Chipper Jones doesn’t want to let October pass without him

Chipper Jones, here after homering against Coloirado on July 6, has shown he still can deliver in the clutch. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Chipper Jones, who homered last week, still can deliver in the clutch. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Strange words tumble out of an athlete’s mouth after 17 seasons and two major knee surgeries. They say things at 39 that they never imagined themselves saying at 25.

“It’s amazing how your standards go down as you get older,” Chipper Jones said. “It used to be if I didn’t come away from the ballpark with two hits, I was ticked. If I didn’t produce a run, I was ticked. Now I’m hitting .250, .260. That disappoints me. But when the team has absolutely needed me to get a big hit, I’ve done it. I’ve been solid. Not great, but solid. That’s all I came into this season wanting.”

Welcome to Chipper Jones’ new reality. It’s really not all that bad. Fact is, it still has a chance to be pretty special.

When the Braves resume the season Friday night, Jones will be rehabbing from minor knee surgery – if there is such a thing as minor surgery at 39 – to repair torn cartilage. The injury forced him to miss two games against Philadelphia and a start in the All-Star game.

“A little bit of a downer,” he said of missing the All-Star game.

But it was an easy decision. Last fall, after the second torn ACL of his career, Jones missed the stretch run of the season and the playoffs. That can’t happen again. The Braves’ last remaining link to the World Series teams hasn’t played a postseason game since 2005.

Though he doesn’t want to think or talk about retirement right now, he knows there aren’t many of these  runs left. Conceivably, this could be his last. So the surgery had to happen now.

“The All-Star game had to take second place to helping this team get back to the playoffs,” he said.

“Obviously we lost three one-run games to the eventual World Series champion [San Francisco],” he said. “You would like to think you would’ve been able to make a play here or had an at-bat there that would’ve affected the course of a game. That will always stick in the back of my mind. The other downer was I didn’t get a chance to be on the field for [Bobby Cox's] last game. It was hard to sit back and watch that.”

The Braves are in a terrific position to win the National League East. They trail Philadelphia by only 3½ games despite injuries to Jones, Martin Prado and others, as well as unexpected struggles by Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward.

Jones’ critics never would acknowledge this, but he is one of the reasons the team is this close to the top.

He probably should have had surgery several weeks ago when he first was injured. But the Braves were undermanned and in such an offensive funk that he didn’t think the timing was right. So he took cortisone injections. The geraniums who contend he’s only extending his career for the money don’t think about things like that.

As for the numbers, they’re misleading. The .259 batting average – that’s relatively anemic for Jones (a career .304 hitter) and a No. 3 hitter. But he is hitting an improbable .403 with runners in scoring position (career average .304) and .429 when there’s a runner on third. He is second on the team in RBIs with 46.

Where would the Braves be without that?

“The days of me putting the team on my back and carrying it for stretches – I don’t know if that’s going to happen again,” Jones said. “But I can help the team win.”

He says he is riding a bike and walking without a limp. He hopes to start jogging in a few days. His best-case scenario: He’ll be back 15 days from last Saturday’s surgery – or roughly the start of a homestand on July 25 against Pittsburgh. That leaves plenty of time to get ready for August, September and certainly October.

“My motto in life is to not worry about things I can’t control,” he said. “I can’t control next year and the year after that. But I can control a little bit what happens this year. I wanted another chance to get back before I rode into the sunset.”

By Jeff Schultz

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

196 comments Add your comment

Grammar Queens..

July 14th, 2011
8:19 am

spotman

July 14th, 2011
8:21 am

good for him

Bear

July 14th, 2011
8:24 am

Need Chipper 100% to catch Philly

Trojan

July 14th, 2011
8:26 am

Chipper has been a great LEADER. Come on Frank Wren, let’s win while we have a chance, get another hitter and get help in the bullpen.

PS Frank: Don’t get average players, get people who can help.

T Dog

July 14th, 2011
8:26 am

Pulling for you Chipper! Can’t get to the Series without you!

