It’s another win, and Chipper is feeling almost young again

Here's Chipper Jones hitting a home run Tuesday night -- and feeling a lot better about things. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com.)

Here's Chipper Jones hitting a home run and feeling a lot better about things. He should after what the Braves did to Washington. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

They’re a factor again. If you’re Chipper Jones and you’re 37 and your body creaks and you make those loud sounds your father used to make and you wake up your poor wife in the middle of the night just when you struggle to roll over in bed, this is what makes it all worth it. A playoff race.

Before this season, Jones signed a three-year extension. He did so after having harbored some concerns about the future. He didn’t want the home stretch of his career crowded with meaningless Septembers. The past three seasons had been bad enough.

“When the contract’s up, I’ll probably be done,” he said Wednesday. “It could be earlier. You know what? My body will tell me. My mind will tell me. It’s been a long career, and my body tells the story. When I get to the point where I’m so mentally and physically fatigued, I’ll gladly ride off into the sunset and not look back.”

Somehow, someway, the Braves have clawed their way into relevancy. Even better. They won again Wednesday night, 6-2 over Washington. They’ve won five straight, the past three by a composite score of 22-5. They took three out of four from a great team (Los Angeles) and then in two games pummeled a long-time cellar-dwelling nuisance (Washington). They have a pulse in the East Division (4-1/2 back of Philadelphia) and they’re more than alive in the wild-card race.

They’re not there, yet. But they’re not somewhere else, either.

Sure, this kind of awakening means a lot to every Brave. But it means more to Jones. He can see the end much clearer than, say, Tommy Hanson.

Understand, Jones made his major-league debut in 1993. He never missed the playoffs until 2005. It makes the misses harder to accept.

“I got spoiled. Early,” Jones said. “But the last few years brought everything that happened in the late ‘90s and early 2000s into perspective. How truly special it was and how hard it was to do what we did for a long period of time. My biggest concern was whether there would be something to play for in the last three, four, five years of my career.

“Your career to a certain extent is defined by the postseason. I’ve had a pretty decent run as far as postseasons go. But all the guys like me and [John] Smoltz and [Tom] Glavine wanted was a chance to get back and punctuate our careers with another championship run. You can’t do that if you don’t make the playoffs.”

We’ll know more after this weekend. The Phillies come to Turner Field for three games, but even if the Braves can’t replicate another series sweep, it looks like September will matter.

To get to October, Jones will need to be the difference. Even with improvements to the lineup, his bat can cause a ripple effect in the lineup like nobody else’s.

He hasn’t had a bad season. He just hasn’t had the year some would’ve expected after he hit .364 last season. His home runs (15) are down, but he attributes that to mechanics, not a loss of power. His RBIs (53) are down, but he’s hitting .380 with runners in scoring position. His on-base percentage: 412. His batting average: .296.

“It’s weird to say hitting just under .300 is a disappointing year,” he said.

But Tuesday night, after missing three games with an oblique strain, he homered in an 8-1 win over the Nationals. The side, the back and most other moving parts didn’t ache as much.

“This is why I signed back,” he said.

93 comments Add your comment

BravesGrrrl

August 12th, 2009
8:03 pm

Chipper now is still way better than a majority of players. He’s a true leader and mentor for many of our younger players. My family has spent many years being thrilled watching him play. Glad we have him (hopefully) until he’s ready to retire.

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2009
8:38 pm

Can’t imagine he’ll play anywhere else. But, I also thought that about . . . well, never mind.

Sonny Clusters

August 12th, 2009
8:47 pm

Jeff, we was thinking a player that punctuates his career needs to be in the lineup more so he can do some punctuation. It’s a lot like when we was in school and learned to diapraghm sentences and needed to know what the punctuation meant so’s we could get the diaphragming right. I don’t think Chipper is healthy enough to punctuate anymore and last week proves it.

All I'm Saying Is...

