All season long the retirement tour of Atlanta Braves star Chipper Jones has been at the forefront of the baseball news cycle, but now that his final regular season contains only a handful of games left to play things are getting a little too real. Like it or not, one of the best players we’ve ever had the privilege of seeing is getting ready to ride off into the sunset for good. Plenty of content has been devoted to discussing Chipper’s various accomplishments, but I can’t see any reason why there isn’t room for another post brimming with near-worship for the future Hall of Fame third baseman.
I’ve read a few articles comparing Chipper to all of the other third basemen of his generation, and while doing so serves only to point out what a great player he has truly been, what about comparing him to, well, everyone from his generation? Since Chipper’s first full season came in 1995, that seems like the only logical starting point. Since 1995, Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols are the only active players who have accumulated more WAR per FanGraphs, and Jones would surely have a much higher total in that and every other department should he not have so constantly battled a myriad of injuries. Jones’ overall value is astoundingly impressive, and while WAR is by no means the only metric a player should be judged on, there isn’t a guy worth 91.8 WAR over his career who isn’t Hall of Fame caliber.
In fact, let’s take a look at how much more value Jones has provided than other stars from his era. He’s been a full 12 wins more valuable than Yankee great Derek Jeter, over 21 wins better than Jim Thome and his near-600 home runs, and he’s even further ahead of insane slugger Manny Ramirez. He’s fourth among active players in career home runs, in close proximity to the wOBA figures of some of baseball’s most high-profile names (Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera), and leads Vladimir Guerrero and Mike Piazza in career OPS. It bares repeating that Jones has done this despite his aches and pains, and he sure hasn’t bothered to fade away embarrassingly like so many stars before him.
Not only has Chipper not limped to the finish line, he’s enjoyed a fine season for any third baseman in 2012, let alone a 40-year-old. Jones has hit .289/.377/.462 with a 127 wRC+ and .361 wOBA at a scarce offensive position, and he’s been worth 2.8 WAR while doing it. He’s eighth in OPS among all third basemen with at least 400 PA at the position this season. Chipper is truly going out on top, and his Braves will have a shot to cement his legacy with his second career World Series title this October.
Chipper Jones spent his entire career as one of the best hitters in all of baseball, and he never let injuries or age drag his career into the depths of anything less than excellence. He has always come across as an exemplary person, a worthy competitor, and an easy guy to root for regardless of one’s team allegiance. I’ve been a Cardinals fan since birth, and that hasn’t ever stopped me from unabashedly admiring Chipper. He’s just one of those guys, one of the good ones. He’s one of the players who I’ll always remember fondly and subconsciously tip my cap to each and every time I see a replay of something great he once did. Nothing he’s done can be taken away from him by even the stodgiest of critics; he’s a baseball legend and the shining centerpiece for a Braves organization that has thrived for the past couple of decades. So just like every one of Chipper’s opponents have taken the time to do this season, I just wanted to stand back and salute him one last time.