Struggling Chipper: ‘A moral victory for me is a walk’

As this look would suggest, Chipper Jones needs a rest. (AP photo)

As this look the other night would suggest, Chipper Jones could use a rest. But it's a bad time to ask. (AP photo)

The Braves are playing their best stretch of baseball in more than three years. Chipper Jones, the player who usually helps get them there, is playing his worst.

If you’re Jones, the season has been a mixed blessing. He spoke two weeks ago about how much he enjoyed being part of a playoff race again. But two weeks ago, he wasn’t in a stretch of one hit in nine games. Two weeks ago, he wasn’t so clearly on pace to put up some of his least productive offensive numbers since his rookie season — this despite actually leading the team in games played — and openly speaking about how physically and mentally worn down he felt.

“I can sit here and tell you all of the things I’ve done wrong this whole year [mechanically], and the list is long and boring,” Jones said Tuesday. “But the bottom line is, you get a pitch to hit pretty much every at-bat, and if you don’t do your damage with that one pitch, you just do your best to hang on the rest of the at-bat. We are trained to not miss those mistakes. Right now, and for about the last month, I’ve done as good a job as I can to miss every mistake that they make. Right now, a moral victory for me is a walk.”

When reminded that he has been drawing his share of walks, Jones: “I know. That’s kept me sane. But I’m tired, I’m beat up and my mechanics are not good — and all of those things have contributed to this slump.”

These are not words you want to hear in a pennant race. Jones is the team’s best player — when he’s on. He suspects he would benefit from a day off here and there, but he knows that isn’t feasible. Injuries have thinned the bench. Sitting out would send the wrong message to teammates and fans. It wouldn’t thrill the manager. Also, there’s a pennant race going on.

“The last couple of years, when we were out of it, you wouldn’t have trouble asking [for a day off],” he said. “But right now, you definitely don’t want to ask for one. And it could be the one game that determines whether or not we go to the playoffs.”

But he’s running on fumes. He went 0-for-4 with a walk in Tuesday’s game against San Diego. He’s 1-for-28 in the past nine games. He’s hitting .261 since June. His season average of .281 hardly looks like a death knell. But it’s a significant drop from the .324, .337 and .364 averages his past three seasons, and his career average of .310. He has hit lower only twice — .248 in an injury-plagued 2004 and .265 in his rookie season (1995). He’s also pacing for a career-low 20 home runs. Extra-base hits and slugging percentage — also way down.

What’s of greater concern, the drop in power or average? “The average,” he said. “I’ve never considered myself a power hitter. I consider myself a tough out.”

He has spoken to his father for advice. He worked in the cage again Tuesday with Terry Pendleton. He’s trying to get his hands back into his swing. He has been playing through ailments, notably a wrist injury, and has managed to stay off the disabled list. But in a strange way, he thinks that has worked against him.

“I was thinking the other day, ‘How come whenever I come off the disabled list, I get hot?’” he said. “I think it’s because I feel fresh.”

But a day off? Cox said roster injuries have prevented that.

Then Cox added: “You sign on, you play.”

Jones: “Bobby’s of the old-school belief that if you’re healthy, it’s your job to play. I tend to agree with him 99, 98 percent of the time. When you’re in your 20s and early 30s, yeah, you should play. But as you get older, the grind of this lifestyle after 20 years of doing it, does take its toll.”

He’ll get his rest in October. Until then, he’ll hope for more than the moral victory of a walk.

164 comments Add your comment

Bat Masterson

August 25th, 2009
7:47 pm

Are you at the game Jeff?

Jeff Schultz

August 25th, 2009
7:48 pm

Bat Masterson

August 25th, 2009
7:48 pm

oh yeah… first

Bat Masterson

August 25th, 2009
7:49 pm

There is an echo in here….. hellooooooooo

Bat Masterson

August 25th, 2009
7:51 pm

How’s the atmosphere, winning any hearts and minds?

Herschel Talker

August 25th, 2009
7:56 pm

Stick a fork in Chipper. He is done.

Schultzie – the Braves must sweep this series. They need to win 2 of 3 the rest of the year, and since they aren’t beating the Phillies or Marlins 2 of every 3 of the rest of their meetings, they have to bank extra wins against chumps like the Padres. A sweep is mandatory.

Bat Masterson

August 25th, 2009
8:06 pm

You’re right HT, unless of course, they don’t and they do..

Jeff Schultz

August 25th, 2009
8:07 pm

Atmosphere — uh, not quite here for a Tuesday night game against the Padres.

