Chipper Jones gets hit in return and takes a swing at critics

Chipper Jones had a single in first spring game since his knee injury last August. (AP photo)

Chipper Jones had a single in first spring game since his knee injury last August. (AP photo)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Seventeen years ago this spring, Chipper Jones turned to avoid a tag at first base in an otherwise meaningless exhibition and his knee buckled. He heard a pop. Then he heard a doctor say, “torn ACL.” At 21 years old, he wondered if his career was toast.

“Honestly, I was a lot more scared the first time this happened,” he said Sunday. “I didn’t know anything about the injury. I didn’t know if I could be the same player that I was before.”

Jones’ second attempt to come back from a reconstructed knee began in earnest Sunday. He played in a game for the first time since suffering a torn ACL last August. In an exhibition against the New York Mets, he went one for three (strikeout, single, flyout) as a designated hitter and even broke up a would-be double play at second base — with a cautious and “measured” slide.

“Once the season starts it will be, ‘Go after him.’ Right there, it was, ‘Don’t blow out [the knee in] the first game,’” he said, smiling.

Baby steps. Unlike when Jones was injured as a rookie, he is confident he can pull this off. It’s others who wonder.

When an athlete pushing 39 has reconstructive knee surgery, the tendency is to speak about them in past tense. Or worse. Some cynics not only question Jones physically, they wonder if money is his primary motivation. This accusation generally comes from the short-sighted, ignorant and disturbed segment of the populace that vents on sports talk radio and posts comments on blogs, all behind the comfort of anonymity.

When I asked Jones about the accusation, he laughed.

Then he swung away.

“If they think I’m doing this for the money, they obviously haven’t seen my bank account,” he said. “I’ve never played this game for money. Nor will I. My mind doesn’t work that way. I play this game because I love my teammates and they wanted me to come back.

“I still feel like I have something to offer, and the cynical fan can really kiss my ass. I really don’t care. There’s a bunch of true fans and the people who actually want to take the time to get to know me know who I am. The guy who sits in his mom’s basement and types on his mom’s computer, I couldn’t really care less about.”

Everybody else gets a big hug.

Jones has made over $141 million in his career, including $127 million in the last 10 years alone. To blow through that much cash would require dropping paychecks into a food processor or possibly just being your average former heavyweight champion.

Doing it for the money?

There are a lot of reasons to be cynical about pro sports today. Chipper Jones isn’t one of them.

In mid-June last year, when he was still hitting .230, retirement was imminent. His mother even cracked that he should sacrifice a chicken. But over the next several weeks, his timing returned, his legs felt stronger. In his last 19 games before suffering the injury, he hit .349 (22 for 63) with three homers, five doubles, nine walks and 12 RBIs.

“I just felt locked in,” he said. “Unfortunately it took a few months for that to happen, but better late than never. Then the injury hits and I’m in a new frame of mind. If the injury would’ve happened a month and a half earlier, I probably would’ve retired. Timing is everything.”

The closeness of last year’s Braves team also played a role in his decision to return. “If this was a team like we had four or five years ago, things might be different,” he said. “We all like hanging out together. That’s unusual in this day and age.”

The knee has flared up periodically in the spring. But so far there has been nothing that ice and a day off couldn’t cure.

“I just have to get to the point where I’m not Andre Dawson and have to drain it every day when I get to the park,” he said.

If the knee holds up, he believes playing 140 games is realistic. The real test comes when he plays in the field and is required to plant and pivot for a throw.

“It just feels good to be playing again,” he said.

And that’s not about money.

By Jeff Schultz

Previous posts from Braves’ camp

Braves camp: Chipper’s return, Uggla’s debut, Cox’s spring ejection

Braves hoping to recreate chemistry from 2010 season

So what does Freddie Freeman (3 doubles) do for an encore?

Digi-Blog goes to Braves’  spring training at Disney (they charge, I don’t)

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

304 comments Add your comment

NYBuffaloBravesFan

February 27th, 2011
4:25 pm

MY fiance cried when Chippper was hurt; and then was enraged when people said he only played for the money. She never grew up a baseball fan, but when she started watching games and reading about the team she really liked Chipper and his work ethic. She realized that for some one of his caliber player to stick with the same team for so long when he could have been pulled away for more money shows that his dedication is too the organization, not his pay check… Luckily for me because of that dedication, i can pull off trips from Buffalo to Atlanta every year to see some games. Good luck Chipper, i hope the knee holds on, and you have a great season!!

