The 2012 season will be Chipper Jones’ last, signifying for me a quaint full circle of baseball life. From a goofy-grinned rook to an over-the-hill vet, I had the pleasure of witnessing it all, and I can’t help but tip my cap to the future Hall of Famer for all he’s done throughout his career, on and off the field.
With that, here is what immediately enters my mind whenever his name comes up:
The 1995 Season
Infuriated by a silent October in ’94, I vehemently quit on Major League Baseball. I will have nothing to do with those crooked chumps! Who do they think they are taking away my Fall Classic!?!? Troglodytes the whole lot of ’em!
Yeah, but… see, there’s this guy named Chipper. He’s with the Braves. He’s gonna be a superstar.
And he was. 23 bombs. 86 RBIs. And one cool stroke, from both sides of the plate. By the second half of the ’95 season, all had been forgiven and I was hoarding baseball cards of a man with a goofy name.
The 2008 Season and Media Guide Photo
Now a lot of stuff happened between 1995 and 2008, but I want to focus on the monster season Chipper had. I recall arguing here with my lugubrious and oft-crotchety colleague, Mr. Allen Krause, whether or not Chipper could realistically hit .400. He made a good run at it, but had to settle for .364, and in the process provided one of the worst media guide photos of all time:
All-Star Weekend 2009
I had the good fortune of attending the ASG in St. Louis and taking in all the awesome that comes with such an extravaganza. As you can imagine, heavy drinking was involved, and on the evening of July 13, at a seedy bar deep in the heart of Soulard, I was an accomplice to my friend losing a $100 bar bet on whether or not Chipper played any significant time at any other position than third base during his career. I found out it only takes a few vodka bombs to forget that Chipper spent a some years manning left field for the Bravos. I think my pal has forgiven me for that absentmindedness. Now if only we could remember how we ended up in Sauget smelling like frosting, covered in glitter.
Yes, I’d say Chipper had a brilliant career, even if the last few years have looked more like an AH-64 Apache helicopter crash after attempting to push its limit. What’s THAT look like? Glad ya asked!
Mr. Lung, if I may be so bold as to call you mister since most of your comments tends towards the prissy and sissy. However, I’ll afford you the respect you so often lack in our current discourse and continue to refer to you respectfully. So, Mr. Lung, I hate to beat a dead horse but you could not be any further from the truth in your so-called “rebuttal” of my recent post regarding hitting .400 in today’s game of baseball.
First of all, I don’t think it’s all that groundbreaking or even close to infantile to claim that managers and players today do much more homework on the teams and players they are facing than they did 60 years ago. The advent of instant video technology has allowed batters to watch individual at-bats between innings and figure out what they did wrong. Is it crazy to assume that managers and coaches are doing the same thing with their fielders?
To add on to this thought, the size of the playing field has not increased in the past 60 years but the speed and dexterity of fielders has increased at an exponential rate. There’s a reason that Big Papi is a DH and Barry Bonds was usually stuck out in right field. Even if a guy is a huge offensive asset you have to put him where he’ll do the least damage defensively.
My point is, the web gems you see on SportsCenter on a daily basis were the exception 60 years ago, not the rule. Willie Mays’ basket catch is replicated on a daily basis by minor leaguers all over the country. So, it’s not unreasonable to think that these vastly improved defensive skills and the increases in mangerial acumen have had an effect on how many balls actually make it through safely. As you yourself said, “The game of baseball…has changed very little in the last 100 years, Al. ‘You have to put it into a place where a fielder is not.‘” But when that fielder can be in more places than he used to, Jeff, you’ve got yourself a problem.
Now, the one place where we can agree is that hitting .400 would be something special. Yeah, it’s a pretty meaningless statistic overall but baseball fans of all stripes would cheer for a once-in-a-lifetime event like that. But as far as batting average being integral to a person’s understanding of the game of baseball, well, we have a difference of opinion there.
I was watching Chipper Jones during the Braves-Angels game the other evening as he was being interviewed about his pursuit of .400. After saying it was highly unlikely that he could do it he then explained that he thought only someone like Ichiro would even have a chance. His reasoning was that the person would have to have an inordinate number of walks (which decreases the denominator in the aforementioned ratio) and then be able to beat out throws for quite a few infield hits (which increases the numerator in the same ratio) which would allow the ratio to approach .400. Chipper’s right in his reasoning although I don’t think that even Ichiro has all that great of a chance.
All of this leads me to one basic point. Although I know your rebuttal comes from a love of the game, that doesn’t make it any less ignorant. Mr. Lung, you are just plain wrong.
This is to you and you only, Mr. Krause: You’re absolutely nuts. You’re absolutely nuts, and you’re absolutely wrong. You’re absolutely nuts, you’re absolutely wrong and your most recent post is absolutely embarrassing.
I have given you a pass on the dumb things that have come out of your posts before — sometimes I merely chided you and sometimes I partook in a bit of playful teasing; but like Hillary and her ill-timed reference to Bobby Kennedy’s June primary assassination, this time, you have gone too far, Al.
And you must suffer the consequences.
When asked if hitting .400 was an unreachable goal, you responded with such infantile and insane statements like:
“…the answer is yes, hitting .400 is an unreachable goal today. There
is so much that goes into just simply getting a hit, a guy who can hit
.300 or better is a catch. I mean, first of all you have to make
contact with balls that are coming at crazy speeds and crazy angles and
then you have to put it into a place where a fielder is not. In the
game today, managers and players alike do their homework and
positioning makes it that much harder to get a decent hit.”
