Chipper Jones has more pride than to sit back, collect checks

Chipper Jones hasn't been the same player since winning the batting title in 2008. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Chipper Jones hasn't been the same player since winning the batting title in 2008 and a retirement announcement seems imminent. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Updated at  1:45 a.m. with quotes from Chipper Jones’ parents.)

It was spring training of last season when the Braves gave Chipper Jones a three-year, $42 million contract extension that would run through the 2012 season. What followed was one of the most disastrous seasons of his career.

I’m not sure why, but over the past year the number of people telling me, “Chipper doesn’t care; he’ll just sit on the disabled list and collect his money for three years,” probably has dwarfed his number of defenders by 20-to-1.

To those people: You don’t know the man.

The career slide and injuries that have followed Jones recently frustrate him more than you can know, so much so that an official retirement announcement appears imminent.

As Jones stood by the batting cage, I asked him when we can expect him to address retirement.

“At some point during the home stand,” he said (and the Braves are home for only six days).

Was an announcement just being held up by red tape issues?

Jones smiled at the question. “I’ve got some things I’ve got to take care of,” he said.

He wasn’t supposed to publicly address the issue at all.  When news leaked earlier in the day, he even asked the Braves to put out a news release informing the media that Jones would not speak on the topic. But his media-friendly persona got the best of him.

Reports circulated earlier in the day that Jones was meeting with Braves manager Bobby Cox, general manager Frank Wren and team president John Schuerholz, and that he planned to make 2010 his final season. That’s when team officials scrambled. This is not how announcements are made, let alone for one-franchise superstars and sure-fire Hall of Famers.

The fact that Jones has over two seasons remaining on a three-year, $42 million extension possibly creates some contractual issues that Jones needs to resolve with the club. Or rather, the club needs to resolve with him. Fact is, Jones himself is not much for formalities.

It’s important to note that nobody is denying the story, least of all Jones.

“I need to go through the proper channels,” he said when he arrived at the stadium. “Once those [issues] have been taken care of, everyone’s questions will be answered.”

Just don’t ask the question, “Will he stick around for the sake of the paycheck?” Answer: no.

Jones has been contemplating this since the winter — yes, even with a $42 million carrot dangling there. That’s the difference between Jones and some athletes that we mock. That’s certainly the difference between Jones and Mike Hampton. The former Brave broke down long before his contract did.

Hampton couldn’t get out of bed without having a major organ explode. Funny. It never seemed to affect his ATM finger.

But Jones is different. “He’s a prideful guy,” pitcher Tim Hudson said. “That’s why he’s been a little frustrated this year. But that’s any superstar. They’re going to have pride in what they do and they’re going to be upset when they feel they’re not living up to the standard that people have come to expect. That said, to me he’s a guy who’s still contributing and helping us win.”

It’s all relative. Jones has 40 walks. But he knows he is not batting third for 40 walks.

He entered the Tampa Bay game hitting only .228, which was behind even last year’s average of .264, which was far behind his 2008 average of .364. But this was a good night. He doubled and scored in the first inning. He hit home run No. 4 on the season and No. 430 in his career in the eighth. It didn’t make much of a difference in the final score (the Rays won 10-4, dismembering Kenshin Kawakami and Chris Resop). But at least there were rare highlights.

Afterward, Jones did not dress at his locker, preferring to remain away from the media. However, how parents, Larry and Lynne, who had traveled from Texas a day earlier — it was a prearranged trip; the timing was coincidence — waited for Jones outside the clubhouse.

Larry Jones initially said he did not believe his son would make an immediate retirement announcement, adding: “I think he personally will know down the stretch.”

But soon after, he added: “He’s down in the dumps about things right now. He talked to me about [retirement] three or four months ago. I told him, ‘Don’t make a decision based on how you feel right now. Give it a chance.’ But he’s a grown man. He’s 38 years old and he’s earned the right to make his own decisions, and we’re gonna support him.

“I’m good with the fact that the end is near. I just wish, I hope, the end comes with him playing well.”

