Chipper Jones

Chipper Jones makes for an easy Hall of Famer

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Some players kind of sneak up on the Hall of Fame.

Chipper Jones, who announced his intention to retire at the end of the season, never led his league in anything until he was 35. He was never even really all that close:

– His one year that he hit 40 homers, a couple of guys named McGwire and Sosa topped 60. Outside of that year, when he tied for third, his high finish in homers was eighth.

– He ranked in the NL’s top 10 in RBI just once in his career, finishing ninth in 2003.

– His high finish in runs scored was fourth, doubles sixth, walks third, games played fifth, hits eighth.

– Until he was 35, his high finish in batting average was fifth, OBP third and slugging fourth.

It was in 2007 that Chipper finally added some black ink to the record, leading the NL in OPS. A year later, he won a batting crown and finished first in OBP, though one could say those were tainted given that he played in just 128 games and had 439 at-bats. Albert Pujols finished a close second in both categories while coming to the plate an extra 107 times that season.

So, no, Chipper was never truly the NL’s best player. But the two guys who stood above him during his career, Barry Bonds and Pujols, rank with the greatest performers of any era.

And if Chipper wasn’t the greatest, he spent 13 years only a notch or two below. From 1996-2008, he hit .314/.411/.555 and averaged 30 homers per year. He received MVP votes in 11 of the 13 seasons, winning the award in 1999.

One of the things that stands out about Chipper’s career is that he’s always been an above average player. In 17 seasons, his worst OPS+ was the 108 he put up as a rookie in 1995 (and he still finished second in the ROY balloting that year). He’s had big problems staying in the lineup as he’s gotten older, but he’s always been an asset when able to play.

Chipper’s defense is more controversial. Most metrics say he’s been essentially average in his career, though some would suggest he was considerably worse. Oddly, there’s been no real arc to his career defensively. Most peak young with the glove, but Chipper has simply been steady throughout. The numbers say he was just about as valuable defensively in the seasons following his two-year left field hiatus as he was in the years leading up to it.

Because of his injuries, Jones will finish his career with fewer than 500 homers. Still, he ranks 33rd on the all-time list with 454 and should move up to 30th or 31st. He currently has exactly 1,561 runs and RBI, which rank 53rd and 40th all-time, respectively. His average stands at .304, having crept downwards these last three years, but there’s almost no chance of it falling below .300.

Those numbers would make Jones a pretty easy call as a Hall of Famer even if he spent his entire career at first base or in left field. At third base, he ranks third all-time in homers behind Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews. He’s third in RBI behind George Brett and Schmidt and he’ll pass both with just 36 this year. He’ll also pass Brett for first in runs scored with 23 more.

From an OPS standpoint, he’s first and easily so. His .935 mark trumps Schmidt’s .908 and Mathews’ .885. That’s largely a product of era, but even switching to OPS+ puts him in the same ballpark with those two. Schmidt’s tops at 147, followed by Mathews at 143 and Jones at 141. Next are Al Rosen at 136 and Brett and Home Run Baker, both at 135.

By pretty much any measure, Jones ranks among the greatest of all-time at a position underrepresented in the Hall of Fame. Some stooges might decline to vote for him because he didn’t have enough big years or because he got hurt a lot or just because they don’t want to vote for anyone who played the last 20 years. It’s not going to stop him from going in, though. It might not have been quite so obvious when he was 32 or 33, but Jones ranks as one of the clear Hall of Famers of this era.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.