn’t want to replace. If I’m not miscounting, that leaves 9 players on your list, which would put Posada 10th.

            All of which is beside the point. I said I could easily make the case for him being 10th. I didn’t say that he actually was. Even if I did, saying that I “jumped through hoops” to make the claim doesn’t actually mean that I did. You know this, right?

            And, no, I don’t think the Hall should be “50%” bigger (I think I can speak for myself just fine, thanks). I think there are a lot of people in the Hall who don’t belong, if anything. Were I to have my say, the overall number of people in the Hall would actually drop somewhat. But I don’t have my say, and the fact is that Hall standards have been set already. The *average* Hall catcher has about 50 WAR, and there are perfectly legitimate arguments for Posada being included. That doesn’t mean he should get included *instead* of someone like Ted Simmons, but the induction of Simmons first doesn’t mean Posada should never get in.

            None of which in any way contradicts my basic point that the catching position is underrated by the Hall, and my implied point that WAR doesn’t adequately measure catchers. Unless you really think Johnny Bench (we can agree he was the best catcher, right?) was about as good a player as Jim Thome.

            As to the rest…..eh. Simply restating your belief that one is clearly better than the other because you watched a few games simply doesn’t hold water. You’ve been a fan since the ’80s and have seen hundreds of games. Good for you. Really.

            I’ve seen a number of your interactions with people. I don’t know why you feel the need to display how awesome your plummage is, but I really can’t be bothered to play keyboard warrior. I love debating baseball as much as anyone, but the sanctimony is a little tedious. You can have the last word if you want it.

    5. vivaelpujols

      Chipper easily justifies this ranking. It’s him being ranked only one spot ahead of Jeter that seems nuts.

      Reply
      1. nick

        to clarify, I sent this earlier and TOTALLY agree that the distance between chipper and jeter is FAR more significant that one spot

        Reply
  3. Schlom

    Joe, being the baseball knowledge purist that you are, probably shouldn’t keep repeating the myth that the Padres took Matt Bush over Justin Verlander. Verlander was never on their radar, they actually were considering Scott Boras products Jered Weaver or Stephen Drew. Of course that doesn’t make them look much better.

    Reply
      1. Schlom

        As I said, not having Verlander on their radar doesn’t make that Bush pick any better. Interestingly Bush signed for a $3.3m signing bonus while Weaver, if my memory is correct, signed for something like $5.5m. So it’s not like they saved a ton of money with Bush.

        Reply
    1. Andrew

      What’s puzzling me is the inclusion of Verlander as a “relatively local” pick. The Padres are in California, while Verlander is from Virginia. The only way he could be less local was to grow up in Greenland.

      Reply
    2. Chris

      Such a painful memory for us Padres fans. Any of those 4 players would have had a huge impact on our team at the time. And where is Bush now? In and out of jail. Talk about being penny smart and dollar stupid.

      Reply
  4. Scott

    Though a Red Sox fan through and through, along with Barry Larkin Chipper was my favorite National League guy of the last 25 years. Got to see him pinch hit in a game I was fortunate enough to attend in Atlanta near the tail end of his career in 2011. I loved the high stirrups and his overall game and attitude. A real gamer type of throwback who would have been great on the Sox at third base after Boggs left town. Always wishful thinking….

    Reply
  5. Andy

    I’ve always thought of Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter as a pair – lifers on great, great dynasties, people whose images are super clean, people who even a Mets fan would like their son to have as a role model. I’d be shocked if either ever got seriously accused of taking PED’s.

    56 and 57 – doesn’t matter – two of my favourite players of all time

    Reply
    1. Marc Schneider

      Chipper is not exactly super clean. He fathered a child out of wedlock and appears to have trouble staying with wives. Not that he’s an awful person but he is not “super clean.” And I think he would admit that himself.

      Reply
  6. Andrew

    It’s interesting that you believe him about not taking steroids because of a sappy comment he made about his father. That’s nice and all, but let’s not forget that this guy is a world-class scumbag who cheated on not one but two wives. He doesn’t seem to have a problem with lying to those he supposedly cares about most.

    Reply
    1. Karyn

      While Chipper certainly has his flaws, cheating on your wife does not make you a ‘world-class scumbag’. There’s different levels, surely?

      Reply
      1. bellweather22

        It made him a world class bad husband, but that’s about it. If we dinged any sports stars for infidelity, we’d have to elect Dale Murphy to the HOF and call it a day until there was another just like him.

        Reply
        1. ingres77

          I wouldn’t even go that far.

          Maybe you guys know more than I, but we don’t know the details of the relationships he had with his wife/wives.

          It’s not like he physically, mentally, or verbally abused them, is it?

          While not enviable, I don’t think it’s necessarily something worthy of hanging.

          Reply
    2. Pokey Joe

      I would say his infidelities certainly bring to light questions regarding his character. For example, did he ever have any? The comment regarding his dad reads (to me) as a self-serving, image promoting bunch of tripe. And 56? Not even.

