In last week’s issue, Sports Illustrated had a short pro/con list as to Chipper Jones' Hall of Fame credentials. If SI deployed the best possible arguments against Chipper’s place in Cooperstown, then we can all start making our reservations to see Larry Wayne Jones deliver a speech. Here are the arguments:
1. Dearth of batting-category titles. For each player, the website baseball-reference.com has four "Hall of Fame Statistics" tests. One of them is labeled "Black Ink" and is a reflection of how many times a player has led the league in a major category. Chipper has one such title, a batting crown in 2008 (a splendid .364, at age 36). So his score is 4. The average Hall of Famer's is 27.
Baseball Reference also has Chipper’s score on Bill James’ Hall of Fame Monitor. A likely Hall of Famer scores 100 or higher. A shoe-in scores 130 or higher. Chipper’s score? 164. The only current players who rank higher are A-Rod, Barry Bonds, and Manny Ramirez. Absent steroid issues, do you think that those three are locks? Chipper’s score is one point better than that of Derek Jeter. Let’s see someone from SI argue that Jeter isn’t a Hall of Famer. SI’s offices will be burned to the ground. If Chipper is going to be denied enshrinement because he only led the NL in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage once each, then what do we make of Jeter, who has never led the league in anything other than runs and hits once each?
2. Less than classic Fall Classics. In 69 at bats in three World Series: a .273 average, a single home run and six RBIs.
Chipper’s career OPS in the World Series: .828. (His OBP in the World Series is .391. Combined with a .273 average and I’d guess that opposing pitchers were avoiding Chipper.) Captain Clutch’s career OPS in the World Series: .832. Chipper’s career OPS in the playoffs: .871. Captain Clutch’s career OPS in the playoffs: .863. If only Chipper got a million hero shots from every available camera when he pumps his fist and looks very intense. Moral of the story: you get a reputation for being a clutch hitter when your team has Mariano Rivera closing games instead of Mark Wohlers.
Defensive deficiencies. As a third baseman Chipper's career total zone total fielding runs average (the number of runs a player is worth above or below average based on the number of plays made) is -18. By contrast his contemporary and the active leader at the position, Scott Rolen, boasts a +145.
Jeter’s number for his career using the same stat? -131. Alex Rodriguez’s total in his career at shortstop? +18. Not only is Derek Jeter a worse fielder than Chipper, but Mr. Ultimate Winner blocked a significantly superior shortstop from playing the most important defensive position on the diamond by not stepping aside when the Yankees acquired Rodriguez. (Hat tip to John Kincaid for making this point.) The fact that Jeter has four Gold Gloves is just an indication that that award is about as useful a measure of a player’s worth as a Heisman Trophy. I guess that Yankees fans will just have to deal with Jeter being enshrined in the Hall of Very Good Hitters who Sucked in the Field, but Refused to Cede their Positions Because a Shortstop is More Likely to Have his own Cologne.