1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball?
Pretty easy “No” answer here
2. Was he the best player on his team?
I suppose someone could make that argument, but I doubt the majority would. Maddux and Glavine and Smoltz and Chipper were the stars on the team.
3. Was he the best player at his position?
I don’t think he was the best centerfielder in the ’90s, not with Griffey around; but a strong argument could be made that he was for a few years after Griffey was constantly injured. He’d at the very minimum be a serious candidate for being the best centerfielder for a period of years. How many Gold Glove centerfielders average 100 runs and RBIs over a ten-year period (1998-2007)? Oops! small math error: Jones only averaged 97.4 runs over that period. So, Yes to this question.
4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
5. Was he a good enough player to play after his prime?
Kind of an odd question for Jones. He’s still playing, at a reduced rate. And his prime ended at age 30, which is pretty young for a supposed superstar. I think I have to pass on this question for the moment. If he stopped playing now, the answer would be of course “No”. But then again he might still be playing in 2020.
6. Is he the best player not in the Hall?
Not by a longshot. There are, what, 15-20 active players who would rate ahead of him, plus another 10-15 recently retired?
7. Are comps in the Hall?
Gold Glove winning power hitters with low batting averages haven’t done well in HOF voting. Both Dwight and Darrell Evans, Graig Nettles, Bobby Grich come to mind as players of the same skill-set. Johnny Bench is the only one who is even remotely similar who is in the Hall. Joe Gordon, maybe? Historically, these kinds of guys haven’t faired very well.
8. Do the players numbers meet HOF standards?
At the moment they are a bit short, albeit just barely. He needs another year or two adequate full-time numbers to get there.
9. Is there anything to suggest he was significantly better or worse than his stats?
Yes to both. Defense is undervalued and some linkage to PEDs.
10. Is he the best player at his position not in the HOF?
Well, no, Griffey is the obvious #1 centerfielder not in. I think he’s in a general class with Bernie Williams, Jim Edmunds, Johnny Damon, guys who are just a bit short (tho a case could be made for just about all of them)
11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have?
Altho he never won one, or really came close, he could have won in ’05, leading the league in homers and RBIs for a pennant winning team. He had just one season with 30 Win Shares, ’00.
12. How many All-Star seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in?
He played in 5, and he had between 4-8 all-star type seasons, depending on how one defines it. 8 times he had 20 or more WS; 4 times he had 25 or more. However one defines it, he’s at the lower end of HOF caliber players.
13. If he were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
I’ve never really liked this question, because I never know how to answer it. I suppose the answer is “Yes” as he had more Win Shares than any other Brave in 2000 when they won their division, as usual. Kirk Gibson led his Dodgers to a pennant in ’88, but that doesn’t make him a HOFer. I think I’d like the question to be “If he were the third best player on his team, WOULD they likely win the pennant?” And I think that with Jones, I could answer that with a resounding “Yes”, as he was often the third best player and those Braves did win constantly.
14. What impact did the player have on baseball history?
He’s the answer to a number of trivia questions. That sounds like a flippant remark, but it’s not meant to. Who’s the greatest defensive centerfielder of all-time by…add in the metric of your choice? Who’s the youngest player to hit multiple postseason homers? That sort of thing. He has left some footprints.
15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship?
Jones actually did a little better than I thought he would on the Keltner List. While I don’t see him as a HOFer, he’s at least I guy I’d think about for a moment or two before I said “No”.
Now, for The Test. Just like the Keltner List, I’m not sure how well it works for active players, but I’ll give it a go, as well. (Sorry, Terry, I left off your humorous F grades, since they weren’t needed with Jones.)