TheDorkBaller

February 27th, 2011
4:31 pm

Chipper, you’re the man.

I hope you can continue to contribute for many years to come, and when retirement finally arrives, I look forward to seeing the number 10 hanging at The Ted.

Mom's Basement Dweller

February 27th, 2011
4:33 pm

I’d like to point out to Chipper that I’m typing on my own brand spankin’ new computer!

1eyedJack

February 27th, 2011
4:37 pm

HPSP

February 27th, 2011
4:37 pm

Yay! I get a big hug!

Anthony

February 27th, 2011
4:37 pm

I don’t blame you Chipper. If i could make a living doing something I love I would do it as long as I could. Especially playing a game cause doing something you love isn’t work, it’s called fun. We all like having fun. I live in Rome and have enjoyed watching you a long time. Keep up the great work,or should I say, fun!! Go Braves!!! :)

Steve

February 27th, 2011
4:37 pm

Nicely done Jeffrey. Any highlights from today’s game?

LongWayHomeBrave

February 27th, 2011
4:38 pm

Go get ‘em Chip. No matter what those basement dwellers say, you are a main cog in this team. With Bobby gone you are our last link to our great 90s run. Keep puttn in work and show these idiots why you are a future hall of famer

Ozzy

February 27th, 2011
4:41 pm

I wouldn’t pattern my personal life after the guy, but on the field, he’s a gamer. And that’s all that really matters for fans right?

He’s delivered a lot of great memories for Brave’s fans. Hopefully he can retire on his own terms and not have it dictated by a career ending injury.

Jeff Schultz

February 27th, 2011
4:43 pm

NYBuffaloBravesFan — Terrific comments.

Chop It Up All-Star

February 27th, 2011
4:43 pm

Good for you Chip…and I don’t know why, but it’s still funny to see the word “ass” in a newspaper article.

justin1

February 27th, 2011
4:43 pm

1st ballot HOF

JOE

February 27th, 2011
4:44 pm

NY Buffalo Braves Fan: Where in Buffalo are you from? I’m from upstate NY as well. I went to school at Geneseo so I was in Buffalo frequently. As to your comments: very well said i agree completely. Chipper has taken many a pay cut throughout his career and has shown a loyalty to his team that you just don’t see anymore in this game. There will be no questioning what hat he wears in the hall of fame. He’s a brave through and through.

Rupert

February 27th, 2011
4:44 pm

Chipper Jones is a ballplayer. He can get out of bed and walk into the box and get a hit. He still has a presence about him, which his teamates understand, that will help this team. Nothing was really the same after he went down last year. He will not hit 35+ homers or drive in 100 rbi’s but he will play ball and grind out good ab’s. As someone who is usually quite cynical, I can say that it will be a privilege to watch #10 play one more year. He has been the heart and soul of the this team, and given everything he could to the Braves. It hasn’t always been perfect, but he’s the best ATLANTA Brave there has ever been. Folks need to sit back and enjoy this year.

Jeff Schultz

February 27th, 2011
4:48 pm

Steve — Non-roster invitee Shawn Bowman had a terrific game at third base (basically Chipper’s spot) with a two-run hit and a great fielding play. Prado went 2 for 3 with an RBI. Joe Mather doubled in a run and scored. Scott Proctor: not good. Nor Beachy. Rodrigo Lopez pretty solid 2 innings to start.

Jonathan

February 27th, 2011
4:48 pm

Chipper has given homewtown discounts, restructured his contract to free up money to sign other players, moved positions three times, plus all of the amazing things he’s done on the baseball field. He is a true of a Brave as they come, he may even be buried with a tomahawk across his chest. I’ve grown up with this team, from the horrific days of the eighties to the glory days of the ninetees. Chipper is the lone holdover from our dynasty. He loves this orginization and his team more now than I think he ever has. I wouldn’t want anyone else at the hot corner and in the three hole Chip. Kick some ass this year, can’t wait to see you all April 8th.