Dr. Warren

July 14th, 2011
8:27 am

I think this will be the year it all pays off for Chipper. There have been few athletes in Atlanta history who deserve a glorious finale more than he.

Impartial Observer

July 14th, 2011
8:27 am

It’s amazing that Chipper says he is walking without a limp so soon after surgery. That’s a very good sign. I hope his recovery remains as positive as he is indicating. The injury he incurred late last summer must have been much more severe given the recovery time required.

tp

July 14th, 2011
8:32 am

It’s been such a pleasure to watch Chipper play for the Braves all of these years. But to watch him grow into the leader he is today has been even more amazing. In my mind, there aren’t many players playing today with Hall of Fame numbers who you can truly say are assets both on the field and in the clubhouse. He certainly fits the bill.

Herschel Talker

July 14th, 2011
8:33 am

Schultzie:

Chipper is falling apart worse than Simon in Airplane II. Chipper’s career has been a blessing to us in Atlanta, but it’s obvious that playing half a season isn’t going to get it done going forward. After this October, he needs to retire and stay on as hitting coach, but we need a 3B who can play full-time. I say after this year we should move Prado back to the infield and put him at 3B and bring in a solid OF in the offseason if we don’t get one at the trading deadline. What say you?

HT

Paul Casanova

July 14th, 2011
8:35 am

DAMN GOOD BRAVE!!!!!

That’s how a HOF’er plays ball and acts people. We have been blessed as Braves fans to watch this career. Never sold out for more money.

D-MAN

July 14th, 2011
8:38 am

Wont be long before all the Chipper haters chime in,been playing with a split knee cap!You should never question the mans heart and loyalty to the team!

Chief Hittabatta

July 14th, 2011
8:39 am

Chipper needs to make this last playoff run count. Then he can focus on being hitting coach full-time.

michael riordan

July 14th, 2011
8:39 am

pretty obvious battle cry should be ringing out from the Braves locker room …. “Let’s win this one for the Chipper”

Dirty Bird

July 14th, 2011
8:42 am

Hunter Pence or Michael Cudeyer pleeze!!!!

Hankie Aron

July 14th, 2011
8:45 am

Good observation HT. I agree

Dawgfan79

July 14th, 2011
8:47 am

Chipper is still the man ! Clutch as he ever was……….clutch as he ever was.

I hope Chipper gets well soon. With him and Prado both healthy this team can make some noise in October. Just imagine if Heyward and Uggla can stay luke warm with Freeman continueing his hot hitting ? The pitching is top notch as is. Could this be a magical season ?

Go Braves !

JASon

July 14th, 2011
8:47 am

“Chipper Jones doesn’t want to let October pass without him”

I was not aware he was going to die. This is sad news.

Hankie Aron

July 14th, 2011
8:47 am

I like Hunter Pence but it’s gonna take a lot to pry them out of their hands. I just dont’ see the Braves trading Teheran, Vizcaino, or even Randall Delgado. Those guys are the replacements when we lose Hanson or Jurrjens or both.

Hankie Aron

July 14th, 2011
8:48 am

Dirty Bird- Cuddyer

Hankie Aron

July 14th, 2011
8:49 am

Your welcome

Mitchell

July 14th, 2011
8:52 am

Good thing we’re not counting on Chipper to be our offensive leader in the playoffs cause he hasn’t exactly played that role especially well in years past.

JDawg1785

July 14th, 2011
8:53 am

You’re the man, Chipper! The Braves would be nothing without you. Hope to see you back on the field leading this team to the playoffs soon!

Hank

July 14th, 2011
8:55 am

Forget Chipper lets do something really important. Get TIM MCCARVER off the T.V. screen. Why is he still around? I want a Tim mute so any time he makes a comment he is automatically muted. With all of the great voices in the game why is he on? There are many more accomplished players than him who could be on and I would rather listen to Johnny Bench, a real catcher, or Bob Uecker or even, hell anyone. No more Tim, No more Tim, No more Tim.