The nagging injuries for Jones have been piling up. Just when it looked like he was starting to come out of it this season, going eight-for-16 during a five-game hitting streak, he started having problems with the ring finger on his right hand. He had missed nine of 11 games before Tuesday.

“I’m old,” he said at one point, between swings during batting practice.

When asked about the injury, Jones gripped the bat, showing how he leaves the pinky on his  lower hand (when batting left-handed) off the end of the bat.

“That [ring] finger takes a lot of  the brunt of my swing,” he said. “When you normally grip the bat with only four fingers,  it makes it a lot harder to grip it with three fingers.”

He desperately wants to get back to the postseason. A memory jog for you: When the Braves won the World Series in 1995, Jones was a rookie.

But he has been spending too many days sitting or whiffing. The Braves are doing well, but Jones is not playing to the level he either hopes or expects. And he is not one to sit around and collect checks.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

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162 comments Add your comment

Bobby Coccyx

June 15th, 2010
12:08 pm

He’s a good kid

Braves fan 4 life

June 15th, 2010
12:09 pm

I hate to say it, but it is best for the Braves and Chipper if he retires. He is a first class player and representative of the team and he will be missed. Hope he stays with the organization in some capicity.

Techman

June 15th, 2010
12:13 pm

if he does, kudos to him. I’m certainly not knocking him but if I were in his situation, I would continue to play and collect the money. He earned it, IMO.

MatthewH

June 15th, 2010
12:13 pm

Thank God he’s not like Mike Hampton. Is some team still paying him? Is it us?

plussizemodel

June 15th, 2010
12:13 pm

Hopefully he won’t hurt himself when he signs the paperwork to void the contract.

XTX

June 15th, 2010
12:14 pm

Chipper=Class Act

plussizemodel

June 15th, 2010
12:15 pm

“He went to manager Bobby Cox and said he would give his blessing to being dropped in the batting order. Cox, not surprisingly, declined to do so.”

Of course not, that would make sense.

woooooooooo!

June 15th, 2010
12:19 pm

He won’t retire.

He’ll have a good second half, mull it over, and then the fever to play again will catch him in the spring.

Just don’t see it being possible for anyone to walk away from the game with a contract in place.

No, I don’t think it’s about the money, but it’s about the chance to keep playing a sport that he loves.

Casey Washington

June 15th, 2010
12:21 pm

The Mike Hampton crack made me almost spill my coffee! That was funny!

Bob Horner could pull anybodys fast ball

June 15th, 2010
12:27 pm

I agree with woooooooooo! IF Chipper has a good 2nd half….15hrs/45rbis BUT if his play doesn’t improve then I agree with JS…Chipper is not a scum bag…he has pride he’ll retire….I’m a lifelong Braves fan which means I’m also a lifelong Chipper fan….the constant injuries are annoying as a fan….but I don’t walk in his shoes…

Gumby

June 15th, 2010
12:28 pm

Time catches up with everyone. Your mind makes promises your body can’t keep (yes I am quoting Little Feat). I think Chipper has reached that point and he is such a class act that he knows it and would rather walk away if he can’t help. I really do think his presence even on the bench helps because the other players look up to him. This is CHIPPER JONES!! One of the best players we’ve seen in a long time. The man Bobby Valentine said would not be allowed to beat them…..and they foolishly pitched to him anyway. I hope fans realized what they have, unlike taking for granted the era of Glavine, Maddox, and Smoltz. It’s nice to see a guy stay with one team when you know he could have left. I hope when he does retire he eventually wants to coach in some capacity. I think he would be a good one. Whatever his decision and when he will always be one of the greatest player that the Braves have had, a great guy that we fans got to watch, and a good guy to boot.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Henry Cassey and T Haney, Jeff Schultz. Jeff Schultz said: BREAKING: Chipper leaning toward retirement after season. http://bit.ly/buHu0J [...]

