Jones aging well
Franklin County Times
As I was driving to work yesterday, I heard that Chipper Jones' batting average had dipped below .400 for the first time since April 12 after going 0-for-4 in a 5-4 ninth-inning road loss to the Texas Rangers.
I've always pulled for the Atlanta Braves, even though it's sometimes been tough to watch a team that dismantled a Hall of Fame starting rotation and hasn't had much postseason luck, aside from a 1995 World Series win against the Cleveland Indians.
One constant for the Braves has been the 36-year-old Jones, who has been the Braves' primary third baseman since 1995. Jones collected a World Series ring in 1995, a National League Most Valuable Player award in 1999 and five All-Star Game appearances, and he appears to be a lock for the hitting title this season.
Even after going hitless Thursday afternoon, Jones is hitting a league-leading .394, 102 points better than the league average of .298 and 32 points higher than the Houston Astros' Lance Berkman (.362) and the St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols (.347).
Only Washington Nationals shortstop Crisitian Guzman, a .310 hitter with only five homers and 10 walks in 314 at-bats, has produced more hits (100) this season than Jones (98), who has 16 home runs, 45 RBIs and 45 walks in just 245 at-bats.
The last player to bat .400 during a season was Ted Williams, the "Splendid Splinter" for the Boston Red Sox. Williams played 143 games during the 1941 season and hit .406 in 456 at-bats.
Jones has said that it's too early in the season to seriously discuss his chances of batting .400 or breaking Williams' mark. Jones has only played 66 games this season and thinks August would a better time to talk about the record.
Since the Braves aren't even sure if John Smoltz will play again and their shaky bullpen is a major culprit for Atlanta's league-worst road record, making the playoffs seems a longer shot than Jones finishing with a .400 average.
There are a lot of reasons why Jones won't be able to duplicate Williams' feat – late-season injuries, having to face specialized pitching and the fact that no player has hit .400 in 67 years – but I'm going to be rooting for him down the stretch.
Kim West is sports editor for The Franklin County Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (256) 332-1881, ext. 30.