TampaGator

February 27th, 2011
4:50 pm

Hey, Chip, what about the retirees that sit on his balcony on the beach and think you have hurt your ” little pinky” once too many times in the last five years while earning 15 mil a year. For those sitting in such places, we really don’t care what Chipper Jones thinks. I respect your past accomplishments….but the last three years….well…you should have been DHing in the AL.

BehindEnemyLines

February 27th, 2011
4:51 pm

That’s okay Larry, you’ve been cordially invited to KMA for years now, we’re just even. He’s become too brittle to be a consistent contributor, his work ethic vis a vis conditioning has been questioned & with rather obvious good reason, he’s an financial albatross, and he’s a slimeball off the field. The sooner this arrogant p.o.s. is out of uniform for good the more enjoyable watching the Braves will be.

TampaGator

February 27th, 2011
4:51 pm

Should have been….”sit on a balcony on the beach and think”

Remarkable

February 27th, 2011
4:54 pm

When Chipper does retire, they will put a statue of him beside Hanks and it will be well deserved. He could have gone other places for more money but he chose to stay with Atlanta and we thank him for that!

Remarkable

February 27th, 2011
4:57 pm

P.S. Who cares what a Gator from Florida thinks about Braves Baseball? Watch the Rays.

Steve

February 27th, 2011
5:00 pm

Thanks Jeff!

"Chef" Tim Dix

February 27th, 2011
5:07 pm

“and the cynical fan can really kiss my ass.”

The Georgia Peach would be proud.

To hell with them Chipper, they couldn’t afford bus fare to Cooperstown.

Las Vegas Brave

February 27th, 2011
5:07 pm

Leave it to a Gaturd to take a shot at a Georgia icon. The guy is simply class. Glad to have him as long as he wants to be here. Great mix of guys. Gonna be a great year.

StayCRagsLuvsChip

February 27th, 2011
5:11 pm

I say the haters can kiss my country, Braves cheering, Chipper lovin’ ass! Been a Braves fan for almost 34 years and a Chipper fan for 18 years. I support you with or w/o cash! Maybe all of these cynics need a couple of broken fingers and torn ACL’s… maybe then they couldn’t work momma’s computer! LOVE YA CHIP… GO GET EM!!!!!!!

Maggie Brockhouse

February 27th, 2011
5:15 pm

“I still feel like I have something to offer, and the cynical fan can really kiss my ass. I really don’t care. There’s a bunch of true fans and the people who actually want to take the time to get to know me know who I am. The guy who sits in his mom’s basement and types on his mom’s computer, I couldn’t really care less about.”

I wonder what he means by true fans? Perhaps the ones that gloss over his child out of wedlock and 20+ errors? Right. Why don’t you just retire with your bank account and open a strip club… adulterer!

Also, these so called teammates that want you back are just keeping in your good graces.. In case they need a job bouncing at “Chippers.”

Hillbilly Deluxe

February 27th, 2011
5:17 pm

Any Major Leaguer who’s played as long as Chipper has, has all the money he needs, if has any financial sense at all. Guys who play this long, play for pride and/or love of the game.

DawginOH

February 27th, 2011
5:18 pm

Forget the haters, Chipper! We real Braves fans love you and appreciate all you have done for the organization. We got your back all the way, man. Go get ‘em!

ATL FAN

February 27th, 2011
5:25 pm

Why is everyone on Chipper’s jock? The guy would do much better to this team if he were to reconstruct his contract as he should if he’s not playing for money, or to simply retire and do his team better. Please Chipper, money HAS to be a reason, if he had 1 season left last season for $1 million dollars, he would easily have retired…

Rolly

February 27th, 2011
5:25 pm

Maggot Brockhouse, go spread your hatred elsewhere. What Chipper means by true fans, is just that, fans that know and appreciate what a great baseball player he is and the sacrifices he has made for the Braves. He is a future Hall of Famer and you are just a typical run-of-the mill loser who tries to make herself feel superior by belittling others. You’re so full of yourself, you even have the audacity to speak for the entire team. Get some help.

Rolly

February 27th, 2011
5:29 pm

Why should Chipper (or any player) restructure his contract or retire, ATL FAN? I don’t remember anyone twisting Frank Wren’s arm to sign him to his current contract. It is what both sides agreed to and Chipper has every right to play until it expires if he wishes to do so.

