Will past controversial tweets impact Chipper Jones' Hall of Fame chances?

Chipper Jones headlines the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. (AP)
Chipper Jones headlines the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. (AP)

Hall of Fame season is always a contentious time for those tasked with voting and for those with passionate opinions on the subject. This year is starting off with even more fervor than usual though after Joe Morgan’s letter urging voters to leave PED users off their ballots.

Morgan’s letter, which Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan quickly shredded while explaining his decision to abstain from voting, attempted to zero in on keeping steroid users out of the Hall of Fame. However, it seems to have motivated some voters to step back and evaluate candidates based on character and integrity issues that go beyond taking PEDs.

We saw our first potential example of that this week when St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Jose de Jesus Ortiz decided to leave Chipper Jones off his Hall of Fame ballot.

The former Atlanta Braves third baseman is a surefire Hall of Famer based on his play on the field. Ortiz wrote as much in a column explaining his vote, stating that Jones’ first time on the ballot will probably be his last as he’ll likely receive the 75-percent required to get in. However, Ortiz also made it clear that there are things Jones has stated publicly that made him too uncomfortable to put a check next to Jones’ name.

It mostly comes back to controversial and sometimes callous tweets that have appeared on Jones’ feed. The most uncomfortable being when Jones called the Sandy Hook school shooting a hoax. That tweet struck a chord with a lot of people. Jones would apologize for it later, but it had already changed the way a lot of people viewed him. Among them, clearly, is Ortiz. Here’s an excerpt from his column:

Although it’s quite obvious that past steroid and PED users have been inducted, it’s important to listen to Morgan and the Hall of Famers.

But if you’re going to focus on character, Jones is quite lacking.

“Y’all think if they took all them gators they trap in Fla and La and put them in the Rio Grande, it wud stop the illegals from crossing? Jk” Jones tweeted on June 8, 2013.

Then on Feb. 6, 2015, Jones tweeted this gem: “So the FBI comes out and confirms that Sandy Hook was a hoax! Where is the outrage? What else are we being lied about? Waco? JFK? Pfff …”

Many people die crossing the border in an attempt to find a better life in America. A man of character and integrity doesn’t dehumanize immigrants with jokes about migrants serving as gator bait.

Jones eventually apologized for his truther tweet about the Sandy Hook massacre in which 20 children and six adults were killed.

To be clear, Jones will not be the first despicable person inducted into the Hall of Fame, which already has inducted racists, spousal abusers and cheats in the past.

Jones will cruise to induction based on his playing career, but his tweets show a tremendous lack of character and integrity, not to mention class.

I won’t take the easy route again this year. Jones will make it in easily without my vote. I’ll judge this class on more than just their standing against their peers. I’ll consider character, integrity and Morgan’s request, so I’ll stop voting for Bonds this year.

Those who believe Jones belongs in the Hall of Fame aren’t necessarily defending his tweets, though there are some of those people too. It’s mostly people that don’t believe a person’s politics or perceived lack of compassion should impact a Hall of Fame vote. It’s basically the same debate that rages around Curt Schilling every year, and we know how intense that can get.

Ortiz’s vote and explanation highlight the fine line that can separate Hall of Fame hopefuls from gaining favor with voters. Some voters have moved beyond the PED era and are ready to welcome anybody and everybody, regardless of their PED past, into the Hall of Fame. Others clearly haven’t reached that point, with Ortiz admitting Morgan’s letter has caused him to reverse course on Barry Bonds. Then there’s another group that’s willing to look beyond off the field behavior and other non-baseball related controversies, while others, like Ortiz, aren’t comfortable brushing those issues aside.

With that in mind, we don’t think Jones’ controversial tweets will be enough to impact his Hall of Fame chances. He’ll likely be leading the 2018 class based on pretty strong numbers (.303 career batting average, 468 home runs). There’s no PED connection with Jones either, which certainly helps.

Assuming Jones gets in, perhaps that will help us understand where that fine line is between players like himself and Schilling. Guys with very good numbers, who are presumably clean, though with controversial viewpoints. Then again, Jones’ likely election might just do more to confuse us about where the line is drawn and how consistently those standards applied.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!