Herschel — I agree they need to AVERAGE a 2-out-of-3 series the rest of the year to makes the playoffs. And yes, sweeping a series would make that easier because you know that there’s no way they win EVERY series the rest of the season. See — I know math.

The_Superhoo

August 25th, 2009
8:16 pm

Sure would be nice if we were a little deeper on the bench and could sit Hoss for a game or two. I think he’s right, could really help an oldtimer like him out.

Herschel Talker

August 25th, 2009
8:22 pm

Schultzie – I notice that ever since Terence was fired, I agree more and more with you and Bradley. I sense a correlation.

Bat Masterson

August 25th, 2009
8:37 pm

After your blog on fan apathy and with your following, I just thought, well… you know….

Angus

August 25th, 2009
9:05 pm

A walk would indeed be a victory tonight.

A night off, and this is what they do?

Arghhhhhhh!

Sonny Clusters

August 25th, 2009
9:08 pm

Jeff, we was wondering if you have any pet names for the players like that sportswriter that calls Chipper, “Hoss”? We heard he calls Moylan “Sweetcakes” but that come from somebody no longer on the team. We was reading where Chipper might need some more time off and we was thinking we work that second shift 52 weeks a year and dont get time off like an off-season where we was able to hunt and fish and make things out of deerskin. What we want to know is if a sore wrist is what is making Chipper miss all those balls at third base or is it more to do with the new glove? And we was wondering if that wrist is the other one that is making his thows go wild? We was never sure since he has a right groin and a left groin and a right wrist and a left wrist. Does he have right and left obliques and is one more tired than the other? We was just wondering.

Jeff Schultz

August 25th, 2009
9:34 pm

Sonny, I always forget if it’s the left groin and right oblique, or right groin and left oblique.

Jeff Schultz

August 25th, 2009
9:35 pm

Angus — no kidding, he’s 0-for-3 .. He leads off the ninth.

Angus

August 25th, 2009
9:38 pm

OK – we’ve still got 3 outs.

Angus

August 25th, 2009
9:39 pm

Angus

August 25th, 2009
9:39 pm

Boog read your post “he’d be happy to take a walk”

Angus

August 25th, 2009
9:40 pm

Another nice one – 3-2

Angus

August 25th, 2009
9:42 pm

Damm – 2 outs left

Bryan G.

August 25th, 2009
9:42 pm

I really hope to hear more from Sonny Clusters. Jeff….we was wonderin if Sonny could get his own column?

Angus

August 25th, 2009
9:44 pm

One on (too bad he’s slow as molasses – check that, AAA Gorecki running)

Angus

August 25th, 2009
9:45 pm

Hit n run with GA?

(Yes, I’m having a conversation w/ myself)

Angus

August 25th, 2009
9:46 pm

Safe? You sure about that?

Angus

August 25th, 2009
9:47 pm

Alright GA – slider in the dirt – don’t swing at it.

Angus

August 25th, 2009
9:48 pm

He took the fastball away – fooled me.

Angus

August 25th, 2009
9:49 pm

Angus

August 25th, 2009
9:50 pm

LaRoche!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Angus

August 25th, 2009
9:52 pm

Di-az Di-az Di-az

(c’mon, say it with me)

Di-az, Di-az, Di-az

Angus

August 25th, 2009
9:52 pm

Oh, well – free baseball.

Herschel Talker

August 25th, 2009
9:56 pm

Schultzie – Cox is a moron. Why was Garrett not lifted for a pinch runner? Gorecki was already committed to the game, so put in a pitcher to run for Garrett and have Gorecki replace him. Stupid fool is Cox!

Sonny Clusters

August 25th, 2009
10:07 pm

We was always fond of extra innings. First, we was well conditioned and wouldn’t get tired like the other team, and second, we was full of hitters. Everybody on the team could hit. If we got into extra innnings we made the other team pay. We was always wanting to win. We liked to put that other team away. Stinky Wintes had killer instink. Not everybody on the team did, though. We knew if Stinky come up we was going to win.

Bryan G.

August 25th, 2009
10:09 pm

God bless Sonny Clusters.

Reid Adair

August 25th, 2009
10:27 pm

Chipper should be careful in a slump like this at his age. Frank Wren will be looking to put him out to pasture.

nola braves fan

August 25th, 2009
10:29 pm

Jeff – when talking to Chipper does he seem that “unhappy” to you? All his quotes this year come off as a tired, grumpy old ball player. I appreciate him being honest, but in a way, if your the leader, talk like it. “i am going to be fine. I will get hot and help my team” etc…

By the way, Soriano looked nasty huh?