      Reply
      1. Anon21

        What a well-thought-out, evenhanded take on Chipper Jones. I’m sure Joe is reconsidering his placement in light of your trenchant comments.

        Reply
      2. Berfenium

        Who among us here is in any place to judge Chipper’s character? You don’t know him personally, nor do I, nor does anyone else commenting here.

        None of us are perfect.

        Reply
    3. Marc Schneider

      This makes no sense because there is no evidence that he took steroids. I you are going to lie about steroids, why would you say something like “I thought about it but didn’t do it?” Why wouldn’t you just say I didn’t do it? Saying you thought about it simply raises suspicion. To me, it just doesn’t seem like the kind of comment that someone would make if they were lying.

      More importantly, there is nothing in his career numbers that would suggest he took steroids. If you look at his career, he has no big jump in numbers. He hit 40 homers once and never more than 45. He generally hit between 30 and 40. So it’s not as if there is something suspicious about the numbers he put up. He won a batting title late in his career but that did not involve an upsurge in power. I guess one argument would be that he started getting injured late in his career and some would say that could be a result of steroid use. But Barry Bonds started juicing later in his career and it seems to have helped him stay healthy.

      Reply
  7. otistaylor89

    The thing about Chipper is that, with being the 2nd Overall pick, having the great 2nd season after the WS win his 1st year, having a great looking swing and being a switch hitter, you expected him to be an all time great. #56 is nothing to sneeze at, but did something stop him from being in the Top 20?

    Reply
    1. Simon

      Maybe something as simple as not being able to stay healthy?

      He was sturdy through age 31, with 150+ games each year. Starting at 32, he averaged 122 games per season for the rest of his career. An extra 30+ games per year, times nine years, is nearly an extra couple of seasons. If you add in that he may have been playing through injuries, well, maybe that’s the difference there.

      If he averages 152 games instead of 122, at the same rate of production from his age 32 to age 40 seasons, he ends up passing some big milestones:

      2769 games Played (+270): 56th –> 26th
      11732 PA (+1118): 46th –> 23rd
      9929 AB (+945): 72nd –> 28th
      1781 Runs (+162): 45th –> 21st
      3005 Hits (+279): 58th –> 28th
      609 2B (+60): 26th –> 11th
      514 HR (+46): 32nd –> 21st
      1791 RBI (+168): 31st –> 21st

      94.2 WAR (+9.1): 31st –> 26th (position players)

      His AVG/OBP/SLG drop a bit, but not enough to go below .300/.400/.500

      Not quite top 20 material, but he gets closer. And, this also doesn’t include his 1994 injury time either, mostly because it’s hard to say how he “would have” played if healthy, with only 4 PA under his belt.

      *Assuming* he was one of the clean players during the steroid era, his WAR totals are damaged by those players around him when comparing Chipper to players from different eras. If everyone else gets a 20% boost in production, and Chipper doesn’t, that changes the baseline with which he is compared.

      Reply
  8. Mac

    Well, since the stage was set for Jeter v. Jones, I went straight for my favorite player comparison tool, the FanGraphs WAR graphs. For the two gentlemen in question:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?players=97,826

    My favorite is the WAR by age, which is perfect for two players who debuted at 21, two years apart. This pair, by age, was never more than 5 WAR apart all the way through ’till age 35. Jeter fell off one year before Chipper did.

    I think in the era of 40 HR outfielders, people took for granted that there was a 3B 25-35 HR, which is kind of a lot.

    Since 1990 (a bit arbitrary, but basically the “Steroid Era”), the Top 10 War list looks like this:

    Barry Bonds 143
    Alex Rodriguez 111
    Albert Pujols 87.4
    Chipper Jones 85.1
    Jeff Bagwell 80.3
    Ken Griffey Jr. 75
    Derek Jeter 73.8
    Frank Thomas 72.4
    Ivan Rodriguez 70.7
    Scott Rolen 70.1

    Not sure how many people would guess Chipper as the number 4 guy, but there it is.

    Reply
    1. ingres77

      Maybe I’m the only one who’s surprised by this. I had no idea their career trajectories were so close.

      In mind, Chipper is the better player. And it never really seemed like it was that close. Maybe that’s because he’s one of the five best third basemen while Jeter probably isn’t one of the five best shortstops.

      But Chipper really isn’t that much better than Jeter. They’re a lot closer than I thought.

      Reply
    2. nscadu9

      He’s not number 4. Never been a huge fan of career WAR. Almost all of those players peak higher than Chipper. I agree Jeter/Jones is close and it is most surprising how close Thomas/Jones is. Considering Bagwell got his career WAR in 4 fewer seasons and peaks higher, I think Bagwell edges him out. I have probably undervalued Jones somewhat, but he is not in the same league as Bonds, Rodriguez, Pujols and Griffey with Bagwell not far behind.

      Reply
  9. Zack

    It’s really incredible how well Chipper aged.