Mitchell

July 14th, 2011
9:02 am

michael riordan

July 14th, 2011
8:39 am

pretty obvious battle cry should be ringing out from the Braves locker room …. “Let’s win this one for the Chipper”

How about instead of another gimmicky, bound to be short lived marketing campaign we all, well, they all focus on just getting to the playoffs and playing the way they’re capable of and not losing at home again in front of the home crowd who at that very least deserve not to have to watch yet another team celebrate a series victory in Atlanta.

That would be great.

Look, we’ve swept the Rockies, swept the Brewers, swept the Giants… no excuse this time not to take care of business in the division series with Chipper and Martin even at 90%.

Just win baby.

Mitchell

July 14th, 2011
9:04 am

Whoops.

Talk about a gimmicky slogan.

How about “Just Don’t Lose”?

JSS

July 14th, 2011
9:04 am

Sounds like the Sports Columnist in “Pride Of The Yankees.” Everyone kept telling him that Gehrig was done and something major might be wrong; but he kept insisting that “Old Lou” would be back… “Old Hoss” is just not up to it anymore… He’s like any GM vehicle built between 1994 to 2008, in need of a recall!

JSS

July 14th, 2011
9:07 am

Give McCann “real” leadership of this team! He’s been carrying it since the day he arrived.

Joey

July 14th, 2011
9:10 am

Puppet Please

July 14th, 2011
9:13 am

I have been pretty hard on Chipper for a while, but I will have to give him his due on this one. Thats good leadership. I mean, for $15mil he should play at a high level, even if he is on crutches….but its not his fault he got overpaid. I still would like for Chipper to retire at seasons end and take that albatross from around the Braves necks….but for now I say, get well Chipper, we need you back!!

Ellabell 1

July 14th, 2011
9:15 am

My wife and I are very unhappy when Chipper is not in the lineup. He is the Atlanta Braves. Not looking forward to the day he walks away. Hope to see you back real soon Chipper.

D man

July 14th, 2011
9:27 am

Chipper is the heart of this team, we need him back… Get well soon Chipper…

aumatl

July 14th, 2011
9:31 am

15 days? I thought he’d be out three weeks. Here’s hoping to a speedy recovery. He’s been tough as nails this year.

Sonny Clusters

July 14th, 2011
9:36 am

‘Ol Jeff just teed this one up for us . . . if we was a deer we’d be wary of Chipper being at full strength but since we aren’t a deer we just hope he will get well soon. As far as life after baseball we think maybe Chipper could go to the broadcast booth and do some color. If a deer could talk . . .

Larry

July 14th, 2011
9:39 am

D-MAN

July 14th, 2011
8:38 am
Wont be long before all the Chipper haters chime in,been playing with a split knee cap!You should never question the mans heart and loyalty to the team!

Not true and this was erroneously reported. If Chipper had a fractured knee cap he’d be finished for the season…and he wouldn’t be walking just days after such surgery.

Stephen

July 14th, 2011
9:40 am

16 years later, chip will have another ws ring and the only atl brave w 2.

JB

July 14th, 2011
9:44 am

Hard to believe Chipper is just 39. I’m 58 and i feel like he’s been with the Braves since i was a kid…….LOL……..I will give him this……..He could of always gotten a little more money in his prime in FA…but always re-signed with the Braves. I assume this will be the last year….but i thought that 5 years ago.

ken anderson

July 14th, 2011
9:49 am

Larry again you may be the biggest idiot on the blogs

as far as Chipper he deserves to go out however he wants, noone was giving him crap when he was reconstructing his contract all those years so we could sign players!!!

A.S.

July 14th, 2011
9:49 am

JB brings up a good point. As many injuries as Chipper has had the past few years he has always been there for us. Not many players have remained on a team as much as Chipper. Even players like Smoltz who you think would never leave the Braves do. Chipper could have always taken so much more money to play in NYY, BOS, CHI….

