Chipper proud his path did not include PEDs
Slugger's career numbers place him among all-time greats
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves third baseman Chipper Jones has said that suspicion will always surround him and all other players from the steroid era. But as he nears the end of his Hall of Fame-caliber career, Jones takes great pride in the fact that he conquered those temptations he once had to use performance-enhancing drugs.
"There was a temptation because a lot of the elite players at my position were using," Jones said. "They were winning Gold Gloves, MVPs, [getting] All-Star appearances and all of that stuff. That's disappointing. But I've always had the ability to step back and look at things objectively. At that point in my career, I didn't have kids. It's well-documented what steroid use will do later on down the road. I just was not willing to take that chance."
As Jones was earning his stripes at the Major League level during the 1990s and thinking about the possibility of joining those teammates and opponents who were using steroids, he thought about what the chemical would do to his health, his integrity and his parents, who had always warned him about the danger of cutting corners.
"I'm the last person to be passing judgment on what is right and what is wrong," Jones said. "I made enough mistakes in my life. "But [using PEDs] was just a line that I wasn't going to cross.
"When I was coming along in the mid-to-late '90s, you knew other guys were doing it. But I didn't care what other people were putting in their bodies. My thinking was, 'You still have to put it over that plate, and if you hit it to me, I'm still going to catch it.'"
When Jones began battling numerous injuries during his early 30s, there was reason to wonder if his body was breaking down because he had used steroids earlier in his career. His 1999 National League MVP season had been completed just one year after Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa had captivated the nation with a home run race that now stands as a black mark in the steroid era.
But the suspicions surrounding Jones have never been overwhelming. His name was not included in the 2007 Mitchell Report, and he was not bothered three years ago, when it was learned the government had seized documents that included the names of some of the 104 players who had tested positive for illegal PEDs during what was intended to be anonymous testing in 2003.
"I know there are 103 guys out there right now who are pretty [darn] nervous, and I'm not one of them," Jones told MLB.com at the time.
Around the same time, Jones remembers a conversation in which his father said "nothing would be more disappointing than to learn" his son had used steroids or any other PED.
"It's not like he flat-out asked me," Jones said. "He didn't come up to me and say, 'Did you do it?' It was him asking without asking. He was saying, 'Man, I can't think of anything more disappointing than to find out that you did it.' I was like, 'You don't have to worry about that.'"
There might have been a time when Jones wondered what could have been had he opted to attempt to enhance his performance with steroids or other PEDs. But now, as he approaches his 40th birthday, he takes pride in the fact that he has paved his way toward Cooperstown without that kind of assistance.
Jones has hit .304 with 454 homers, 526 doubles, 1,455 walks, a .402 on-base percentage and a .533 slugging percentage. A quick glance at these numbers proves he has had a pretty special career. But a closer examination shows just how special it has been.
Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Lou Gehrig are the only other players in Major League history to record a career .300 batting average with at least 450 homers, 500 doubles, 1,400 walks, a .400 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage.
And Jones' 454 homers are the third most by a switch-hitter in Major League history, trailing only Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle (536) and Eddie Murray (504), while his 1,561 RBIs are second only to Murray's 1,917 among men who hit from both side of the plate.
Like Ruth, Williams, Musial, Gehrig, Mantle and Murray, Jones also takes pride in the fact that he compiled those numbers naturally.
"All that really pays off, going out there and getting better than everybody else and working your tail off to get to a level that nobody else can get to," Jones said, while echoing the message his parents had preached throughout his childhood.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.