J dubb

June 15th, 2010
12:31 pm

It would be too good to be true for the BRaves to get to the WS again this year with Chipper providing part-time, biiiiig pinch hits so he could be a part of another one.
He and Bobby both deserve another title…..AND SO DO WE!
Hopefully we can keep up this beautiful baseball we’ve been watching lately.

VaBravesfan

June 15th, 2010
12:31 pm

Mike Hampton story-funny!! Chipper Jones story-sad. Chipper has been my favorite Brave a long time and it has been painful to watch his decline, the same as it was to watch John Smoltz, and see them struggle to play a game they obviously love.

Reid Adair

June 15th, 2010
12:31 pm

Chipper Jones has been one of the best players ever to wear an Atlanta Braves’ uniform. If he decides it’s time to retire after the season or if he decides to give it another year, I’ll respect his decision. He’s earned that.

bamaguy

June 15th, 2010
12:31 pm

I would consider it appropriate to sit on the DL for the remainder of his contract and draw the entire 42M. He has earned it. MLB is a business and they signed a contract with the man. They should honor the contract.

Chop Chop

June 15th, 2010
12:32 pm

Hampton had won 130 games or so by the age of 32. Tim Hudson had a similar number of wins at that age. Hampton thought he had a lot of years left in him, so he tried to overcome the injury bug and earn that bloated paycheck. He had some pride. I can respect that. It’s just easy to rag on the guy because we’d rather not blame the organization for being unlucky enough to get saddled with such a situation.

gadawgs

June 15th, 2010
12:35 pm

10 is no Hampton..Not even close. If you do retire after this year Chip thanks for the memories and all you have done. Would love to have him as a hitting instructor in the organization…. I could also see him being a manager down the road.

[...] ♦ Chipper Jones has more pride than to just sit back and collect checks [...]

Mike Jay

June 15th, 2010
12:40 pm

Another hall of fame Brave’s career is coming to an end. I feel old and a little sad. I ageree with Gumby, would love to see him coaching in the organization at some point. Batting coach, 3rd base coach, even a manager at some point.

toby

June 15th, 2010
12:46 pm

It’s probably the best,i know these #s are embarassing to chipper,but he wont say anything now to bring attention to himself of upset the apple cart,but like Griffey Jr,there comes a time for all athletes even the great ones that father time catches up to you.But he will definatley go down as one of the top Braves to ver play.

Michael Scharff

June 15th, 2010
12:48 pm

I’ll never forget Chipper basically single handedly destroying the Miserable Mets several years ago. He was my Braves hero then. The Mets fans would scream “Laaaarrrryyy! Laaaarrrry!”, then Chipper would park one in the cheap seats and shut them up (at least temporarily). I’ve had mixed feelings lately about him based only on the reports we get from the ajc. I tended to think that he is not prone to “tough out” injuries, and I can’t recall any other baseball player who has come down with more injuries over the past 3 years. Still, I wish him the best, and I hope he and our Braves can continue their winning ways for 4 and a half more months and bring the ATL another WSC!

Braves fan

June 15th, 2010
12:54 pm

If Chipper retires now and I mean right now, we can offer Glaus a contract and keep him a brave to play 3rd base. If Chipper hangs on for the end Glaus walks and we have no 3rd baseman and a rookie 1st baseman. I would rather have Glaus. Chipper needs to retire now, free up the money so that the braves can secure Glaus before season end. Bring Freeman on now.

Johnny Rocker #49

June 15th, 2010
12:56 pm

Chipper better keep playing, he got 700 kids to feed.

Hooters waitresses all around the country are mourning today.

David C

June 15th, 2010
12:57 pm

JS you really know Chipper? Then I can assume you have asked him if he’s been clean since 1995 and his regular breakdowns and falloff in the last two seasons are not contributed to PED’s? I love Chipper. I loved Javie too. That said, I will not bury my head in the sand for anyone. Brave not not.

What's Important

June 15th, 2010
12:58 pm

Chop Chop, I used to defend Hampton too. However, I stopped when he blew off the Braves’ offer after he had collected so much from the team for doing nothing.