Dennis Reynolds

July 14th, 2011
9:52 am

If anyone knows how important a 2 out hit is, it should be Chipper. The fact that he doesn’t focus on at bats when theres 2 outs no one on is just a slap in the face to the hitters behind him. Thats the difference between the .300 hitting Chipper Jones, and the aging Chipper Jones. I don’t care what the situation is, NEVER THROW AWAY AT BATS!! I guess he thinks the buck stops with him when it comes to run production.

ken anderson

July 14th, 2011
9:53 am

Dennis are u trying to give Larry a run for biggest idiot on the blogs?!?!

JackDennis

July 14th, 2011
9:54 am

Fairly obvious that Chipper haters don’t know the game.
Note: If you don’t know baseball, don’t post on baseball articles.

phil

July 14th, 2011
9:55 am

Impartial Observer

July 14th, 2011
8:27 am
“It’s amazing that Chipper says he is walking without a limp so soon after surgery. That’s a very good sign. I hope his recovery remains as positive as he is indicating. The injury he incurred late last summer must have been much more severe given the recovery time required.”

He tore his ACL last summer. He just had a small cartilage tear repaired in the other knee the other day. Yes, there’s a vast difference in the two injuries and in what’s required to fix them. The ACL is a lengthy recovery of many months. This procedure requires a matter of weeks from which to recover. As it is, Chipper made it back from the ACL injury much quicker and in better shape than I ever thought he would.

Enjoy him folks while we still have him around. Legends are rare.

phil

July 14th, 2011
9:59 am

ken anderson

July 14th, 2011
9:49 am
“Larry again you may be the biggest idiot on the blogs

as far as Chipper he deserves to go out however he wants, noone was giving him crap when he was reconstructing his contract all those years so we could sign players!!!”

And as I recall, Ken, you may have been one of the worst QBs the NFL ever had to endure…

At least you appear to support Chipper…

Where did this fractured kneecap talk come from anyway? Absurd…

ken anderson

July 14th, 2011
10:00 am

I for one am so grateful to have enjoyed his Hall of Fame career….it is amazing how people hate on him…but understand that there people who crushed and hated on one of the all time greats when he played here in HANK AARON….we just didnt have them typing crap on a keyboard like today.

I for one will try to be in Cooperstown when our big 4 will be industed in the HOF starting with Maddux!!!

PMC

July 14th, 2011
10:01 am

Hope for a speedy recovery. The team is always better with him in the lineup. Hoping for a major injury free second half.

WOuld love to see what they can do in the playoffs with a healthy Chipper and Prado.

suwanee dawg

July 14th, 2011
10:01 am

One of the best overall hitters to ever play and the best I ever saw. A rare mix of OB percentage, power, and of course a switch hitter.

Paul Johnson's Pepperoni Nipples

July 14th, 2011
10:02 am

Chipper always looks forward to October. Thats when the Bow season for Deer hunting begins in Texas.

RETIRE ALREADY!!!

Our #3 hitter will finish the season with 15 home runs and miss at least 40 games. RETIRE!!!

ken anderson

July 14th, 2011
10:02 am

it was a cracked kneecap that was sealed

Sonny Clusters

July 14th, 2011
10:02 am

AJC Headline: Rare toad spotted 1st time in 87 years

and here we are talking baseball!

Dennis Reynolds

July 14th, 2011
10:03 am

I used to try to prove my point to all the ppl who don’t understand my comments but its just not worth it. Im willing to bet nobody in here has played beyond high school. Just a bunch of couch potatoes watching on TV, never attending games, and not understanding the little things that make the game great. If Chipper is batting .400 with risp and .250 without, he’s throwing away ABs. He’s even said before its “disheartening” to him to come up with bases empty.

He’s still a legend, but his time in the 3 hole should be over. If we don’t get a legit leadoff man (Schafer is not one but Im sure everyone in here loves him) then Chipper could be a solid 2 hole hitter behind Prado. If we do get a real leadoff man, the 5 hole would better suited for him.