August 12th, 2009
8:50 pm

Chipper is a solid performer and Hall of Famer whose career stats look better and better given what we now know about the Steroid Era.

I’m no Jack Lalanne [sp.] (who was a first ballot HOF in his field by the way) but I have to believe that if Chipper worked on stretching and flexibility exercises (dare I suggest it: Pilates) in the offseason, then I think he would be more durable and might be able to extend his career (which he could also do by becoming a DH in the AL). Anywho, that’s my 2 cents on the exercise front (and it might be worth half that).

LET’S GO BRAVES!

Ken Stallings

August 12th, 2009
9:02 pm

Substitute John Smoltz for “well nevermind!”

Yeah, I know what you mean, Jeff. Neither did I. But then again, in the truest sense, Smoltz really didn’t play anywhere else when you define it as contributing anywhere else. Smoltzie just proved time played its cruel trick on him.

It’s going to do the same to Chipper also, and likely in two to three years from now. But then again, you can do a whole lot worse than play your way to Cooperstown!

rhynster

August 12th, 2009
9:07 pm

Few athletes leave the field on their own.

I can see Chipper wanting another year at the end of this contract, just like Glavine and Smoltz have wanted.

And like Glavine and Smoltz, I’d hate to see him in another uniform.

But it’s foolish to think that it’s impossible.

Bravesfan54

August 12th, 2009
9:09 pm

Chipper is quite close to his last year hr/rbi numbers, but his average will drop 70-80 points. While 22 dingers and 75-80 rbi are nothing to turn your nose down over, I do feel the Braves should not keep thinking of him as anything other than the club “spiritual leader” who can still produce at a reduced, but declining, level. Bluntly, they need to be grooming his successor methodically, as I believe they are doing. Three more seasons will fully exhaust what I see as the reservoir of baseball in this fine athlete! I say these things as a hardcore Braves fan of 54 years, and a particular fan of Chipper.

Hillbilly Deluxe

August 12th, 2009
9:17 pm

No matter who we are or what we do, we all want that one last ride. Chipper is no different.

Braves fan in Nebraska

August 12th, 2009
9:23 pm

Sonny, you never make any sense with your posts. Your rants about Frenchy and going to the Dairy Queen and now this one about diaphrams. They really should cut the internet access at the nut farm…

Braves fan in Nebraska

August 12th, 2009
9:25 pm

And as a Braves fan stuck in Nebraska, I hope I get a chance to watch my all-time favorite player Chipper Jones live and in person before he retires.

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2009
9:30 pm

Sonny – Are you Norm Crosby reincarnated?

All I’m saying is – Yeah, the stretching thing has been brought up before. But the guy plays through injuries, no question.

Ken Stallings – Wasn’t hard to read my mind on that one, eh?

Braves’ fan — You knocking Dairy Queen?

NRBQ

August 12th, 2009
9:31 pm

C’mon, Jeff.

I’m as big a Chipper fan as anyone, but both you and he need to ease up on the sacrificed, worn-and-torn body business.

Some of us have worked real jobs since before Chipper was born. And we weren’t paid untold millions to play the game we enjoyed as kids (for 7 or 8 months a year).

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2009
9:31 pm

By the way, for those not watching, the Nationals have turned back into the Nationals. Braves have two bases-loaded walks in a 3-run eighth and lead 6-2. Cumulative score of 2 games (so far): 14-4.

Bill Heller

August 12th, 2009
9:32 pm

Why isn’t Chipper batting 8th? McLouth (15 HR) is hitting in the lead-off position and LaRoche (16 HR) is batting 7th. Allow me to kneel in awe before the managerial juggernaut that is “Booby” Cox…

John OTC

August 12th, 2009
9:50 pm

Bill Heller

August 12th, 2009
9:50 pm

I guess what I’m trying to say is that our lineup is seriously flawed.

Toots

August 12th, 2009
9:52 pm

I think you’re cute.