Maggie Brockhouse

February 27th, 2011
5:30 pm

Maggot Brockhouse, go spread your hatred elsewhere. What Chipper means by true fans, is just that, fans that know and appreciate what a great baseball player he is and the sacrifices he has made for the Braves.

Chipper only continues to play because of his ego. How many HOF’ers have amassed multiple seasons with 20+ errors? My guess is not many or none. That being said, he should be disqualified from the HOF for all his errors and sticking around well past his prime.

Finally, if he really wanted what’s best for the team and doesn’t care about money.. (Funny he’s not living in a trailer or anything.) He’d schedule a presser and say its over.

Rolly

February 27th, 2011
5:32 pm

That’s your opinion, Maggot, and we’ve already established that you’re not a “true fan”. Chipper says you can kiss his ass.

JL Burke

February 27th, 2011
5:48 pm

My 10-year old son wrote to Chipper and received an autographed picture in return. He gained 2 life-long fans in the process. I hope his knee holds out and he finishes his career on his own terms. I wish we could have more stars who spend their career with one team. Here’s hoping we have at least a couple more guys in McCann and Heyward that do the same thing.

Larry

February 27th, 2011
5:48 pm

“This accusation generally comes from the short-sighted, ignorant and disturbed segment of the populace that vents on sports talk radio and posts comments on blogs, all behind the comfort of anonymity.”

Jeff,

I assume you realize you are referencing the AJC readers (you know, customers that are the foundation of your’s and Chipper’s employment?) correct?

Secondly, what if they are right?

TM923

February 27th, 2011
5:49 pm

I just don’t get people sometimes.
To those who hate on Chipper, what does a player have to do to earn your respect?

He is the best position player in franchise history since… ?
He has been loyal to the Braves in an era where everyone jumps ship.
He makes a lot of money, but who doesn’t in MLB?
And, no one on this blog pays his salary… so what do you care.

The guys is going in the HOF as a Brave and is near the end of his career.
If you can’t root for Chipper, you are not a Braves fan.
And most likely will never root for anyone who has “earned” it.

H

February 27th, 2011
5:49 pm

Can’t wait to get to the stadium to see Chipper again!! I brought my 3 year old to see him last season for his first ever Braves game. So psyched that we will get to see him again this year. First thought that came to my mind when he go hurt was that at least my son got to see Chipper Jones play. You don’t get to see guys like Chipper that much anymore…take advantage of it.

Maggie Brockhouse

February 27th, 2011
5:50 pm

Rolly – How do ya know when its time to close a tab? When the jock sniffers start acting like only the so called “true fans” buy tickets and merchandise.

Let me tell you something: True fans want what’s best for the team and Chipper at 3B or even on the 25 man at that rate is not a good deal.

Greene Hornet

February 27th, 2011
5:56 pm

I support the Braves and Chipper as a part of the Braves. I hope they all have a great and productive season and remain healthy, playing as a team. The one thing I admire from Chipper and the Braves organization during the run and now is that we have really not had the ego and the “me first” types of players. Yes, players make alot of money in all professional sports. The fact remains until the system changes or the government makes it illegal, then there is nothing any of us can say about it which would make any sense.

Folks can attack Chipper’s personal life, but yet they hide in the safety of their homes behind a computer screen not revealing the problems, bad decisions, sinful ways, and otherwise predicaments they have gotten themselves into in their lives. Chipper and everyone else is a human being. If he slept with someone, etc- it doesn’t matter. I have my problems, he has had his bad decisions and problems. I guess I have always looked at it by the fact that I have not led a perfect life, then why should I point out the errors in other’s lives. I’m sure of the people complaining about Chipper’s past, they wouldn’t want someone digging down too much in their life and complaining about it here or elsewhere.