Smitty

August 25th, 2009
10:34 pm

The braves may yet win this game but heres what drives me crazy about Cox’s inability to play one game for a win instead of 162 games. I believe he puts more pressure on his players, though they love him for it, by waiting for the “big” hit from whomever. In the 8th, bases loaded, 1 out, let Infante squeeze in the tying run. He might not , but as it was, waiting for the game winner, Infante and Prado went out. Successful on that though , then let Kelly Johnson run for Anderson at first and maybe he scores the winning run behind the tying run and the game is over in the 9th. Damn!

Burgess

August 25th, 2009
10:36 pm

Way to hustle Garrett……….the game would be over by now if anybody but Anderson was on 1st in the 9th.

Sonny Clusters

August 25th, 2009
10:42 pm

Jeff, we was noticing that picture of Chipper grimacing and we was wondering if that was because of a thumb, wrist, toe, ankle, heel, oblique, groin, or hamstring? We was pretty sure we got em all but never can tell. Do you remember what was hurting when that photo was made? We was typing away awhile ago and getting ready to post and that post just disappeared. We was not sure why. Anyway, we was wanting to tell Jeff that Dairy Queen is featuring the Girl Scout Cookie Blizzard this month and we was planning on going over to Dunwoody to try one. Jeff, we can go over there together if you want to and carry some of your stuff.

Bat Masterson

August 25th, 2009
10:50 pm

You know smitty KJ had all ready been in the game

double ewe tee eff

August 25th, 2009
10:58 pm

Burgess nailed it. Nothing like tiring out our already depleted line-up in the first of 9+ straight games.

Oh, and they LOST TO THE PADRES!!!!

BnB

August 25th, 2009
11:04 pm

It has seemed to me that the team does pretty well when Chipper sits recently. Perception or reality? Man, do we play up (down) to the competition or what? Grrrrr..

Angus

August 25th, 2009
11:05 pm

Batters 1-4: 1 for 20.

There’s no reason to look anywhere else.

me

August 25th, 2009
11:07 pm

More great pitching tonight….Ugh the offense when they don’t click. I agree BnB

Steve Brown

August 25th, 2009
11:22 pm

The five years prior to 2003 (MLB steroid, etc. testing) Jones averaged 159 games a year. Since 2003 he has averaged around 120. Very suspicious but no one in this town has ever written about it or has the guts to do so. He is a great hitter who has become a whiner. His hip, his flexor, his wrist, he’s tired. He needs to shut up, suck it up or go hunting.

BnB

August 25th, 2009
11:32 pm

And yet we just signed him to a big three year deal. The guy is a HOFer but has been falling apart for years and it shouldn’t get any better. Was it a PR move? I’m not really so sure that Chipper is a club house leader. He seems to individualistic ala Ted Williams or something. OTOH, he just had a monster year in 2008….

pete nose

August 25th, 2009
11:34 pm

chipper jones is done.and so are the braves.Anybody would have scored from first excelp anderson. why did booby cox not pinch run for anderson?.you can’t win games by loadind the bases late in the game twice with only 1 out and not score.pitiful hiting performance great picthing wasted.

Matt

August 25th, 2009
11:36 pm

It’s tough to recover from all those “age-related” injuries when you don’t have the juice to help you recover.

trob

August 25th, 2009
11:47 pm

braves, if your reading this why dont yall suck it up, show some life, and hustle every now and then. instead of sitting on the bench looking like you dont give a flip cause all of us die hard fans are tired of it. loaf, how the hell are you not gonna score tonight, that was a joke. then you cant even redeem yourself in the 11th? all you do is strikeout. then the top of the lineup going 1 for 20 against one of the worst teams in the NL. dont yall realize that jair only gave up 1 runs and the only reason your still in the playoff hunt is bc of your pitching staff. offense pleaseeeee step it up and put some life in the dugout not just for 2 out of 3 games but every damn game. (after the rain delay against the philles yall looked miserable in the dugout, like you didnt wanna play the game). back your pitching up and make the playoffs bc alot of us still are watching every pitch of every game and to see JJ only give up one run and the offense not to a nything is just ridiculous.

rico carty

August 25th, 2009
11:52 pm

Brutal loss tonight. Just brutal. I don’t know how JJ didn’t snap at the lack of support. How many games has our outfield defense cost us? I know he’s hitting .220 or something, but Andruw Jones, where are you?

John

August 26th, 2009
12:00 am

What happened in tonight’s Tool Race, Jeff? I heard it was a riot!