REBUTTAL: You answered the question. I’ll give you that. But your reasoning is reminiscent of George W. in that it’s straight out of Crazytown. ‘Crazy speeds and crazy angles‘? Seriously? The game of baseball (especially this aspect) has changed very little in the last 100 years, Al. ‘You have to put it into a place where a fielder is not‘? Again, since the inception of baseball this has always been the case. Do you even watch baseball? Do you know how it’s played? Have you ever played yourself?
“But the fact of the matter is that the level of competition day in and
day out in the Majors is much greater than it was back when Ted
Williams was scattering the ball all over the field. Besides, he also
froze his head so he can try to come back one day. Only someone who’s
that kind of crazy has a chance at .400.”
REBUTTAL: Really? So you’re saying that when Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941 — when there were just 16 teams in all of Major League Baseball — that the level of competition was less than it is now in 2008? You are aware that there are 30 teams in Major League Baseball now, right? You are aware that nowadays, guys like Geoff Jenkins and Sean Casey and Boof Bonser make it to the majors where as in 1941, they’d be lucky to catch the game on the radio while working at the local laundromat, right? And I’m quite sure that Rogers Hornsby and Ty Cobb didn’t have their heads frozen or anything like that, yet they managed to hit .400 and guess what: they’re Hall of Famers too!
“…the more important matter is what does it matter if someone hits .400?”
REBUTTAL: It matters, Mr. Krause, for the same reason that it matters if someone hits over 60 homers, or hits safely in 56 consecutive games, or gets over 200 hits in a season or steals 100 bases. It matters because it’s really friggin’ hard to do, man! Come on! Get a grip! We’re talking about hitting .400 here, not hitting for a cycle or some arbitrary numbers-related coincidence. Only 33 players in the history of MLB have ever hit over .400 for a season! And no one — I said NO ONE — has done it since 1941! Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Rogers Hornsby, George Sisler, Joe Jackson… I’d say those names are pretty synonymous with baseball greatness. Again, do you even watch baseball, Allen?
In conclusion, you wrote this:
“No, I don’t think .400 is an achievable goal but I also don’t think
it’s all that important. And that’s all I have to say about that.”
Fine. You’re definitely entitled to your opinion — as wrong as they often are — that it is ultimately an unachievable goal. Who knows, you might even be right. It still seems that the 56 game hitting streak is unrepeatable, so maybe hitting .400 is too. But to say that it is unimportant is absolute blasphemy, heresy, sacrilege. It is disrespectful of the greatest game on earth and the good people (me) who follow it to the nerdiest degree.
Hitting .400 is certainly important, Al.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
Chipper Jones has been spraying the ball all season and his batting average shows it. Is hitting over .400 for the year an unreachable goal in today’s game?
First of all let me say, ha ha ha ha. You said spray. But now that I’ve got that out of the way I’ll try to get to the more serious business of answering your question.
And the answer is yes, hitting .400 is an unreachable goal today. There is so much that goes into just simply getting a hit, a guy who can hit .300 or better is a catch. I mean, first of all you have to make contact with balls that are coming at crazy speeds and crazy angles and then you have to put it into a place where a fielder is not. In the game today, managers and players alike do their homework and positioning makes it that much harder to get a decent hit.
Every few years this question flares up again when someone has a career season. Larry Walker in the 90’s made a brief run at .400 and now here comes Chipper. But the fact of the matter is that the level of competition day in and day out in the Majors is much greater than it was back when Ted Williams was scattering the ball all over the field. Besides, he also froze his head so he can try to come back one day. Only someone who’s that kind of crazy has a chance at .400.
However, the more important matter is what does it matter if someone hits .400? Does that number show how valuable they were to their team? What if someone on the Giants hit .400 but, because they never had anyone on base and no one decent coming up to bat after them, the team still lost most of their games and that player rarely crossed the plate? Would anyone really care? It would be a nice statistic but a players’ value to their team cannot be summed up in ratio of the number of times they get on base to the number of official at-bats they have taken. I’ll take the league leader in OBP over the batting champion any day of the week.
So, I guess my final answer to your question comes in two parts. No, I don’t think .400 is an achievable goal but I also don’t think it’s all that important. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Irony is one of life’s little gems. Intelligently designed to point out the absurd fecundities of human thought, these cute little poking japes never fail to make me stop and think for a moment — sometimes longer than a moment.
Milton Bradley has a very hard time playing with others. George W. Bush lost the popular vote but won the presidency. Rusty Kuntz showed no signs of rust nor female genitalia. Oedipus Rex vowed to destroy the man responsible for bringing plague and doom to the city of Thebes (while all along he was the real culprit – wink, wink). Gaylord Perry wasn’t gay, nor was he a lord — of any kind.
Isn’t it ironic?
(And no, I am not quoting her)
So imagine how surprised I was today when I decided to check out Chipper Jones’ stat sheet, to follow his progression towards hitting above .400 on the season. Imagine the shock! the awe! the confusion! when I saw his press photo staring back at me like I was the witness to a drunken vehicular homicide in some Podunk Georgian backwoods village, sifting through a lineup.
Is this the photograph the Braves blast on the jumbo-tron at Turner Field when he comes to the plate? Is this the photograph that is published in the game-day press kit? Is this the photograph that little kids offer up to Number 10 to have autographed?
He looks like he just rolled out of his hotel after an all-night bender of booze, barfights and benzodiazepines that he topped off by wrapping his lips around a rusty tailpipe.
In other words, he doesn’t look so ‘chipper‘.
Ah, the irony…
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.