    Through age 32: .304/.401/.537, 140 OPS+
    Age 33-40: .303/.402/.517, 142 OPS+

    He was the same exact hitter from age 33-40 as he was from age 21-32. The only difference was he missed more games to injury, which is expected.

    He’s one of the best “old” hitters ever.

    Reply
    1. KHAZAD

      I think that Chipper could take two years off, crawl out of bed, walk onto the field, and still get on base at an above average rate.

      Reply
      1. bellweather22

        Chipper always said that he retired because he couldn’t stay healthy. He felt, and proved, that he could still hit. His averages did drop the last couple of years, mainly because he was never healthy even when he was able to play. But, that’s part of aging. It’s not always the hand eye coordination that goes. Sometimes it’s the legs, back and feet.

        Reply
    2. bellweather22

      These numbers are misleading since he hit .246 his age 32 season, the worst by far in his career and hit .364 in his age 36 season, the best by far in his career. The .364 season balanced out his last four seasons when he hit between .264-.287. Outside of his first full season and the fore mentioned .246 season, these were his four worst BA seasons. He also had his lowest four HR seasons during those last four years. So, his production did drop off notably his last four years, though he was still productive.

      For those looking for signs of steroid use, his career trajectory is pretty normal for a HOF candidate level player. His production stayed high past age 31-32 up to age 36. Then the decline started to show. But there was no sudden jump, no real all star seasons past age 36 like Bonds and Clemens (though he did get two AS nods based on reputation) and his power numbers declined as he aged.

      Reply
  10. PhilM

    “The 1996 Braves were way better than that Yankees team, I think.”

    Eighth-biggest World Series upset of all time, by the reckoning I got published by SABR lo these many years ago. 1987 Twins over the Cardinals is the biggest: the only team with a negative run differential over the season to take the trophy.

    Reply
    1. KY T

      Is that the myth? It is my recollection that the Braves wore their socks that style one game in honor of Steve Bedrosian. Chipper had a good game and kept wearing them that way.

      Reply
  11. Lawhamel

    I think everyone who played in “the Steroid Era” and had any sort of injury and came back probably used steroids. I certainly don’t believe Chipper Jones because he didn’t want to let his father down. Cheating on two wives would certainly be a bit of a letdown for you as a Dad. I think when someone says someone who played during the steroid era is “one of the best “old” hitters ever” and it doesn’t flash a red flag about steroids, we are all being naive. I am a huge Red Sox fan and I think Big Papi is probably using something now (or else he regained bat speed after age 35 which used to be impossible). That should tell you how deeply the trust has been broken. They all used and may still be using. Anyway, I also think this is too high.

    Reply
    1. Geoff

      I’m always amazed by people who can accurately measure bat speed by eye.

      David Ortiz has had an OPS+ over 120 for 12 straight years, with the exception of a 102 in 2009. Since no player has ever had a single off year, the obvious conclusion is that he suddenly got old at age 33 (95 OPS+ in the first half), but then started popping magic pills at the All-Star break that season and became great agin from 33.5 through 37.

      Reply
      1. Lawhamel

        Well that, and the fact that it has been reported that he previously had tested positive. Sort of makes it easier to suspect him.

        Reply
        1. Geoff

          Makes sense. He supposedly failed a test back when PED’s weren’t against the rules, even though there’s never been any confirmation of those results. Since then, he’s probably passed dozens of tests and there have never been any substantiated claims that he’s done anything wrong. Therefore, the evidence is overwhelming that he’s on the juice.

          I have no idea whether Ortiz has taken or continues to take anything (there’s honestly not a single player in baseball that it would surprise me to learn took PEDs), but seriously, what’s the f*cking point of having a testing program at all if no one ever believes it’s catching the users anyway?

          Reply
          1. Lawhamel

            (there’s honestly not a single player in baseball that it would surprise me to learn took PEDs)

            That’s all I’m really saying. That the trust is lost. I don’t think Chipper necessarily took them either, but when you hear someone say anyone is a “good old hitter”, it makes you think and it never would have raised such doubts before. I hope Papi is not using – I love the guy – but he might be, and that doubt sucks. That’s all I am really saying.

          2. Lance Armstrong

            I’m with A-Rod and Geoff on this one. After all, there are *no* examples of confirmed steroids users who passed drug tests while using, right?

            In all seriousness, Geoff, your apologizing for Ortiz is embarrassing. He failed a drug test. Explain it away all you want, but he failed it. Hell, he *confirmed* that he was on the list, right before he vowed to find “the real killers,” a la O.J. Simpson, and never got around to telling everyone exactly what the findings of his “investigation” were.

            Now, do I think that the 2003 list (even if we had all the names, which we obviously don’t) is a comprehensive list of everyone who was using PEDs at the time? Of course not. But anyone who was on that list is a confirmed steroids user in my book. Let me guess, you also don’t think Manny started using until he was traded to the Dodgers, right?