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2009
9:53 pm

Bill — you want the guy batting .296 and .380 with MISP and a .412 on base percentage and the team’s best player since, well, a long time, to be batting eighth? Let me bow to your obvious expertise, sir.

Reid Adair

August 12th, 2009
9:53 pm

Oh no, folks just had to go and talk about Chipper being a Brave for life. Have you not seen enough in the last year to give you serious doubt that will happen?

Come on.

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2009
9:53 pm

Toots — you talking to me? Gosh.

Jeff Schultz

August 12th, 2009
9:55 pm

Reid — I know. I think enough has happened around here in the past year that we should know better.

deano54

August 12th, 2009
9:57 pm

Not to mention he was the NL Batting Champ last year….please wake up ….You wat him to bat 8TH

deano54

August 12th, 2009
9:59 pm

I do think Chipper will have to have a huge Sept for Braves to make postseason…t

Braves fan in Nebraska

August 12th, 2009
10:02 pm

Mr. Schultz – No problem with DQ…love the chicken strip basket. LMAO at your response to Bill’s ragging on Cox’s expertise.

I love how all these know-it-all fans bash Cox all the time. All the man has done has won over 2,200 games and led the Braves to, what, 14 consecutive division titles? These fans say we only won 1 Championship. So what? Don’t you think the Nationals would KILL for one of those years we didn’t win it all?

I’ll end on this…as a fan that would love the chance to go to a Braves game at Turner Field, I am incredibly disappointed at the attendance for these games vs the Nats. 19K last night, ? how many tonight…they are in the thick of the playoff race and the Nats had won 8 straight heading into it? Come on Braves fans…get out there and support the team!

RHR

August 12th, 2009
10:02 pm

rhynster @ 9:07

I imagine that Chipper will go out like Maddux…he won’t prolong it and he won’t go to another team. I would be surprised if he went the Smoltz/Glaving route.

deano54

August 12th, 2009
10:06 pm

I agree RHR….I think Chipper will want to go out on his own timing…not dictated by diminishing skills. However, I still think he has a few years of good baseball ahead of him…barring injury …of course

RHR

August 12th, 2009
10:11 pm

Or the Glavine route. It’s even more brutal than the Glaving route, I hear.

chad

August 12th, 2009
10:33 pm

I think you might mean 2006 was the last time he didn’t make the playoffs. I know we made in 05 against the Astros Jeffery!

Supes

August 12th, 2009
10:36 pm

Jeff,

A few days ago the idea was thrown around on the DOB blog to possibly move Chipper into the 2 hole in the order, if not this season then next year in 2010.

At this point in his career, he’s still a very good player, but someone like Escobar and or Heyward (down the road, which maybe sooner rather than later) I think maybe worth a shot in the 3 hole.

Speaking of lineups…getting McCann out of that darn cleanup spot would be great too. That’s up to Frank Wren…bring in a power hitting RH bat to hit cleanup (Jason Bay) ?

If Chipper is able to give us 15-20 HR, and hit around .300 still, he’ll get his fair share of walks, it would be outstanding production out of the 2 hole in the order.

As far as hitting 3rd…I think the longer he plays his numbers will slowly start to diminish….and that’s not a knock on the man, he’s done more than enough for the team and the franchise over the years. It’s a hard reality…having an aging superstar type player to deal with.

Mitch C

August 12th, 2009
10:43 pm

I really hope that Chipper can keep playing as he is, that the Braves can make at least.. the wild card.. this year, and that he can retire as a Brave. He would be one of very few to do so.

If I know the battler than Chipper is, even if he plays 120 games a year, I think he’ll finish the contract, and then hang it up after the three years. He’ll probably retire with a 300 average, at or near 500 homers, and be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Even with all the injuries, Chipper has had a very good career.