Chipper Jones has always played hard. He has been incredibly loyal to this ball team and the fans. If he does retire after this year he will have shown Messrs. Smoltz and Glavine the graceful way to hang it up, and I for one appreciate that. He should be in the Hall of Fame and hopefully he will chose to stay with the organization in some capacity. If the Braves felt Glavine deserved that, then Chipper Jones certainly does. I hope the City of Atlanta feels the same way. I am assuming that most of the derogatory, childish remarks on the blog are from disgruntled Mets fans.

Mike Jay

June 15th, 2010
1:03 pm

Braves Fan, Please explain your thinking because it makse no sense. Chipper will be paid the remainder of his salary (for this year)irregardless of when he retires this season. As he should he has earned it. Most people think Glauss can not play third base anymore due to his shoulder injury. He can certainly swing the stick but making throws form third – first is another matter. Still it would be interesting to see. freeman is not ready for the show yet and rushoing him up would be a mistake.

What's Important

June 15th, 2010
1:03 pm

Johnny Rocker #9, at least he didn’t cheat with a Perkins waitress while eating Subways and drinking Baileys Irish Cream from the bottle. I believe Chipper Jones has a stable marriage with his second wife and is very involved in all of his children’s lives.

BigBravesFan65

June 15th, 2010
1:04 pm

Here’s another possible angle — one that would fit Chipper’s ethics and mentality (IMHO) AND his desire to win another championship — since we are approaching the Trade Deadline the Braves could be serious buyers with a REWORKED contract which allows Chipper to stay — make plenty of money — but make some room to bring in somebody else to help put the Braves in the drivers seat….. wouldn’t surprise me if that’s what he plans to chat with management about. His leadership and winning attitude are enough to justify him staying put as far as I’m concerned — maybe not $14M a season — and I’m guessing he agrees and is going to try and do something really good for the team (note: If the MLBPA will let him — they despise players doing the right thing you understand)

Johnny Logan

June 15th, 2010
1:10 pm

Anyone that’s watched even a few of Chipper’s at bats this year can plainly see the man is a shell of his former self. The bat speed is not there. He’s not hitting pitches he used to scald. Sometimes he even looks like he is hoping for a walk. He’s a future Hall of Famer for sure, but I’m afraid he’s hurting the Braves this year.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

June 15th, 2010
1:11 pm

Jeff,

What is the salary ramifications for next season if he does in fact retire? We talk so much in Football how releasing players or players who retire count against the Salary cap, but since baseball does not cap a “hard” cap, what will Wrenn’s flexibility be like next season?

jimbo

June 15th, 2010
1:11 pm

Chipper may not be 100% on the field but the team still needs him in the dugout.

Without him on the team this years Braves would be leaderless.

He and Bobby can retire together – after the mother of all retirement parties that will be the Braves World Series win at the end of this season.

Bob

June 15th, 2010
1:15 pm

David C, really PEDS?

Chipper has not avoided injury which is what they help to accomplish, Barry had numerous injuries then all of a sudden was healed! Javy Im not sure about but chipper didn’t take anything.

gcs

June 15th, 2010
1:15 pm

It’s amazing to me the short memory that fans have. It’s not just the Rookie of the Year, the MVP and hundreds of big hits Chipper has produced for the team over the years. On more than one occasion, he has unselfishly offered to restructure his contract so that the team could sign some free agents.

.

Mackey Sasser

June 15th, 2010
1:17 pm

“Jones is different. He has some pride. He also desperately wants to be part of a winning team again. He wants to get back to the postseason.”

If all of this is correct, shouldn’t we expect Chipper to scrap the remainder of his $42 million deal, resign with the Braves for the league minimum, and fill the Greg Norton role?

I don’t see that happening.

P Rose

June 15th, 2010
1:17 pm

To Johnny Rocker #49 (and everyone else): Lay off the Hooters references. The man has four sons. You wouldn’t have the guts to say that to his face. Saying it here is hypocritical and spineless.