    2. Zack

      Except for the fact that Chipper’s “old” seasons happened after the PED testing program was implemented.

      Perhaps he benefitted from no longer having to face so many juiced up pitchers?

      Reply
    3. Richard

      I *almost* feel sorry for those fans who are so bitter and cynical that they see steroids everywhere they look in baseball from 1995 or so on. They cannot just sit back and enjoy the work of the astonishing number of great players that we have been lucky to have witnessed.

      Did some players use steroids? Certainly. But very, very few. And I cannot claim any moral high ground, because if I were in their situation, I honestly cannot say that I wouldn’t have given in to the temptation.

      Reply
      1. ingres77

        *This.

        People freak out over steroids and hold it against anyone who’s been suspected of using. But amphetamine (which does much the same thing) is okay.

        Steroids don’t turn people into superhumans. They allow people to recover from injury, and to gain muscle mass at a faster rate. In terms of strength, everything you can do on steroids, you can do off steroids.

        We have no problem with people using greenies. We have no problem with people using “elixirs” (such as Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle used); regardless of whether they actually worked, the intent was clearly there. Hell, we have no problem with players getting cortizone shots (which, themselves, are steroids).

        My personal view? It was part of the game. If steroids somehow make you more than you are, someone explain to me how Freddy Galvis never made the All Star game?

        Reply
        1. Marc Schneider

          That’s a bit unfair. The general public didn’t really know about greenie use until Bouton’s book came out and certainly not about what Mantle (and President Kennedy) used, just as they didn’t know about many of the off-field habits of the players (and President Kennedy). They might well have been concerned if they knew. I don’t think it’s accurate to say people are ok with amphetamines. But, no, they aren’t going back and say Willie Mays (or whoever) sucked because he took greenies. I tend to agree with many that the hysteria over PEDs is overblown. But you might have had the same reaction if the use of greenies had been widely known.

          Reply
          1. Geoff

            Um, Ball Four was published in 1970. How long was it supposed to take for people to realize that greenies were widely used?

          2. ingres77

            As Geoff said. It’s been 40 years. I’m still waiting for that hysteria.

            People are more upset about Ty Cobb being a racist than they are the unfair advantage amphetamine usage gave players. And I would be totally okay with that….except for the fact that people are more upset about steroid usage than they are Ty Cobb’s racism.

            Face it. Hank Aaron (et al) get a pass for cheating.

    1. bellweather22

      Yes, you beat me to it. Hit 45 that year and won the MVP. He never had a power season like that again. He was more of a 25-35 HR guy. But, 40 HR s in his second full season? Try is fifth full season. Joe seriously need a fact checker.

      Reply
  12. Matt Vandermast

    “*I’ve never liked the way a nation that is obviously hooked on performance enhancing drugs — from Viagra to extra-strength everything to energy drinks to these pharmaceuticals with more side effects than the gamma radiation that turns Bruce Banner into the Hulk — can get so preachy about some baseball player who were doing what baseball players always have always done…”

    Is our nation also hooked on forcing honest people to consider whether to risk their lives using illegal substances, or risk losing their careers? Even if one argues “yes,” that’s a long leap from anything this quote describes. Is there anything actually *wrong* with using Viagra or Extra-strength Tylenol? Not that I can see.

    Reply
    1. vivaelpujols

      This is bullshit. No one is forced to risk their lives or lose their careers. Steroids make you a slightly better player while potentially giving you some bad health effects long term. Players can take that risk if they want, but if you need steroids to beat the Alex Sanchez’ of the world you probably shouldn’t be playing professional baseball in the first place.

      Reply
      1. bellweather22

        If by “slightly” you mean an extra 10-15 feet of carry on a warning track flyball or a split second faster reaction time for a hitter then I agree with you. Of course those slight advantages can add 10-20 HRs and 25 points to a players batting average.

        Reply
        1. Geoff

          Wow…it’s truly rare to encounter such complete nonsense. Where is the scientific evidence for any of this, or are you just making it up to fit a narrative?

          Reply
          1. Geoff

            I apologize for sounding like a bully, but have you read the paper you linked to? It contains no biology or chemistry whatsoever, and begins with the assumption that using PED’s will give you 10% more muscle mass and 5% more bat speed. These assumptions are simply made up out of thin air, and have absolutely no basis in reality. Reading that makes me embarrassed for the University of Illinois.

            To my knowledge, no one has actually shown in a serious way how PED’s improve a player’s performance and to what degree. Until that happens, I will continue calling out anyone who makes dangerous, irresponsible arguments like the one above.

  13. Will3pin

    Game 3 of the 1996 World Series is permanently etched in my memory. I watched it in the hospital, on a 19” TV in the corner of the room while my wife slept. Our daughter had been born a few hours earlier in the day.

    I’d spent much of my life living in Detroit, Toronto and so my allegiances to these two clubs was quite strong. Translation: the Yankees were THE ENEMY.

