Chipper Jones is a Hall of Famer, and it’s not even close.
Jones, who announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of the 2012 season, is one of the best switch-hitters in major-league history.
You don’t even need two hands to make the entire list.
Frankie Frisch, Mickey Mantle and Pete Rose. Eddie Murray, Roberto Alomar and maybe Tim Raines.
Right near the top, there’s Jones.
His .304 career batting average is second all-time to Frisch’s .316 among switch-hitters. His 454 home runs rank third behind only Mantle’s 536 and Murray’s 504.
Switch-hitting is extremely difficult, requiring twice the work as hitters seek to remain sharp from both sides. In addition, Jones is primarily a third baseman, a position that is woefully under-represented in the Hall.
Jones’ defense hasn’t matched his offense — he never has won a Gold Glove — but the Braves generally considered him an asset at third.
Only 11 or 12 third basemen are in the Hall, depending upon how you view Paul Molitor. Jones would rank sixth among them in batting average if you included Molitor, third in home runs.
A few years ago, I asked Jones about his Hall of Fame chances. He gave a typically thoughtful and expansive answer. Among his many other qualities, he was always one of the best interviews in the sport.
“I really don’t have any clue,” Jones said. “It depends upon your point of view. Which category do you put me into? Do you look at me as an all-around baseball player and compare me to everyone who has ever played, the hitters — and switch-hitting third basemen?
“There are not a lot of third basemen in the Hall of Fame. There are certainly not a lot of switch-hitters. If you look inside my numbers for a switch-hitting third baseman, I’ve got to think I’m pretty close. If you look at where I am all-time in home runs, RBI, runs scored, batting average — it’s mind-boggling to think of some of the guys that haven’t made it.
“That’s where you start thinking to yourself: What makes you different? They said no to them, they’re going to say yes to you? You’ve got to look at the resume and make a decision. Certainly, the fact that I played in a juggernaut organization during its heyday, won championships, won an MVP, won a batting title, those are all notches to have on your belt. But I, ultimately, have no control. I’m happy with the resume I have. That’s all I can control.”
He controlled it quite well. He’s headed to Cooperstown.