Cox Took the Gamble; Chipper Turned Into a Hall of Fame Decision
(Editor's note: Chipper Jones will join Trevor Hoffman, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, Jack Morris and Alan Trammel as inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 29. InsideTheSeams.com is taking a look at the career of each of them leading up to the weekend. Today: Chipper Jones).
And to think, what might have been.
Bobby Cox is in the Hall of Fame, in no small part, he says, thanks to Chipper Jones.
“He saved my job,” said Cox. “He’s that good.”
Cox does deserve a bit of the credit, too.
First, he was the general manager, who along with scouting director Paul Snyder, made the decision to draft Jones.
Then, two weeks after the drafting of Jones in 1990, Cox returned to the role of the manager of the Braves for a 20-year tenure in which the Braves won 15 division titles, including a professional sports team record 14 in a row, and Jones was one of the names on the lineup card in the final 12 of those post-season trips.
With Cox in charge, Jones earned the first six of his eight All-Star appearances, claimed two Silver Slugger awards, was the 1999 NL MVP, and won the 2008 batting title.
And to think what might have been. Early in the spring of 1990, right-handed pitcher Todd Van Poppel from Arlington, Tx., was the talk of the scouting world. There was heavy speculation that he would go to the Braves with the first overall pick.
Cox definitely put in his time getting to know Van Poppel and watching him pitch, but he also was a regular at games in which Jones was playing, and in the end, those close to Cox said, Cox backed off Van Poppel because of concerns about the involvement of agent Scott Boras.
So when draft day came, there was no hesitation.
And two decades later there was no buyers remorse.
Cox was more than rewarded for his faith in Jones, who on Sunday will join his former manager, who was inducted in 2014, as a member of the exclusive club in Cooperstown, N.Y. Jones becomes only the eighth third baseman to be voted into the Hall of Fame by the veteran members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
His name will be added to a list that includes Wade Boggs (2005), Paul Molitor (2004), George Brett (1999), Mike Schmidt (1995), Brooks Robinson (1983), Eddie Mathews (1978) and Pie Traynor (1948).
It’s a long ways from The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla.
“I still don’t think I’ve really come to grips with any of it,” Jones said during his winter visit to the Hall of Fame to go over the plans for induction weekend. “I don’t think it will until I get up on that podium, and I’ve got all those guys sitting behind me. It’s almost like I’m getting my first big league camp again, like I really don’t know if I belong. But I’m going to sit in the back of the locker room, keep my mouth shut and speak when spoken to.”
It's not like Jones will be a total stranger. In addition to Cox, former Braves general manager John Schuerholtz, and the pitching triumvirate of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, teammates of Jones, are already enshrined, and will be on hand to help their former teammate celebrate.
Like Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz, Jones was elected on the first ballot, which makes the Braves the first team to have four first-ballot inductees who spent 10 or more seasons as teammates.
“That’s got to be unprecedented, but so was our run,” Jones said. “It’s cool to be involved in something that you know quite probably will not be done again. You know nobody is going to hit in 56 straight games. You know nobody is going to play 2,700 straight ballgames again. Fourteen straight division titles is—I won’t say never—but it’s pretty untouchable.”
Since 1960, only the Giants have had as many Hall of Famers play together longer. At least four Hall of Famers played for the Giants for 12 straight seasons from 1960-71, and in five of those years, there were five: Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry. Mays and McCovey were first-time ballot inductees, but Cepeda and Marichal both had to wait for their third year of eligibility, and Cepeda was voted in by the Veterans Committee.
The bonus was when Cox decided to go back to the dugout he replaced himself as general manager by hiring Kansas City general manager John Schuerholz, who ironically had twice tried to convince Cox to manage the Royals following the death of Cox’s close friend, Dick Howser.
“Our general manager was going to be proactive and give us a chance to win every year,” Jones said. “We had a manager who we loved to play for. We had a good gig. We were allowed to play ourselves into shape in spring training. Bobby trusted us because we proved to him that we would do it.”
And now comes the ultimate reward for Jones, joining his former manager, general manager, and three teammates in the Hall of Fame.
The Jones File