Atlanta Braves third baseman
Jones may not have been having a huge year, but he was their three-hole hitter with a .381 OBP, a .293 average with runners in scoring position and the wisdom and experience to be their Sherpa guide back up the pennant race mountain. Brooks Conrad may have provided some big hits for Atlanta this year, but there is no way to underestimate how hard it will be for the Braves to replace Jones.
It's a credit to Jones that he has defied the industry trend and continued to be a major component of his club into his late 30s. Jones and
Jones is part of another diminishing breed in baseball: the superstar player who spends his entire major league career with one club. Jones began the year as one of 12 active players to play at least 10 years in the big leagues, all with one club. One of them,
The others are
In 2000, there were 18 such franchise icons. In 1975, just before free agency began, there were 29.
There is no doubt that Jones is a rarity who is bound for the Hall of Fame, whether he plays another game or not. He has enjoyed an amazing career, all in one place. But this may be most amazing of all notations about Jones' career: in 9,654 plate appearances, the switch hitter batted .306 left-handed and .306 right-handed.
Jones is one of 10 active players with a .300 career batting average while playing at least 1,500 games. What's so interesting about that list is that nine of those players were selected to at least five All-Star Games in their career: Jones, Jeter, Helton,
And then there is one guy who has hit .300 for this long but has been selected as an All-Star only once: the ever-underrated
Just how much does
• His ERA (2.34) is lower by almost half a run from last year (2.79).
• His strikeout rate (8.2 K/9) is the best of his career for any full season.
• His strikeout-to-walk rate (7.64) is the best of his career.
• He leads the league in strikeouts (168) after having never finished higher than third in the AL.
• He is on track for his goal of fewer walks (22) than starts (24), something he did once in a qualified AL season.
He has put himself smack in the middle of a fantastic NL Cy Young Award race, one in which there is little separation among Halladay,
"I have to start tricking people I guess," he said, laughing. "You hang around