Announcements from Pettitte, Chipper have fans thinking Cooperstown

By Craig Muder

The breaking news has been flying fast and furious out of Spring Training this week.

Chipper Jones is retiring. Andy Pettitte is returning. And the conjecture is resuming: Will either or both of these two fantastic players make it to Cooperstown?

Predicting the future of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame vote is best left to those who have a vote. But the eligibility rules for Hall of Fame candidates remain perfectly clear.

Start with Chipper, who announced Thursday that the 2012 season will be his last as a Braves player. If he plays in at least one game this year and hangs ‘em up as planned, Jones would be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2018. Eligible candidates must not have appeared in a big league game in five straight seasons, meaning Jones would need to stay retired in 2013, ’14, ’15, ’16 and ’17 before he appears on the BBWAA ballot.

The 1999 National League Most Valuable Player has 454 home runs and 1,561 in both the runs and RBI categories – talk about symmetry – entering the 2012 season. Among Hall of Fame third basemen – Chipper has made 82 percent of his big league appearances in the field at the hot corner – only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews have more home runs and only Schmidt and George Brett have more RBI (Jones trails Brett, the Hall of Fame leader among third basemen, by just 35 RBI).

Pettitte, meanwhile, is returning to the big leagues after retiring following the 2010 season. Technically, Pettitte’s Hall of Fame clock has not yet been reset – since that happens only when a player appears in a regular-season game.

As of today, Pettitte remains eligible for the Hall of Fame Class of 2016 – assuming he adds 2012, ’13, ’14 and ’15 to his non-active 2011 season. The 240-game winner, who also holds the MLB record for most postseason wins with 19, has pitched in 16 big league seasons and been a part of eight World Series teams and five World Series champions.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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