Mitch

J-MAN

August 12th, 2009
10:57 pm

I do think that the braves organization should be looking to groom up the future replacement for Chipper in the next 2-3 years because we have nothing even close to Major League caliber talent at 3B in the minors and when Chipper finally does Hang EM up we will be caught with our eyes closed to this fact. Mabye you could get Freddie Freeman to play some at 3rd or mabye try to see if Cody Johnson can try it and become somewhat decent defensively but it definately would take some effort. But as for right now Chipper is a class act and does it the right way.

RHR

August 12th, 2009
11:01 pm

J-Man,

A lot of people think it will be Yunel giving it a shot at 3B … that’s the best idea I’ve heard anyway.

clint

August 12th, 2009
11:02 pm

chipper is the braves, simply put. he’s the leader other than bobby, and remember, when we started this beautiful tradition, he was the #1 draft pick in 1990. he is one of the best switch hitters of all time, in fact in the top 3 with eddie murray, and the mick. if you want your child to watch a true hitter, have them watch chipper, and then pujols. nothing against albert, chip gets it done from both sides of the plate plus he can play some mean hot corner. also, growing up us little leaguers were always told to watch how the pros do it, well very few do it right anymore, but chipper handles himself with pride, but most importantly he honors the GAME. He honors his team, and fellow teammates. Simply put, HALL OF FAMER!!

Nothing Like October

August 12th, 2009
11:15 pm

I’m glad we finally caught Nyjer Morgan stealing!

(He was safe the first two times he was called out…)

scottbravesfan

August 12th, 2009
11:22 pm

Bill Heller,

You are not the dumbest human being on the AJC blogs. Congrats.

And Atlanta, seriously get out and support your team. Less than 20,000 for a team that just took three out of four against the best team in the NL and is right in the middle of not ONE but TWO playoff races. Not only are they in the middle of the NL east race but they are right there for the wild card. COME ON ATLANTA!!!!!

scottbravesfan

August 12th, 2009
11:26 pm

17886 at the Ted tonight. What a disgrace Atlanta. That city should be looted and their teams divided between Charlotte and Raleigh. Braves to Charlotte, Falcons to Raleigh, Thrashers to Charlotte, and Hawks to Raleigh. At least they will be supported there. Charlotte held the sell out streak for the Hornets in the NBA and Raleigh has been a great home for the Hurricanes, minor league baseball,and three major NCAA basketball programs. Their college football teams suck though so the Falcons would be top dog in Raleigh during the fall.

Jeff Schultz

August 13th, 2009
12:03 am

RHR – agreed. I think when Chipper’s done, he’s done.

SUPES – He’s certainly capable of hitting 2nd but you’re still talking about your best hitter with MISP being move to No. 2. Not sure about that. Not the best use of Chipper. That said, it depends on other things the team does this off-season. … On Heyward: I hesitate to rush the kid.

ScottBravesFan – Agreed on fan support. I know it’s weeknight and kids are back at school – and it’s Washington – but crowd was WEAK tonight.

Keith

August 13th, 2009
12:37 am

My brother made an insightful statement tonight and said, “Tonight’s game may be more important than any one game this month.” He was obviously referring to keeping the momentum alive (have we had a 5-game win streak this year? Thought it was only 4 but could be wrong) headed into the Phillies series. Congrats, Braves! I’m a believer as I pray our pitchers stay healthy.

Also, Jeff….Hudson for closer???

Keith

August 13th, 2009
12:44 am

Scottbravesfan: I agree!! The Braves’ fans were completely SPOILED during their division wins all those years. Now that they’ve not made it…I think they are taking it for granted. Went to 2 games in one week. Figuring out how I can go this weekend!

Nick

August 13th, 2009
1:39 am

As far as a replacement for Chipper is concerned, how about Martin Prado? He already plays 3rd when Chipper doesn’t, and he is showing how well he can hit. It seems to me putting him at 3rd would be a logical choice if there is no one in the farm that looks promising.

