(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien.)
Good morning, denizens. Or so it feels after a late night at the ball yard, when I yearned for the days of Greg Maddux and Esteban Yan and the two-hour game. But I’ll stop the moaning and groaning before it starts.
Actually, after talking to Larry and Lynne Jones after the game last night, it sort of set in, what all this talk of Chipper Jones leaning toward retirement really means. I think both his parents hold out hope that Chipper will change his mind if he turns things around at the plate but they are also both accepting that 2010 could well be the end for him.
“I’m good with the fact that the end is near,” Larry Wayne Jones Sr. said. “I just hope the end comes with him playing well. I hate for him to walk away from it and feel like he was on the down slope. Too many good things have happened in his career to leave it with that kind of taste in your mouth.”
And his mom Lynne: “We’re going to shed a tear regardless.”
And dad Larry: “I hope he plays some more. I’m going to miss coming to the ballpark.”
I don’t know if it’s just me, or what, but it seems like with baseball especially, we are prone to live day-to-day, series to series, week-to-week and then all of a sudden you look up at the end of the season and it’s over.
You know what I mean? I mean, it’s get through this 11-game road trip, or OK, now the Braves are in the midst of interleague play, or hey, there’s a big series with the Phillies coming up, or yes, we made it to the All-Star break. And all of a sudden it gets to the end of the year, and the thing is over.
I think I learned that you have to break it down that way if you’re mentally going to survive a 162-game baseball season, if you’re one of us shaping our work lives around it.
I remember the first time I really looked hard at a baseball schedule. It was the first year I was on the Braves beat full-time for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1999, after covering mostly home games for the Macon Telegraph in the mid-1990s. My eyes got wide as I scanned the schedule, just trying to find a way to make sense of it, how I’d survive it, covering 135 some-odd games.
Ultimately you just had to play some tricks on your mind, bear down and just start the thing. Then you’d just take it in short bursts. That’s about what I’ve done in all the years spent around the ballpark ever since.
But now, doing that this year, if you’re like me, we’re going to wake up at the end of the year and the thing is going to be over. Bobby Cox is going to be retired, and so is Chipper Jones. I’m sure when Jones makes it official, and if he sticks to this plan, barring some change of heart with a good run late in the season, that the Braves and fans will find ways to honor him. Just like teams are doing around baseball to honor Bobby and the Braves will do as we hit the end of the year here.
But I for one, still don’t think it’s sunk in. Nor probably will it, until I wake up that day after the season is over. Or maybe next spring. The first time I walk into that spring training clubhouse and Chipper’s locker at the end of that first row as you come through the door has somebody else in it. (And that’s not even talking about how weird the manager’s office and dugout will be without Bobby.)
Chipper’s locker is a place where every reporter who comes through the door gravitates to eventually, where conversations range from daily life things about hunting, Nascar, the Florida Gators, or his sons, to hitting, pitching and some of the more intelligent baseball conversations you’ll ever hear (at least what Chipper is talking about, Ain’t saying all the smarts are coming from the writers. Smile.)
I think Mark Bradley captured a lot of this in his column yesterday when he pointed out what has been so obvious for so many years we get numb to it. That Jones anchored this lineup for years. And he anchored the clubhouse. I’m not saying Chipper should hang on if his gut, his mind and his heart are telling him to move on. I’m just saying it’ll be a big, big, big shift and in a span of a few years that has had its share of goodbyes….to Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine.
Meanwhile Chipper looked as good at the plate last night as he has in some time, with his fourth home run of the year and a double. Maybe this retirement talk just fired him up a little. Or like some of you suggested, having his parents in the stands was good luck for him. Just so you know, his lifelong batting coach Larry Wayne Jones Sr. and his lovely wife Lynne will be in the stands again tonight.
Time for the reality at hand…The Braves’ NL East lead is down to one-half game on the Mets, and the Braves have got to contend with the Rays for two more days. You like their chances with Tommy Hanson tonight and Tim Hudson tomorrow night but man, after seeing the Rays in person last night, you really have to come away impressed.
Just watching Carl Crawford fly around the base paths and then beat Brian McCann to home plate on a two-run single, even after he fell coming home from third, was impressive enough. David Price was nasty, with his pitches ranging from 98 to 77 mph, from fastball to curve. Evan Longoria’s first inning home run was mighty.
But hey, the Braves have got their interleague ringer going tonight in Hanson. He went 3-0 with a 1.06 ERA in three interleague starts last year. He beat the Orioles, Yankees and Red Sox all in a span of his first five starts when he burst onto the major league scene last June. The Braves are 10-3 in Hanson’s starts this season.
He’ll face right-hander Wade Davis, a 24-year-old out of Lake Wales Fla. Davis is 5-6 with a 4.91 ERA. He’s lost back-to-back starts, although he had a quality outing (three earned runs in seven innings) on June 10 against the Blue Jays but lost 3-2.
The Braves are trying to avoid their first back-to-back losses at home since April 21-22 to the Phillies. They had a nine-game home winning streak snapped on Tuesday night. Me? I’m hoping to avoid another rain delay. There’s about a 40 percent chance of rain at 8 to 9 p.m. but think it’ll taper after that. No mas.
Couple of thoughts re: last night’s pitching
All along, I’ve thought Cox’s inclination would be to keep Kenshin Kawakami in the rotation and move Kris Medlen back to the bullpen when Jair Jurrjens returns, but you have to wonder if that thinking is starting to change at this point.
Jurrjens is scheduled to have two more minor league rehab starts, so that leaves Kawakami at least another start maybe two, to turn things around. You hope not only for his sake, but just to let everybody on the team breathe when he pitches that he snaps his 0-9 streak. And with Medlen, it seems like you can’t lose either way. He has clearly shown great value in both a starting and a relieving role.
Chris Resop had a rough night in his first outing as a reinvented sinkerball/more complete pitcher. Maybe he was just battling some nerves in his first major league action in two years, when he allowed five runs in two innings. And that was an awfully nice lineup he was facing. You hope he can get back out there soon and pitch well before any doubts might creep in that his newly-revamped game might not translate from Triple-A.
Cunningham to Rome
By the way, Braves second round pick Todd Cunningham, the 53rd pick out of Jacksonville State, has signed and is expected to report to Class A Rome on Thursday to begin his conversion from outfield to third base.
The former Cape Cod and Texas Collegiate League batting champion will take a day or two to acclimate and take some batting practice before getting into the Rome lineup. He’ll be the only Braves draftee this year to go directly to A ball. Second round pick right-hander Andrelton Simmons is in Danville, and supplemental first round pick Matt Lipka is with the Gulf Coast Braves.
OK more from the ballpark shortly.