Friday, May 7, 2010

Mickey says that Chipper may be done! (sort of)

The Braves are currently sitting at a record of 12-16 on the early part of the season. Their pitching has been pretty good, but the offense has been terrible. Part of that offense involves 6 time All-star 3rd baseman Chipper Jones, who is arguably one of the all time top three switch hitters in the game (Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murry being the other two). Chipper is 38 years old and entering his 16th season in a Braves uniform. He is a first ballot hall of famer with some very special career numbers for a switch hitter. His current 2010 numbers read something like this. .231 batting average with 2 home runs and 7 RBI. Consider that his career numbers average .307, 28.5 and 97. Last year was not much better. He batted .264 with 18 home runs and 71 RBI. Is Chipper done????

To answer this question I did a little research on the greatest switch hitter that the game has ever seen. Mickey Mantle played 18 years for the New York Yankees and was the games most feared hitter in his day. He has three MVP awards to his credit ('56, '57, '62), one Triple Crown (1956), and 16 All-star games. His career batting numbers are .298 batting average with 536 home runs and 1509 RBI. Not too bad for a player, who like Chipper, had a tendency to get injured frequently. Some say that if Mickey Mantle had been healthy throughout his entire career, all of baseballs greatest records would belong to him. He was truly an icon in the 50's and 60's. His 565 foot home run hit on April 17, 1953 still stands as the longest ever recorded in a MLB game. He wasn't even on steroids. More like beer and whiskey.

How are Chipper and Mickey similar? They are both switch hitters with some impressive numbers. Chipper's career totals look like this- .307 avg, 430 hr, 1459 rbi. Mickey's read- .298 avg, 536 hr, 1509 rbi. Chipper has played his entire 16 year career with the Braves spanning 2,222 games. The Mick played all 18 of his years with the Yankees in 2,401 games. They both have an MVP. Chipper in 1999 and Mickey in 1956, 1957, and 1962. They both have a batting title to their credit. Mickey in '56 and Chipper in 2008. Chipper was a vital part of the Braves 1995 World Championship and 14 year run of division title winners. Mickey led the Yankees to 12 World Series during his career and won 7 of them. Mickey was 38 years old in his last season in 1968. Chipper is currently 38 years old and may be looking at his last season.

Here is why I think Chipper may be done. In 1967 Mickey's numbers looked like this- .245, 22, 55. In 1968 they looked like this- .237, 18, 54. He hung it up after the '68 season because he could not perform at the level that made him a legend among all of baseball's fans. Here are Chipper's last two years (keep in mind that he won a batting title in 2008 hitting .364)- 2009= .264, 18, 71. His 2010 projected numbers are .231, 12, 41. These numbers seem to be very similar to me. Both of them super star switch hitters who hit a downward spiral as they got into their late 30's. One man walked away at 38 years of age, the other man has a decision to make.

I read once that Mickey Mantle only had one regret when it came to his baseball numbers. He was very disappointed that he did not finish with a career .300 batting average. He finished up at .298. Chipper currently sits at .307 for his career. One more bad season with sub .250 batting will not allow Chipper Jones to finish a career .300 hitter either. I think he wants that. He has said that he would hang it up if he could not perform at a high level anymore. I hope that is true for two reasons. Chipper is one of the three best switch hitters that the game has ever seen and he does deserve to end his career as a .300 hitter. I think it would be a shame if the same thing that happened to Mickey happened to him. The second reason is that the Braves would have to pay him $15MM next year if he gives it one more try. That is a lot of money that could be spent to try and make the Braves better in the near future.

I don't want to see Chipper not being Chipper anymore. I would like to see him improve his numbers this year so that he can walk away from the game with something that Mickey did not, a .300 average. I would like to see him help the Braves by stepping away from the team. A .260 non-power hitter is not worth $15MM per year. I would like to see Chipper go out proudly, not swinging and missing!

So Larry Jones Jr., it may be time to follow in Mickey's footsteps and start heading down that path to the Hall of Fame! It has been a great ride, but it may be time to step off the train!

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