    But, there was something about that ’96 Yankee squad that turned me into a fan and it seemed to happen in the middle innings of Game 3, 10/23/96.

    I think it was the combination of Torre being Torre, the intriguing performance of emergent stars like Jeter and WIlliams, and the many “last chance” stars like Strawberry, Raines, Boggs that had me (and many others) rooting for them. These were different Yankees. *Underdog* Yankees. They didn’t seem like Steinbrenner Yankees. So after they fell behind 2-0, I found myself rooting for them, hoping they’d make a game of it, a Series of it.

    Too, my lingering animosity towards Bobby Cox for his managerial ineptitude in the ’85 playoffs, continued to fester. That year, a very great Jays team fell to the Royals in the playoffs after being up 3-1. Every time they put the camera on Cox’s sour puss, my want for the Braves to lose skyrocketed.

    But more significant, I think it was the emotion of becoming a father a few hours earlier carried over to those late-inning Yankee rallies. I was swept away.

    In the realm of “What If”, it’s interesting to speculate if the Braves had held on in Games 3 and 4 and finished the job in ’96. I’d be willing to be that at Atlanta would have emerged as the late ’90s dynasty, not the Yankees. Geez, they blew that Series, and it cost them a dynasty.

    Back to this list; to Chipper and Derek. Let’s say you keep their exact career individual stats. What if Chipper has the 5 WS rings and Jeter only 1? It’s a very different list.

    Oh, and I ended up naming my daughter after a hockey player.

    Reply
  14. mfink7

    Since this entry comes one day after the Jeter one, as well as our lengthy debate on how Jeter’s lack of defensive prowess should figure into our overall evaluation of his career, it’s interesting to think about how Chipper’s numbers would look differently had the Braves decided to try him at short after his knee injury. Could he, even in a diminished state, have had more or less the same range as Jeter? Could a solid defensive third baseman like Chipper have played short at more or less Jeter’s level? (This is all assuming that Jeter was a barely passable shortstop defensively, of course, as well as assuming that Chipper would have been able to stay healthy at short.)

    It’s an interesting question, if only because it forces you to ask whether Chipper would be worth more to his team as a bad fielding, great hitting shortstop or a solid-fielding, great hitting third baseman that forced the Braves to find someone else to play short. At what point does poor defense start costing you more than the boost you get offensively from being able to stick a great hitter at a premium position?

    Reply
    1. Karyn

      Well, the Braves had decent shortstops for much of Chipper’s career. Would a likely replacement at 3B make up the difference?

      Reply
  15. vivaelpujols

    Looks like Rolen’s not gonna end up on this list. Very disappointing. I think he’s better than a few guys here personally.

    Reply
  16. Alejo

    “Jones has said he was tempted to take steroids but he did not, at least in part because he couldn’t imagine explaining the betrayal to his father. Obviously, we can’t know anything for sure, but that’s a nice sentiment. I’ve never liked at all the way baseball players who used (or may have used) steroids have taken almost all the blame for a game that was obviously fractured in many different places. I’ve never liked the way people so easily discount baseball greatness because of steroid use as if that’s the only factor for baseball greatness. I’ve never liked the way a nation that is obviously hooked on performance enhancing drugs — from Viagra to extra-strength everything to energy drinks to these pharmaceuticals with more side effects than the gamma radiation that turns Bruce Banner into the Hulk — can get so preachy about some baseball player who were doing what baseball players always have always done: Push the edge.”

    A morally bankrupt paragraph, if I ever read one. Push the edge against law and ethics, son, after all, everybody else is doing it.

    Reply
  17. Ty Sellers

    I’m not sure why anyone is questioning this selection, I happen to think it is too low but as a 30 year-old lifelong Braves fan I recognize that I am biased.

    Chipper is 24th all time in runs created (1st among 3rd basemen), 25th in oWAR (3rd, 6 oWAR behind Matthews 3 behind Schmidt), 13th in RE24 (1st), 15th in WPA (1st), 16th in REW (1st). His slash line is also a favorable comparison for him amongst fellow 3rd basemen.

    I’ll admit I have a limited understanding of advanced metrics, particularly how they are calculated as I was a late to the party and haven’t quite caught up. But these numbers suggest Chipper was easily one of the best 20-25 OFFENSIVE players of all time during his career. His peak (7 year used by JAWS) doesn’t match up with the other greats at 3rd but his career, offensively, matches up well.

    The defensive metrics say he was about an average fielder. As a fan, outside of his years at LF, I never had an issue with his defense. He was one of the best in baseball on the slow roller. I always thought he was an above-average to a well above-average defender. Not in the class of Robinson, Schmidt, or Beltre but definitely not a liability. The metrics (that I don’t fully understand) suggest otherwise, therefore his career value is lessened compared to the other top 3rd basemen.

