Hall of Fame Standards: Chipper Jones and the RBI

Chipper Jones
Chipper puts a drive in a ball that moves him past Mickey Mantle on the RBI all-time list. (AP)

This is a series to establish what the Hall of Fame standard is for each category and if it affects enshrinement into the Hall. We start it off with the RBI category, as Chipper Jones just pushed past Mickey Mantle and over the 1,500 RBI threshold. When I’m finished, I’ll put together the numbers that will lock a player into the Hall of Fame.

I know those who are reading this are probably on my side with this topic, but there are a few who will eventually put in the comment section:

“Articles like this shouldn’t exist. He’s a no doubter.”

“There’s no reason for this article, you’re biased.”

Yep, I’ve heard it all. If you think I haven’t heard every argument against Chipper, let me know below. Other than Braves fans, there are a lot of doubters out there who are still not sold on Chipper Jones as a Hall of Famer. I received many arguments last time I wrote about Chipper being a sure 1st ballot Hall of Famer.

But to the point, Chipper Jones matched the late, great Mickey Mantle with 1,509 career RBIs for a switch-hitter on Tuesday.  He surpassed it last night with another three RBIs (tying  Carlos Delgado for 49th all-time). The only switch-hitter to record more was Eddie Murray with 1,917 RBIs, which ranks ninth all-time. There are a few fans of the game who believe switch-hitters shouldn’t have a special place in baseball.

“Just because he’s second all-time as a switch-hitter, doesn’t mean he’s a Hall of Famer.”

That’s partially correct. Just because you’re second all-time in something doesn’t make you a Hall of Famer, but putting up the numbers that Chip put up while being a switch-hitter is. It disturbs me when fans don’t look at switch-hitters as a special case. People tend to throw them in the same boat as normal hitters. Personally, I believe what the likes of Chipper, Mantle and Murray have done as switch-hitters magnifies their numbers quite a bit more, because it’s that much harder to do it as a switch-hitter over a long period of time. It takes vigorous training from both sides of the plate. A normal batter takes 20 hacks. Switch-hitters have to take 20 from each side.  That’s 40 swings for those mathematicians out there. They (switch-hitters) have to put in more work that causes straining, tiredness and muscles to breakdown faster. It’s like doing twice the load of a normal person (swing wise) over the course of the year. A swing affects everything in your body. A hammy, quad, oblique, etc. all can be injured in a swing, especially when you get tired and your form tends to alter. A smart hitter knows when enough swings are enough before they do damage with their form. You can pick up bad habits from over swinging. It’s harder than people think.

Given that, Chipper ranks 49th all-time, and when Chipper hit his 1,500 RBI, every reporter was saying he’s now a sure Hall of Famer.  How are having three extra RBIs to get to 1,500 the clincher to the Hall? Does it really make that big of a difference to be off by less than 10? So I dove into baseball-reference.com looking for answers.

Of the top 50 RBI leaders, only 15 have not sealed a spot in the Hall. Who you ask?

  • Barry Bonds – Fourth – 1996 – Retired 2007. Hall of Fame eligible: 2012. Steroids
  • Alex Rodriguez – 12th – 1848 – Still active
  • Ken Griffey Jr. – 15th – 1836 – Retired 2010. Hall of Fame eligible: 2015
  • Rafael Palmeiro – 16th – 1835 – Retired 2005. Still on ballot. Steroids
  • Manny Ramirez – 18th – 1831 – Retired 2011. Hall of Fame eligible: 2016. Steroids
  • Frank Thomas – 22nd – 1704 – Retired 2008. Hall of Fame eligible: 2013.
  • Gary Sheffield – 25th – 1676 – Retired 2009. Hall of Fame eligible: 2014. Steroids
  • Sammy Sosa – 26th – 1667 – Retired 2007. Hall of Fame eligible: 2012. Corked Bat, Steroids
  • Jim Thome – 29th – 1631 – Still active
  • Harold Baines – 30th – 1628 – Retired 2001. In 2011, he received less than 5% of voting and was dropped from Hall of Fame ballot.
  • Fred McGriff – 41st – 1550 – Retired 2004. Still on ballot.
  • Jeff Bagwell – 45th – 1529 – Retired 2005. Received 41% on his first ballot.
  • Jeff Kent – 48th – 1518 – Retired 2008. Hall of Fame eligible: 2013.
  • Chipper Jones – 49th – 1512 – Still active
  • Carlos Delgado – 50th – 1512 – Retired 2009. Hall of Fame eligible: 2014.
This man might sail past every RBI leader before his career is done.

Three players are still active; Alex Rodriguez, Jim Thome, and Chipper Jones.  All should be in the Hall. Our number is now at 12 of the 50 are not in the Hall. Five players were tainted of steroids. Take out those as they won’t likely be in the hall of fame, otherwise they would have been. (Barry Bonds might have a chance still.) We are now at seven of the 50 that still haven’t been inducted.  Four more are not eligible yet; Griffey (yes), Big Hurt (yes), Jeff Kent (yes, best hitting second basemen ever), Delgado (jury still out there).

Jeff Bagwell received 41% on his first ballot. Most believe he will eventually make it in. He only played 15 seasons, but he played 15 Hall of Fame seasons. Put up crazy numbers in a 15-year span. He’s almost a lock at some point.

Fred McGriff is still on the ballot. He has Hall of Fame numbers but he just wasn’t a “great” player throughout his career. He was an average defender. Never could run fast and never was a superstar. He was always “good.” Not sure if he will get in, but his numbers are there.

Harold Baines was dropped from the vote in 2011. If you ever look at his stats as a career, he was just a “good” player as well. Put up lower numbers than the Crime Dog.

So, take out the active and steroid-induced players, and you’ll have only three players out of the top 50 that didn’t make the Hall of Fame. Only 51 players have hit 1,500 RBIs, and number 51 is Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle.   Bagwell and McGriff still have a shot at the Hall of Fame. With that, only one player — Baines — out of the entire 51 who have hit 1,500 RBIs (that are not active and steroid tainted) will not have a chance at the Hall.

Those are pretty good odds. What are greater odds is the fact that Chipper still has a shot to finish around 1,700 RBIs and would put him just above our beloved Cal Ripken Jr. at 24th all-time. That’s if he retires when his contract is up.

Nineteen players have finished between 1,400 and 1,499. Vladimir Guerrero is the only active player and he’ll most likely finish above 1,500, as well. Out of the 18 remaining players, only 10 made the Hall of Fame. That’s a 55% chance you have. What a drop in odds. Only five of those played in this era, 2000 and up. All five did not make the Hall of Fame, not even close.

Lesson: if you are a baseball player, do not stop until you hit 1,500 RBIs. Finishing with a sub 1,500 (even the great Dave Parker didn’t get in with 1,493 RBIs) will significantly hurt your chances at seeing your name in heavenly Cooperstown.

Maybe those announcers were right. I guess hitting 1,500 RBIs solidifies your name as a Hall of Famer — unless you did steroids or your name is Harold Baines.

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