Chop Chop

June 15th, 2010
1:19 pm

What’s Important,

It was a good thing for Hampton to “blow off” the Braves’ offer. I was happy to see him go. It was ridiculous for the club to even think about bringing him back. My point is that the guy had pride. Maybe he didn’t have enough humility to accept his accursed fate, but he certainly had pride. He could have quit at any point between 2005 and 2008. He didn’t. He toiled in the minors, toiled in extended spring training, rehabbed, etc. That kind of stuff isn’t fun, so there must have been some motivation and pride involved.

john b, sloop

June 15th, 2010
1:19 pm

Insurance paid for hampton u bums,, braves did not

P Rose

June 15th, 2010
1:23 pm

Sporting News Rookie of the Year, 1995

6-time All-Star

National League MVP, 1999

2-time Silver Slugger at 3rd base

Third-most home runs for a switch hitter

400 Home Runs

2008 NL (and MLB) Batting Champ

Future 1st ballot Hall of Famer

Well done, Chipper

Mike Hampton Owes Me Money

June 15th, 2010
1:25 pm

Hampton had a full tear of his rotator cuff and some partial labral damage. Hampton will miss the 2010 season

steve brown

June 15th, 2010
1:27 pm

No need to re-hash the Chipper work out routine debate. Just wanted to give you some inside information-the reason Chipper may hang it up is that this injury to his finger has put his “huntin” career at risk.

chief pitchanono

June 15th, 2010
1:28 pm

Good article, someone needed to write it. I hate to see all the Chipper bashers out their on the blog. Mostly fair weather folks I guess, probably the same ones who would have fired Glaus & Bobby back in April. Chipper has been what Heyward will be. The main offensive force for this team for an entire career. People should be excited about Chippers past, like they are about Heyward’s future. If it all works out like it appears and he does retire at the end of the year, I don’t see how anybody can say anything bad about him. Once somebody starts giveing up their money, you know they are truly dedicated to the city, and the team.

Jeff

June 15th, 2010
1:29 pm

Lowcountry: There is no salary “cap” in baseball. If you have a payroll over a certain amount, you are taxed. That’s it. any cap is self imposed by the ownership.

Tremaine

June 15th, 2010
1:29 pm

As a Braves fan I appreciate what he has done for this team but seeing the way they got rid of David Justice, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and more I’m not going to take it easy on him. He should retire today.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

June 15th, 2010
1:32 pm

Obviously Baseball does not have an official Salary Cap, but Wrenn is working under an unofficial salary cap. That was my point, sorry for not making that clear.

CJ retires, how much will he count towards ’11’s salary “obligation”.

F-105 Thunderchief

June 15th, 2010
1:34 pm

Hold on there, Tex … he’s done a 180 already.

TONE

June 15th, 2010
1:39 pm

what happened to ron gant ? steve avery ? wampus cat sheffield ? anybody know

gt

June 15th, 2010
1:41 pm

Chipper sees the tea leaves and knows without Bobby he is toast. He stuck around as long as the going was his way, but the next manager would not ask Chipper’s permission for anything. In the days of Mantle or lesser paid players these courtesies of letting a gate turner like Chipper overstay his ability were common. These players played for peanuts and desired the special treatment. Now we have two things, one this is a good team and he is holding up a space a good player could use. Two he got his at the bank and if he can leave with some dignity that Bobby will afford him he will make lots more after baseball.

Geez Louise

June 15th, 2010
1:44 pm

I’m sorry, but Mike Hampton worked his butt off. Nobody held a gun to the team’s head to offer the contract he got. Bad luck makes you a bum, in some people’s eyes, I guess. Geez.

Mike Jay

June 15th, 2010
1:51 pm

Steve Brown,

Even if what you say is true i would not blame him for retiring because of it. He has a good 40 years of life after baseball and is entitled to as high a quality of it as the rest of us. If he needs to retire now to be able to enjoy things he loves to do away from the game of baseball ten he needs to do it.