The official Chipper Jones tribute night is Sept. 28 against the Mets, the Friday opener of his final home series. But tonight’s game at Turner Field could have the feel of a sendoff preview of sorts, since it’s Chipper bobblehead night – the last of those – and there’s a pretty good chance that the retiring third baseman could also reach another milestone of sorts.
He needs two hits to reach 2,700, and Jones is 6-for-14 with three homers against tonight’s San Diego starter, ex-Braves righty Jason Marquis. Chipper would be the 65th player in major league history with 2,700 hits, and the sixth switch-hitter.
Someone asked me this morning on Twitter if I thought Chipper would have 3,000 hits were it not for his two ACL knee surgeries. And I said yes, since the first of those surgeries cost him an entire season at the start of his career, and the other cost him nearly two months at the end of the 2010 season, that injury coming when he was playing his best ball since winning the batting title in ’08.
Of course, there are many other great players who likewise would have reached certain standards, and some likely would have made the Hall of Fame, if not for major injuries that disrupted or prematurely ended their careers.
Just to cite a couple of obvious examples: Ken Griffey Jr. finished with 2,781 hits, 630 homers and 1,836 RBIs, and I’d say if he only had half the injuries he endured in the second half of his career he’d have retired with well over 3,000 hits, 700 homers and 2,000 RBIs.
Mickey Mantle hit .298 with 346 doubles, 536 homers and 1,509 RBIs in 18 seasons, despite major knee problems that contributed to his drastically reduced production after age 30. Joe DiMaggio had many foot and heel problems during his career.
Mantle and others didn’t benefit from the advances in knee surgery that has helped Chipper to continue producing through six – SIX! – knee surgeries, including four arthroscopic procedures that usually have only slowed him for a matter of weeks, and might have greatly prolonged the careers of great players from decades ago.
Not to mention the fact that DiMaggio and the great Ted Williams each missed three seasons in the prime of their careers for military service.
My point is, yes, Chipper’s numbers could be far better if not for the knee surgeries, as well as all the other nagging injuries he’s had in the last part of his career, after he’d played in 157 or more games in six out of seven seasons through 2002 (plus 156 games in 2000 and 153 in 2003). But so could many other baseball luminaries have produced even greater numbers had they not missed multiple seasons due to injuries or military service, many times while they were still in their 20’s.
Besides, the body of work that Chipper has produced stands on its own. Unlike fellow Braves icon Dale Murphy, whose overall numbers suffered because he played through so many injuries in the latter part of his career, Chipper have been able to maintain a .300/.400/.500 slash line (.304 average, .402 OBP and .532 slugging percentage, to be exact) and keep adding to his doubles, homers and RBIs and climbing the ladder on various lists for overall hitting and switch-hitting. He’s got 464 homers and 1,611 RBIs.
He’s a future Hall of Famer, obviously. And I really believe he’ll be selected on the first ballot, though some others think that might depend on who else is lingering on the ballot five years from now and perhaps siphoning off some potential Chipper votes. I don’t think it’ll matter and believe he’ll get in on the first ballot.
Compare Chipper’s overall numbers with those of switch-hitter Eddie Murray (.287/.359/.476, 504 homers, 1,917 RBIs), who got in easily on the first ballot with 85.3 percent of the votes (75 percent is required for election to the HOF).
Maybe some voters will put more emphasis on Murray’s homers and RBIs and not on the overall numbers, or maybe others on the respective ballots when Murray was elected and when Chipper goes on the ballot will affect the outcome. But personally, I think Jones goes in on the first ballot. And if he doesn’t, he won’t have to wait long after that.
But for tonight, it’s Chipper bobblehead night at the ‘yard. Enjoy the game, and good luck getting a bobblhead if you’re going.
By the way, in his past 36 games (since June 26), Chipper has hit .352 (45-for-128) with 14 doubles, five homers, 18 walks, 24 RBIs, a .432 OBP and .578 slugging percentage.
• McCann’s shoulder: He will never make excuses, and Brian McCann tried to downplay his shoulder injury last week when we talked to him about it in New York before conceding that “it’s there” when he swings and that it causes quite a bit of discomfort.
