Chipper Jones was back in the Braves dugout this morning — on crutches.
“I thought if the guys saw me around, it might lift their spirits,” he said.
Yes, or depress everybody with the reminder of what the Braves need to accomplish without him. With their National League East Division lead over Philadelphia down to two games and the potential of a frenetic wild card race they would prefer to not drop into, the Braves face the Los Angeles Dodgers again today at Turner Field. They have managed to split the first two games of this series, despite scoring only two runs. (For the record, the Braves have lost only one home series all season: in April against Philadelphia, dropping games two and three to start the nine-game losing streak.)
Jason Heyward (lingering knee bruise) also is out of today’s lineup, despite the Braves facing a right-handed pitcher (Vicente Padilla), further weakening the offense. Manager Bobby Cox has moved Rick Ankiel up to second in the order, and Melky Cabrera will play right field and bat eighth.
Back to Chipper. David O’Brien and I will be posting more of his comments later, but he reaffirmed he still believes the Braves are a playoff team, given their starting pitching. He also seems as determined as ever to try to come back surgery for a partially torn ACL, even though he’ll be 39 years old next season. A sampling of his pre-game comments:
♦ On his intent to come back: “I proved to myself that I can still play at a high level. That confidence that you can still go out there and hit in the middle of the lineup, that’s not going to change. But I know what the first injury did to me from the standpoint of range and stealing bases, the ease of going from home to first, stretching a single into a double. That’s would be the first thing that weighs on me — what I can and can’t do compared to what I could do this year.”
♦ On his expectations if he did come back: “I’ve come to the realization “I’m not going to go out and hit .350 and hit 30 homers and drive in 110 runs. But I realize that I can still help these guys win ballgames. That’s the thing. That’s all you ever want to be known as a ballplayer. There are a lot of guys who put up numbers and don’t help you win ballgames. I feel like I can do so many other things to help is win ballgames than just hit a big home run. I guess over the last two months I’ve come to the realization – not to sound brash or anything – that I’m more valuable than I thought I was. I would miss that. If I were to make the decision now to turn away I’d regret it, and that’s why I didn’t make it.”
♦ On the Braves: “Our pitching can keep ius in 90 to 95 percent of the games. It’s just a matter of somebody coming up with the big hit as for whether we win or not. We’re not going to blow anybody out 10-1. We’re gonna play a ton of these 3-1, 2-1, 4-2 ballgames in the next month and a half and we’re going to have to win our fair share of them.”
That’s it for now. I’ll be here blogging live during the game.
Here’s today’s question: After what you’ve seen the last two games, do you still believe the Braves are a postseason team?