Patrick, South Carolina

August 13th, 2009
2:06 am

Enjoy reading your blogs, I hope chipper stays around for the remainder of his career. What worries me is that the Braves don’t play the Rockies anymore this season; So I think that puts a huge damper on our wild card chances even though we are only three games out. Whereas the division race we at least can control our own fate.

abudefdef

August 13th, 2009
2:15 am

I agree Scottbravesfan…it’s sad that in a Major Metro area like Atlanta, the Sox, Yankees and Cubs game are much more like away games for the Braves rather than home games…sad sad sad!

Jeff, not all kids are back in school, some don’t start til the 17th! So there is NO EXCUSE for people not coming out to support the Bravos! But my guess is the Ted will be rocking and rolling for the series this weekend against the Phillies!

GO BRAVES!! SWEEP THE PHILLIES!!

KEEP THE FAITH BRAVES NATION!!
Keep the Faith!
***WHOOOAAAAAAAAAA OOOAAAAAAAA WHOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAA OOOOOOOOOOAAA**
*TOMAHAWK-A-CHOPPIN*

TomaHawk

August 13th, 2009
2:26 am

Great 2 game series and 5 game stretch and counting Bravos!!! I’m loving what I’m seeing out of LaRoche, Wren has GOT to be feeling good about that afterthought trade. And getting omar back only makes us that much better. I think the lineup is lookin really good and pitching too, as has been all year. I’m loving the feeling, I will be watching with great enthusiasm the rest of the season!! AND I WILL BE THERE SATURDAY AFTERNOON TO SUPPORT!! GO BRAVOS!! CHOP CHOP!!

joe for 3

August 13th, 2009
2:30 am

I like the new straight from center field camera feed. those curve balls look even more crazy.

DamYankee

August 13th, 2009
6:47 am

My prediction is that all the ATL Bobby haters and Chipper whiners will get their wish at the same time – when Bobby goes, Chipper will go or vice versa. As to ATL baseball fans – I agree this isn’t a baseball town and a high percentage of fans who live here are imports who still root for their old home team, but one thing that keeps me home is $$. I attended the June 7 game against the Red Sox and including the ticket I dropped $110.00. The place should be renamed “Hoover Field” – it’s a giant vacuum cleaner designed to suck the cash out of fans’ pockets.

Reid in EAV

August 13th, 2009
7:34 am

If Chipper truly finishes his career with the Braves, I want to be there at his last game. I remember watching Jeff Bagwell’s last game with the Astros a few years ago (and Bagwell had never played anywhere else, ever) and got chills up my spine. If Chipper doesn’t pull a Smoltz, I imagine the vibe will be the same and then some.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

August 13th, 2009
7:49 am

On the differen’t uniform, even Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth finished in differen’t unis, that’s just baseball.

I don’t know if Chipper is HOF but I think if he hadn’t had so many injuries AND he had caught a break on another MVP, then I think he would have been a first ballot guy. Chipper has been an All Star 6 times. I don’t think he gets the recongnition nationally that he deserves. Otherewise, he would have been in 10 All-Star games.

Tomahawk Talk

August 13th, 2009
8:01 am

i will cry the day Chipper Jones throws in the towel and you better believe i will be at the retiring of his jersey just as I was for Mad Dog

Tomahawk Talk

August 13th, 2009
8:10 am

you dont know if he is hall of fame worthy? are you serious? the man is one of the best hitting switch hitters of ALL TIME! he has first ballot written all over him. 8 consecutive seasons of 100+ rbis, 14 consecutive seasons with 20+ homeruns. there are only a few hitters in the history of baseball that have comparitive stats to that. Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. 6 time All-star, MVP, 423 homeruns. coming up on 1400 rbis, coming up 2400 hits. a career average of .310 thats obsurd for a switch hitter. to say you dont know if he is hall of fame worthy? your out of your mind

SRF

August 13th, 2009
8:12 am

Chipper can still really hit when healthy – still better than many when hurt. Seems to me he could make some money as a DH….