    I think the biggest knock against him as far as career appreciation is concerned comes from playing his entire career squarely in the steroid era. His numbers don’t look as impressive when Brady Anderson is hitting 51 homeruns and Sosa is hitting 60 every year and Bonds becomes the kid who only hit homers. Did he use? Maybe he did but I don’t think that he did. Either way the image of Chipper taking 3rd for the Atlanta Braves will always be a positive thought for me.

    In the end, Chipper did it year after year, without much interruption, for 18 years. He was incredibly consistent, something that isn’t always appreciated in our modern society unfortunately.

    Reply
    1. SBMcManus

      I feel similarly, also biased as a long time Braves fan who started cheering for the team in 1990 when we got cable TV (talk about lucky timing). I think Jones’ legacy is partly bolstered by playing his whole career for one team. It shouldn’t mean anything, but in the end if does add a little luster to a player’s career somehow.

      Reply
    2. bellweather22

      I think the issue with Chipper’s defense was more around his botching easier plays, I.e. Throwing the ball away on a routine play. He made many difficult plays and had reasonable range. But some of his errors, like the thrown away DP ball against the Cardinals, were maddening. I think he could be inconsistent year to year as well. His fielding pct (who uses that anymore) ranged from .933 – .980. But his dWAR doesn’t necessarily reflect that since every year he was between -1.2 – 1.1 and most years between -.5 – .5.

      Reply
  18. tombando

    Jones should be in the top 100, I suppose, but was he better in his era than, say, Goose Goslin or Al Simmons or Biz Mackey or Billy Williams, guys who likely will not be up here? Don’t see it. He benefited from the whole roider era stat ballooning and honestly, if you put Rico Petrocelli in the same time and place, I’m pretty sure you wind up w/ close to the same stats as Mssrs Chipper, Kent and co. But what do I know? Breathlessly awaiting Bobby Grich being in the top 30….

    Reply
    1. Tom G

      Probably not a better hitter than those guys. But a third baseman compared to a left fielder is a pretty big difference. No way Chipper is outside of the top five 3B in history. No way Goslin or Williams are among the top 10 at LF

      Reply
    2. Geoff

      Good point. We’ve all overlooked the fact that Rico Petrocelli and his 108 career OPS+ was actually just as good as Chipper Jones.

      Joe, please tear up this list and start over.

      Reply
  19. jagarrett

    As someone who followed the Braves through the Chipper years, I find it amusing that anyone suspects him of steroids. If anything, the recurring narrative was that he loved McDonald’s a little too much, and if only he worked out a little harder, he’d be even better, etc…

    Bottom line, the number of third basemen who hit as well as he did, for as long as he did, is an extremely short list. Arguing for your favorite player over him is fine, but numbers are numbers are numbers.

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      Agree. His friendship with Sheffield is a bit of a concern, but his numbers were modest while Sheffield was in Atlanta. So no real red flags. His constant tweaks of his obliques screamed of not taking appropriate steps to prevent them….stretching, strengthening, etc. He sure wasn’t a gym rat, that’s for sure.

      Reply
      1. Geoff

        “His friendship with Sheffield is a bit of a concern.”

        What? Huh?? Who are you, Sherlock F*cking Homes?

        Dear lord, I hope you never end up on a jury.

        Reply
        1. bellweather22

          Geoff, what about “there are no real red flags” did you not understand? Or, did you not realize that Chipper’s proximity to Sheffield has been discussed before?….not unlike the Bagwell/Caminiti link some try to make. But, obviously since many more people think Chipper is clean, as opposed to Bagwell, it comes up less often, but it’s there.

          I think someone needs to get laid …. Or at least go out for In and Out Burger if no suitable female companionship is available.

          Reply
          1. Geoff

            I can always use a good lay, but that’s not the issue.

            The issue is mentioning that Chipper is friends with Sheffield as if it’s even remotely something that worth considering when trying to assess Chippers career.

            I would bet that nearly every star player is close to another star player who’s failed a PED test. I was introduced to Barry Bonds in 2001 or 2002 by a current HOF player that has never been connected to PED use in any context. The two of them appeared to be pretty friendly, so does that cause any red flags for you? Ken Caminiti was Tony Gwynn’s teammate for four years, during which time Caminiti won an MVP award. Gwynn hit .355 from those years (ages 35-38)…does that set off any alarms?

            Trying to guess who did what based on who was friends with who, what their bodies looked like, whether they were injured a lot (or especially healthy), or when they had good/bad seasons is a complete joke. I honestly never think about this stuff when I’m watching baseball (and man, I watch a lot of baseball) or think about how much I enjoyed watching guys like Bonds, Clemens, etc. play. I truly feel bad for anyone who allows this nonsense to color their thinking or diminish their enjoyment of the game.

            People have been taking PED’s for 50 years, and they would have been taking them a lot longer than that if they could have. Anyone who minimizes the effect of amphetamines relative to other PED’s is, at best, naive, or at worst, completely hypocritical and full of sh*t.

