By 2018, five more Atlanta Braves may be in Hall of Fame

The 2012 Major League Baseball season begins next week, and many fans here in Coweta County are eagerly awaiting the new season of the Atlanta Braves. So far during Spring Training much of the Braves' focus has been on aging superstar Chipper Jones.

Jones, who will become 40 in April, announced a week ago that 2012 would be his final season. His bad knees and aging body have limited his playing time in recent years. On Monday Jones underwent another knee surgery and expects to miss at least the first six games of the new season. Fans are asking "just how many games will Chipper be able to play in this final season?"

With Chipper's planned retirement at the end of the year, our thoughts turned to what's ahead for one of the top three switch hitters the game has ever seen. It's certain Chipper Jones will reach the Baseball Hall of Fame. He's likely a first ballot selection when he becomes eligible in 2018 -- you must be retired five years before becoming eligible for Hall of Fame voting.

By the time Jones becomes eligible for Hall of Fame membership, the shrine in Cooperstown, N.Y., could have inducted four others who were members of the Atlanta Braves during Jones' long tenure in Atlanta.

In 2014 pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine become eligible for Hall of Fame membership. In 2015 pitcher John Smoltz becomes eligible. A year later in 2016 former manager Bobby Cox will be on Hall of Fame ballots.

You can pretty much take it to the bank that all of these illustrious Braves will gain Hall of Fame membership. Maddux and Glavine each won more than 300 games as starting pitchers. That makes Hall of Fame selection just about automatic. Smoltz has one of the most impressive set of credentials as both a starting pitcher and as a relief pitcher ever. His candidacy may be a tad weaker that Maddux and Glavine, but Smoltz is likely a Hall of Famer.

Cox is one of the winningest managers in baseball history. His streak of conference championships is unprecedented.

When Chipper Jones becomes eligible in 2018, these other four Braves may already be enshrined at Cooperstown. There could be a big reunion of Atlanta Braves Hall of Famers in upstate New York for the July 2018 induction ceremony.

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