Anyone who’s had a subluxation of the shoulder can attest to how difficult it must be to play major league baseball with such an injury, which is technically a partial, temporary dislocation of the shoulder. When he pulls back loading his swing, McCann feels it frequently.
He got a cortisone shot during the recent road trip and he and the Braves hoped that would take care of the discomfort for a while. But McCann’s numbers at the plate seem to indicate that hasn’t happen.
McCann was 20-for-65 (.308) with two doubles, nine homers, a .754 slugging percentage and 21 RBIs in 18 games from July 5 to July 31. Since then, he’s 4-for-34 (.118) with no extra-base hits, one RBI and a .118 slugging percentage in 11 games.
Fortunately for the Braves, others have been picking up the slack offensively, and the pitching staff has been making three to five runs more than enough most nights lately. But the situation with McCann’s shoulder has got to be a concern, for the stretch drive and beyond. David Ross is the best backup catcher in baseball, but 35-year-old Ross is the first to tell you that he excels in a part-time role.
• Tonight’s matchup: It’s Kris Medlen, making his fourth start since moving from the ‘pen, against ex-Braves righty Jason Marquis of the Padres.
Marquis is 5-2 with a 4.03 ERA in his past eight starts, including a two-hit shutout at Pittsburgh on Saturday. He’s 3-4 with a 7.27 ERA in eight career starts vs. Braves, but 3-2 with a 3.49 ERA in his past five. The only time he faced them since 2009 was last season on May 10, when he allowed three runs and seven hits in 7-1/3 innings and got the win.
The Braves are 16-1 in Medlen’s 17 starts going back to the 2010 season, when he moved from the bullpen to the rotation and excelled before season-ending Tommy John surgery. They’ve won 14 consecutive games that he’s started.
Medlen since July 1: 1.09 ERA and .193 opponents’ average in 13 games (three starts), with one homer, eight walks and 29 strikeouts in 33 innings. Against the Padres, he’s 0-2 with an 8.10 ERA in four relief appearances, all during the 2009-2010 seasons.
• Uggla’s back-to-back HRs: When Dan Uggla hit his line-drive three-run homer to the left-field seats Wednesday night, it gave him homers in back-to-back games for the first time since Sept. 2-3 against the Dodgers.
The second baseman has hit .250 with a .364 OBP, .500 slugging percentage, eight extra-base hits and 16 RBIs in 16 games since July 29, and he’s 9-for-27 (.333) with three homers and nine RBIs in his past eight games.
Now, some rather staggering numbers. Between those back-to-back homer games against the Dodgers in September and his current eight-game hot streak, here’s what Uggla did at the plate: 129 games, .208 average, 16 homers, .335 OBP and .360 slugging percentage (.695 OPS) with 153 strikeouts in 456 at-bats.
Juan Francisco’s past 15 games: .433 (13-for-30) with four doubles, two homers, nine RBIs, .500 OBP, .767 slugging. That includes 12-for-24 with four doubles, two homers, seven RBIs in the seven games in which he’s batted more than once in that span….
Jason Heyward’s past 50 games: .292 with 22 extra-base hits (11 homers), 29 RBIs, 40 runs, .364 OBP, .526 slugging (.890 OPS).
• OK, let’s close this with a tune from The Raveonettes, which you can hear by clicking here.
“DEAD SOUND” by The Raveonettes
Hear the sound of falling love
As I wonder where you are
Hits the ground with a dead sound
Know you ain’t got far
Too stupid and sissy like
To say that you want out
You make the eyes of a million girls
And think you’ll make them shout
I used to take you on every time
That sparkle turned to black
I used to drag you through my streets
When you came crawling back
Your cheap words that you bought on sale
Won’t help you through tonight
You make the eyes of a million girls
And think that’s what they like
And now you go through a million girls
And try to pick what’s right
When nigtfall comes and you’re still alone
Do you feel it deep inside
It’s oh so cold on the other side
Where thoughts can turn you down
You make the eyes of a million girls
But I see no girl around
– by David O’Brien, Braves/MIB blog