            When I was first hired to work in baseball in 2000, there were two coffee pots in the clubhouse. One of them was labeled “unleaded” and the other was labeled “leaded.” Both were caffeinated; the difference was that the “leaded” pot had greenies disolved into it. A couple of years before I got there, we had drafted a power-hitting 3B in the first round; scouts that had been at his pre-draft workout told me that they had joked about his steroid use in college and just hoped that he would keep taking whatever he had been taking after we drafted him.

            I’m not advocating the use of PEDs; like most of you, I’d rather no one take them at all. But the fact is that NO ONE in baseball gave a crap about PED use until Barry Bonds started shattering home run records, so rather than conduct a witch-hunt that’s so shameless it would make Joseph McCarthy blush, we’d all be better off just accepting that PED use was a part of the game for a period of time and baseball has since done it’s best to get rid of them.

  20. Chris M

    As a Mets fan, I may be biased, but I think Chipper belongs way higher. Good lord that guy always killed us. I hated him, but damn if he wasn’t good.

    I also hope that Shea Jones turns into a great ballplayer and the Mets select him and he destroys the Braves for 15+ years, and he names his kid “Turner Jones” (or whatever the Braves name their next stadium). Karma’s a bitch.

    Reply
    1. Anon21

      Chipper deserves his reputation as a Mets killer (.309/.406/.543 against them lifetime), but interestingly he did even more damage against the Phillies in almost exactly the same number of opportunities: .331/.441/.596. Should’ve named his kid “Veterans.”

      Reply
  21. invitro

    Looking at some numbers of third basemen here, and I am surprised to see that Chipper was a better hitter than Brett and Boggs and maybe Schmidt. This comes from looking at the Rbat column on b-r, and the neutralized OBP and SLG numbers. He deserves to be here or a little higher.

    Since I was a Braves fan during his career and watched most of their games on TV until about 2005, I suppose I’ve seen Chipper play more than any other player. I am afraid I took him a little bit for granted. He was never my favorite Brave, except when he was in one of his grouchy moods and made fun of the Mets. As a fan, I wanted the Braves to ridicule the Mets as much as I did, and Chipper certainly obliged.

    And Joe,

    “That was the year, 1996, that the Atlanta Braves could have become a dynasty.”

    Good lord, the Braves absolutely were not only a dynasty, they were one of the greatest and longest-lasting dynasties in history. They were about eight World Series games away from being second only to the Yankee dynasty. That is enough to knock them down to maybe the 10th-greatest dynasty. Thinking they were not a dynasty is just daft.

    Reply
    1. Hov34

      “Looking at some numbers of third basemen here, and I am surprised to see that Chipper was a better hitter than —- maybe Schmidt.”

      Cool your jets dude…

      Reply
  22. Alejo

    I have a question:

    If an average baseball player makes three times as much per year, plays twice longer, and live healthier (remember concussions) than a NFL average player…

    Why do people want to play pro football???

    Reply
  23. tim

    Whoever said Adrian beltre had negative war last year and needs six seasons to get to 1600 rbi is a darn fool. Adrian barring injury will be in the hall.uzr and dwar won’t be a factor either

    Reply
    1. ingres77

      Look how long it took Ron Santo to get into the Hall. He was the second best third baseman of his era (not far behind Brooks Robinson) and one of the 10 best players, regardless of position. While Beltre is also one of the 10 best players of his era, at third base he sits behind Arod and Chipper Jones, and is virtually tied with Scott Rolen.

      But I don’t think his notoriety compres to Scott Rolen’s. Rolen played in 7 All Star games (3 for Beltre) and won 8 Gold Gloves (4 for Beltre). While this isn’t indicative of how good they were relative to one another, it does indicate how they are perceived.

      Rolen is “borderline” (in that his case is going to warrant more attention). Beltre, as it stands right now, has more of an uphill battle. On top of everything else, I think he’s seen as wasting his prime in Seattle.

      Reply
  24. Geoff

    It’s always amusing when someone attacks you, then pretends to take the high ground by saying, “You can have the last word if you want it.”

    In fact, you were being condescending. Here’s what I wrote:

    “I’ve probably see Beltre play in person 15-20 times, and more than 100 times on TV. I think he and Rolen were the two best defensive 3B I had ever seen until Machado came along.”

    Here’s your response:

    “I think your reasoning for why Brooks Robinson wasn’t nearly as defensively capable as Beltre is grossly inadequate. The “eye test” will only take you so far. More to the point, how many games have you watched? Because a full seasons worth of UZR data isn’t enough for us to adequately judge someone’s capabilities in the field – you need three. How reliable is your “eye test” from a handful of games?”

    Then, after making a weak argument based on Total Zone, you concluded your post with the following:

    “I’ll take that over a handful of games watched on TV 50 years after the fact.”

