Not since 1941 has a major-leaguer finished a season with a .400 batting average, but it’s time to accept the possibility that the remarkable feat might be accomplished this season.

As the schedule nears the midway point, it’s clear that the Atlanta Braves’ Chipper Jones has a legitimate shot at .400. Entering last night, the 36-year-old all-star was batting .403. He hasn’t spent a day under .400 since April 12.

And so the late, great Ted Williams must be spinning in his, er, freezer.


“I think Chipper can do it,” said Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who was hitting .394 with the San Diego Padres in 1994, when a strike wiped out that season. “Hitting .400 is about giving yourself an opportunity every time you go up and not wasting at-bats, as Chipper does. . .I think I could have hit .400 in ’94 and I really think Chipper can do it this season.”

Oh, and this gem from Gwynn: “I remember Ted Williams once told me ‘If I knew hitting .400 would be such a big deal, I’d have done it more often.’ “

MLB has chosen June 24 to ban maple bats, which are shattering at an alarming rate. The players’ union is preparing a strong opposition. . .It’s mid-June, the Tampa Bay Rays are still way above .500 and now there are rumblings they could acquire Ken Griffey Jr. before the July 31 trade deadline. . .The Blue Jays’ A.J. Burnett may be interested in joining the Cubs, but Chicago management would prefer Ontarian Erik Bedard, who, along with teammates Richie Sexson and Jose Vidro, will be dumped in the Seattle Mariners’ house-cleaning plans. . .Pat Gillick’s name is surfacing as a possible replacement for Bill Bavasi, fired Monday as Seattle’s general manager. Gillick, 70, insists he’ll retire after this season, but we’ve heard him whistle that tune before, as far back as when he was Toronto’s GM early last decade. . .Tim Russert, the NBC political analyst who died while working last week, was a director of baseball’s Hall of Fame and served on its board alongside Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Tom Seaver and George Steinbrenner. Russert was also a close friend of the Raptors’ Kris Humphries, who’d stay at the broadcaster’s home whenever Toronto visited Washington.

And NHL rumblings:

The Pittsburgh Penguins may trade Evgeni Malkin if they re-sign Marian Hossa and Jordan Staal, the Los Angeles Kings may hire Paul Maurice as coach and either Doug Gilmour or Joe Nieuwendyk will be hired as the Maple Leafs’ new assistant GM.

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