Chipper Jones has seen a lot of Atlanta Braves pitchers reach the major leagues in his three decades with the organization.
CAK graduate Spencer Strider stands out from the pack to Jones.
“We have never had that flat-out flamethrower and Spencer Strider is that guy,” Jones said. “He is fun to watch. It is really cool to see all the fake mustaches in the stands whenever he pitches. He is a kind of cult hero in Atlanta.”
Jones, a Braves legend and National Baseball Hall of Famer, was the featured speaker at the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame inductions Thursday at the Knoxville Convention Center.
Strider is — as Jones suggested — a budding legend in his own right and a "monster" in Jones' estimation. The starting pitcher is 7-4 with a 2.95 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 100⅔ innings in his rookie season entering Friday's start against the St. Louis Ca
The fourth-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft out of Clemson is one of the key reasons the Braves are among the favorites to win the World Series for the second straight year.
“I have plenty of experience playing in October,” Jones said. “A guy who can strike people out and limit contact in the postseason, those guys are dominant as you saw with a guy like John Smoltz. He was more successful than even the other two (Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux) because he had so much swing and miss in his game. Spencer Strider has that.”
Jones, 50, was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in the 2018 class. The 1999 National League MVP had a .303 batting average with 2,726 hits, 468 home runs and 1,623 runs batted in 19 seasons with the Braves. He won the 1995 World Series and was an eight-time All-Star.
The Pierson, Florida, native said he comes to Knoxville maybe six times per year. He has a couple of friends that he loses “a lot of money to on the golf course.” He played Tennessee National in Loudon on Thursday and ran into former UT star and Colorado Rockies great Todd Helton.
Jones, the No. 1 pick in the 1990 MLB Draft, reflected on his career during a 25-minute on-stage session with Bob Kesling, the voice of the Vols. He told stories about Maddux, playing minor-league baseball in Knoxville, and how he became a switch-hitter.
Jones has stayed involved with the Braves as a hitting consultant since his retirement. Atlanta is in second place in the NL East behind the New York Mets, a franchise Jones tormented during his career. He named one of his seven sons Shea after the Mets’ former stadium, Shea Stadium.
He has three sons still at home but is paying close attention to the Braves — and Strider — as the regular season heads toward the final month.
“If you’d have told me at the beginning of the season that we would be on the cusp of being 30 games over .500 at the end of August and we weren’t in first place in our division I would have had a hard time believing it,” Jones said. “The New York Mets are a really, really good ball club. It will be hard to chase them down. We are doing as best we can.
"The bottom line is just win and get in. As we showed last year, if you get hot at the right time, anything can happen.”
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Spencer Strider: Atlanta Braves pitcher a 'monster' Chipper Jones says