1. Production) This player’s career value according to WAR, Win Shares or other reasonable metric puts him among the:
A. Best 20 ever.
B. Best 50 ever.
C. Best 100 ever.
D. Best 200 ever.
E. Best 600 ever
Jones gets a E grade here. He might be among the 300 greatest ever, but he’s not really close to cracking the Top 200
2. (Position) The player’s career value is in the range of
A. The highest ever at his position.
B. The upper half of the BBWAA inductees at his position.
C. The lower half of the BBWAA inductees at his position
D. The Veteran’s Committee inductees at his position
E. The veteran’s Committee candidates at his position.
Again, a fairly easy E grade
3. (Peak Height) At the player’s established peak value, he was:
A. The best player in baseball.
B. MVP level.
C. MVP candidate level
D. All-Star level
E. All-Star reserve level.
I tend to be conservative in my judgments. I can see someone saying that he was, in the spring, often thought of maybe finally breaking thru and having that monster season, a season that never came. But at his best he was very good, so I give him a D grade
4. (Peak Length) This player played at or near his peak level for:
A. At least 12 seasons.
B. 9-11 seasons
C. 5-8 seasons
D 3-4 seasons
E. 2 seasons
Well, considering he averaged (almost) 100 runs and RBIs over 10 seasons, that warrants a B grade.
5. (Durability) This player played:
A. At least 21 seasons
B. 19-20 seasons
C. 16-18 seasons
D. 13-15 seasons
E. At least 10 seasons
Terry and I have gone around and around with this question, as to what constitutes a season, but as it now stands, IMO, Jones has played 15 seasons, so he gets a D grade.
6. (Comps) Most players with similar career value by WAR, WS or other reasonable metric:
A. Made the Hall as soon as possible, and almost by acclaimation
B. Made the Hall quickly
C. Made the Hall thru the BBWAA
D. Made the Hall thru a Veteran’s Committee
E. Are HOF candidates at all.
This one is a little tougher. Jones is either a very weak D or a very strong E. Not a lot of his strongest comps, like Nettles and the Evans boys are in, but…it’s hard to guess if they’ll eventually go in as the VetCom hasn’t really started to address these players yet. Just to be conservative, I’ll give Jones a E grade here.
7. (Stature) While this player was active, the national media referred to him as:
A An all-time great.
B. A superstar.
C. A perennial all-star
D. A star
E. A good ball player
A solid D grade here, I think
8. (Fame) If this player retired unexpectantly, ESPN would:
A. Genuflect for days
B. Interrupt programming.
C. Lead SportsCenter.
D. Lead Baseball Tonight
E. Show highlights on Baseball Tonight.
On a slow news day, he might get D treatment, but I think mostly we’d see his defensive plays, so he gets a E.
9. (Relevance) Ken Burns’ great-grandson’s 216-hour comprehensive history of baseball in the year 2100 will cast this player as:
A. One of the central characters.
B. A principle characterwith his own full segment.
C. A principle supporting character with a short segment
D. A supporting character with individual footage.
E. A player in passing.
I don’t know. I think an argument can be made that he would be a C, in that the Braves dynasty would be a significant portion of the story and he’s a significant part of the Braves dominance. Plus the high-light clips of his defense. I think I’ll be non-conservative here and give him that C grade
10. (Legacy) When this player shows up at the front door of the Hall Of Fame, laminated wooden plaque in hand, the HOF doorman will direct him to:
A. The penthouse
B. The VIP room
C. The Gallery.
D. The waiting room.
E. The back of the line.
If he’s going to the waiting room, he’d be there a long, long, LONG time. He gets a E grade.
So, totaling it all up, Jones gets a 0.8 GPA (1 B, 1 C, 3 Ds and 5 Es). As a rule of thumb, anything over 2.0 is almost always a HOF. Somewhere around 1.2 is where the real HOF candidates start to be seriously discussed. Jones is still well below that level, in my estimation. But he’s still young enough, and borderline on a couple of questions, that he may still move up the scale. But time, and opportunity, are running out.
I’m not a big fan of WAR. How do other metrics see Jones? With 272 Win Shares he’s right around 250th. The most recent list I have of Linear Weights is after the 2006 season, and he’s in 256th place. Charles Faber’s latest book, also after the 2006 season, has Jones as the 26th greatest center fielder. He doesn’t co-mingle position players, but that would put him right around the 200th best player or so, not counting pitchers. So Charles has him probably in the 275th best player range.
I think it’s more likely that he’s around the 250th best than the 150th best.