Chipper, I wish you good luck and most of all I hope the Braves have a great season. They are my team. I have never wanted to root for a particular player with the transient nature baseball and all professional sports are nowadays. I’m glad he’s been Brave his whole career. As a Braves fan, I say thank you, Chipper.

beone

February 27th, 2011
5:58 pm

I don’t think the real issue is whether Chipper still has anything to offer. I suspect he does. However, I also believe that the Braves could be a better team if the money that Chipper is being paid were allocated to another player in their prime. Those $ are not small and they should be used to pay another star. If Chipper were willing to accept a salary more in line with his contribution then everyone would be a winner. But for a guy with mediocre power and likely able to play no more than 60 – 75% of the season, he is overpaid. And the Braves don’t owe him anything, he has been paid $141M. Geez.

Stevo

February 27th, 2011
6:03 pm

NYBuffaloBravesFan, we need more comments like that. Truly awesome

CECIL UPSHAW

February 27th, 2011
6:04 pm

YOU KNOW WHAT “HANG NAIL LARRY”………….BACK AT CHA’ PUNK!!!!!!!!!!! DAY IN & DAY OUT I HAVE TO BE IN PISS POOR CONDITION TO NOT SHOW UP FOR MY “EVERYDAY” JOB!!! IF YOU’D GET YOUR FANNY IN PLAYIN’ SHAPE IN THE OFF SEASON INSTEAD OF HUNTIN’ YOU WOULD HAVE ALREADY OVERTAKEN ALL OF THOSE BEFORE YOU WHO’VE PLAYED 3RD!!! BOTTOM LINE IS ..YOU GET YOUR MONEY!!!!!

Rolly

February 27th, 2011
6:08 pm

Maggot Brockhouse – Let me tell you something: True fans want what’s best for the team and Chipper at 3B or even on the 25 man at that rate is not a good deal.
______________

That statement alone tells me you know nothing about baseball. Chipper is still the face of the franchise, is still the player who gets the loudest applause when he comes up to bat, is still a name that any American would recognize even if they aren’t baseball fans, and is still a valuable player on the team for his OBP alone. That doesn’t even begin to address his leadership, his mentorship of younger players, or his value as a Braves spokesperson.

What I’m trying to say is that no matter how much you hate him, he’s not some piece of garbage that the Braves can just throw away.

Rolly

February 27th, 2011
6:10 pm

beone, the Braves owe him whatever is left on his contract, period.

Mark

February 27th, 2011
6:14 pm

NYBuffaloBravesFan good job

Bravefan and we need the money

February 27th, 2011
6:16 pm

Staying past your prime is not disqualification for the HOF. If it were, Unitas, Namath, Willie Mays, etc..would not have made it in their respective sports. Saying that, Chipper is not in any way, shape or form the player he was 5 years ago, or even three years ago, and is no longer a 14 mil a year player. If his name were John Jones, not Chipper, he would have been released after the season. I’ve watched Chipper and his on field heroics for almost two decades, and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I hope he is able to come back, not to his form of the last two years, as that will not help the Braves, but hurt them. So, is it unreasonable to hope that he returns to the form of 3 years ago? Is it likely that it happens? He was great, he will be a well deserved HOFer. He has taken home town discounts in the past to stay here, now it is evening out. He’s making 14m a year, and putting up numbers more deserving of league minimum pay.

Mike Lum

February 27th, 2011
6:16 pm

I’m a huge Chipper fan BUT given the fixed payroll of the Braves I do agree that his contract hamstrings them because unlike the Yankees, Phillies, Mets, etc…..Time Warner will not bust their budget to bring in the big name free agents. That’s the only reason I struggle with Chipper’s $14M, because the Braves are paying for his past performance and don’t have the budget to go out and get someone to complement his diminishing numbers.
I guess we could argue that’s a Braves/Time Warner problem and not a Chipper problem.

Let's Go Larry!

February 27th, 2011
6:16 pm

I think it’s funny when people say he’s playing for the money when back in the day he took less money in order to help the Braves stay strong

brofatley

February 27th, 2011
6:17 pm

I will be a Chipper fan forever. I wanted to name my son Shea 13yrs. ago ’cause he use to light it up when he used to play the Mets there. His mother wouldn’t have it, but to my suprise he named his son Shea. A couple of years ago my son son meet Chipper and told him that and he looked suprised and gave my son his towel, super cool.

The Dude Abides

February 27th, 2011
6:17 pm

Chipper Jones in 2011: .300+ BA, 20+ HR and as always .400+ OBP

Bank on it.