    In your most recent post, you doubled down, saying:

    “Specifically, you were arguing that Beltre is “clearly” better than Brooks because you’ve watched a few games. If that isn’t “the eye test”, I don’t know what is. If you have a modicum of intelligence, and you are at all familiar with Joe’s posts, then you should be able to predict how much water such an argument will probably hold here. Maybe it shouldn’t be dismissed, but you’ve got to do better than that.”

    Like I said, condescending.

    If you had actually read my post, or were being honest about it, you’d realize that my argument that Beltre is (again, in an absolute sense) a better defensive player than Brooks Robinson was not based on my having watched a few games. It was based on the thousands of baseball games I’ve watched, both live and on TV over the past 30 years (a number of which included Beltre and/or Rolen), combined with a basic understanding of the way sports, including baseball, have evolved over time.

    In 1933, having made one big league pitching appearance in 12 years, a 38-year-old Babe Ruth started a game against the Red Sox and went the distance in a win. This is nuts, and yet it’s an event that’s been completely forgotten by history. Imagine if the Mets had started Rick Ankiel against the Marlins last season, and he put up a 7 8 4 4 3 3 line in a Mets win. That would be a HUGE story, one of the best baseball stories of the year, at the very least.

    The fact is, they were playing a very different game, which made it possible to have stuff like that happen.

    That Ruth game took place 22 years before Brooks Robinson made his big league debut. It’s now been 37 years since Brooks Robinson played in a big league game. In other words, Brooks career took place a lot closer to a time when a 38-year-old fat guy could start a game out the blue and throw a complete game than it did to an era in which every team has a seemingly endless supply of relievers that throw in the high-90′s and lots of guys that look like they could play safety in the NFL.

    There’s nothing wrong with ranking players by comparing them to their peers; the truth is that this would be a really boring exercise if you didn’t do that because the entire list would be filled with guys we’ve all seen play.* We suspend disbelief because it’s a lot more fun that way. I’m pretty confident that if you stuck 20-year-old Rickey Henderson in a time machine and sent him back to 1951, he would have been Willie Mays, only with more speed. I’m even more confident that if you sent 20-year-old Barry Bonds back to 1914, integration would have happened by 1917 and Bonds would have hit around .400/.650/1.000 for his career.

    If you want to delude yourself into thinking that Ted Williams was truly a better hitter than Barry Bonds, that Walter Johnson actually threw harder than Justin Verlander (or any of the 29 guys last season whose average FB’s exceeded 92 mph), that Cool Papa Bell was actually faster than Billy Hamilton, or that if 1937 Joe DiMaggio competed with 2014 Mike Trout for the Angels CF job, DiMaggio would win, by all means, knock yourself out.

    In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy the exercise of ranking players against each other while recognizing fundamentally that all athletes are a product of the time and context in which they competed.

    *This is what you get when people put together all-time NFL teams, since it’s so obvious how much better Randy Moss is than Don Hutson or Ray Lewis is than Dick Butkus.

    Reply
    1. Carl

      Hi Geoff,

      You raise a number of interesting points about how the game has changed due to the condition/size of the athletes.

      However, why does improvement in defense not show up in the stats? In the Beltre vs B. Robinson for example:

      Robinson Beltre
      38.8 DWar 21.8
      .971 Fielding Percentage .958
      3.10 R/G (putouts + assists/games played) 2.66
      3.20 R/9 (putouts + assists/innings played) 2.77

      To me, the stats say that B Robinson reached more balls per inning and game, fielded a higher percentage of the balls he did reach, and as a result has been worth more games won (defense only) than Adrian Beltre.

      Now Adrian is a well muscled 5′ 11″ 220 vs Robinson’s 6′ 1″ 180, so I would take Adrian in a fight every time. But at the hot corner, where reactions are of utmost importance, it seems to me that the stats say Brooksie was better.

      Reply
      1. Geoff

        Carl,

        It’s all relative. The only difference, fundamentally, between high school baseball and Major League baseball is the speed to the game. But no matter what level you play at, each team gets exactly 27 outs (well, 21 in HS), which means that someone has to make the plays.

        The game continues to get faster and faster in every respect — how hard guys throw, how fast they run, and how hard balls are hit. I’m obviously not saying Willie McCovey didn’t hit rockets (ask Bobby Richardson), but I think it’s safe to say that the average velocity at which balls are hit is significantly faster now than it was 40-50 years ago.

        Think about this at the extremes…if Andrelton Simmons played HS baseball right now, he’d be able to field pretty much everything hit to the left side of the infield, and would probably make a dozen plays per game. Obviously Brooks wasn’t playing HS baseball, but he probably was playing at a time in which the overall level of play was probably more like AAA today than the big leagues (though more uneven, since you had guys that probably were capable of playing in today’s big leagues and guys that belong in AA).

        Re: fielding percentage, it’s certainly possible that Brooks was more consistent than Beltre, but I’m skeptical. I believe the expectations for what we consider “routine” have also shifted considerably over time, and that scorekeepers were much for forgiving in the 1980′s than they are now.

        Reply

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