Appreciate Chipper Jones while you still can — Aaron does

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Henry Aaron says he knew Braves had made the right choice in 1990. (AJC photo)

Henry Aaron said he knew the Braves had made the right choice with Chipper Jones. (AJC photo)

(Updated: 2 p.m.)

Enjoy this season because it will be your last look.

Enjoy watching Chipper Jones because the chance to watch a first-ballot Hall of Famer – and if he’s not enshrined in his first year of eligibility, I’m surrendering my vote – just doesn’t come around very often.

Jones isn’t the best position player in Braves’ history. That’s only because there’s a guy named Henry Aaron ahead of him. Sometimes, being in second place is an honor — especially when the guy who is in first place is bowing in your direction.

“I remember when we took Chipper in the draft,” Aaron recalled Thursday. “There were a lot of people in the organization who thought we should take that pitcher [Todd Van Poppel]. But I saw star written all over Chipper, and I put my vote in. There were quite a few people involved in that decision. I can tell you this: Some are going to say now that they voted for Chipper, but I know they didn’t.”

These are how the fortunes of franchises can change.

In 1990, the Braves passed on Van Poppel, in part because he told the organization he wouldn’t sign with them. So they drafted Chipper Jones, who would go on to bat third for a World Series team as a rookie, win an MVP award and a batting title and amass seven All-Star selections. And counting. Van Poppel had an unspectacular, injury-plagued career that spanned six organizations (two of them twice) and ended eight years ago with a career ERA of 5.58 and less than four wins per season.

Jones got emotional, particularly when addressing his teammates. (AP photo)

Jones got emotional, particularly when addressing teammates. (AP)

Jones’ career will start and end with the Braves. Enjoy him one final year. The Braves’ third baseman announced Thursday he will retire after this season. The decision was less a surprise than the timing, two weeks before the season opener. But Jones wanted to end speculation that might serve as a distraction for his team this season, particularly after some remarks he made last week to out-of-town reporters regarding his health were misinterpreted.

“There’s no set of circumstances that can persuade me to come back — no hedging,” Jones said, adding that he wanted to spend time with his family.

Believe it. He has been on the relative year-to-year plan for a while. But he was always prompted to come back because he believed he could still perform at a high level, he enjoyed playing with this current group of teammates and his desire to get back to another World Series still burned.

It wasn’t for the money, and here’s where we will address the loud and misguided ones.

Some fans have believed Jones should’ve retired long ago, suggesting his career extension was all about dollar signs. I believe Jones put it best last year when he said, “I still feel like I have something to offer, and the cynical fan can really kiss my ass. 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.”

Jones long has been under-appreciated. He deserves a statue outside of Turner Field — two if you want him batting both left- and right-handed.

Beyond the blur of statistical evidence, what he has brought to the team in leadership and help to young players can’t be measured. He has been an icon for the franchise and the city of Atlanta. We’ve had too few of those.

“I think many great players in Chipper’s era are under-appreciated, and the reason for that is the way the system is,” Aaron said. “Baseball is a lot different than it was 10, 15 years ago. People look at players, I guess, by the money they make. Chipper falls into that category of players who have not only meant a lot to the Braves but to the city. When you see a ballplayer like this come along and you watch him for 19 or 20 years, sometimes you don’t fully appreciate him until after he’s gone.”

Jones choked up at several times during Thursday’s news conference, particularly when he addressed his teammates.

“You kept me young, or at least as young as a 40-year-old man can be,” he said.

Jones knows the body is wearing down. Aaron, when asked to named Jones’ greatest attribute, said, “His determination. He has played through so many injuries.”

This will be your final chance to watch him and appreciate him. One player, one franchise, 23 years, 19 seasons. When it’s over, he deserves a bow.

By Jeff Schultz

305 comments Add your comment

Vinny

March 22nd, 2012
10:51 am

ConeDawg

March 22nd, 2012
10:52 am

We will miss you, Chipper. Thanks for the memories!

sadtechy

March 22nd, 2012
10:53 am

First Ballot HOF!!!

Nothing But The Truth

March 22nd, 2012
10:54 am

Especially in this sports town, where we don’t get many athletes who show that they only want to be here and actually reach their potential on the field/court.

I’ve been critical of him over the years, but he always had my respect.

Greene Hornet

March 22nd, 2012
10:58 am

Great player and I have massive respect for players who tough it our for better or worse at one team. You have to admit, you don’t see that anymore, especially if that player was as great as Chipper was. Thanks for the memories Chipper and give us one more good season this year! Go Braves!!!!

PMC

March 22nd, 2012
10:59 am

He could have extended the career for quite a while if he were a DH in the American League.

The great ones are so few. One of the best Switch Hitters ever. One of the best 3rd basemen ever all around and he’s our guy.

The saddest thing may be that he’s one of the last links to the old great Braves teams of the 1990’s.

Amazing career, won’t be the same with him not at 3rd base and 3rd in the lineup or demolishing the Mets.

Thanks Chipper.

meh

March 22nd, 2012
11:00 am

gonna miss ya, Chipper.

JSS

March 22nd, 2012
11:00 am

Before I tear him down, I want to thank Larry “Chipper” Jones for his service as a Atlanta Braves player. Now, as Gerald Ford put it when Richard Nixon hit the bricks: “Our long national nightmare is (nearly) over!”

Herschel Talker

March 22nd, 2012
11:03 am

JSS:

Well said. Chipper has been a rock for us, but his time has long since passed. He really needs to retire today.

HT

jvillebil

March 22nd, 2012
11:03 am

Rare that we see a player committed long term to one organization and then retire. He’s brought us many great moments. Thanks Chipper

Hail Munson

March 22nd, 2012
11:04 am

I want to be at his last game in NY against the Mets. I wonder if the Mets fans will applaud while booing him, kind of like what you do for an actor who has played the villain exceptionally well.

SimpleDawg

March 22nd, 2012
11:04 am

Chipper is a Damn Good Brave.

He has played the game the right way and for the right reasons. He is a unique person and player, and we have all been fortunate that he has always been an Atlanta Brave.

Thanks Chipper.

To those who constantly criticize him…… Well I hope you treat those around you better, because most of you seem mighty miserable.

Rothschild

March 22nd, 2012
11:06 am

A friend has bought tix already for the last game. Bet it sells out today.

Rothschild

March 22nd, 2012
11:08 am

JSS and HT, trolls of a feather. Two trolls in a pod.

Nebraska Brave

March 22nd, 2012
11:10 am

It has been a great run for Hoss. Playing for the money, NO. He played the last few years because he loves the game, wanted to see if the Braves could squeak out another World Series. To those who think he played for the money the last few years. Imagine trying to let go of your careers – picking up that last garbage can, greeting that last WalMart Customer, cleaning that last toilet. Oh never mind you’ll never understand as Chipper was lucky (good) enough to play a sport, do what every, or most, kids dream of. My son’s a good ball player and at 17 he wants to make it to the next level (college) and play ball, not for a scholarship, but because he loves playing.

I remember so many times when Chipper would be “struggling” and then he would go on a tear and hit 10 homers in 2 or so weeks. It was a sight to see.

Chipper You will be missed. Thanks for the Memories.

FunkyBobbyJ

March 22nd, 2012
11:12 am

Again – thank you Todd Van Poppel where ever you are!!!

Dr. Phil

March 22nd, 2012
11:14 am

Admittedly, Chipper is a great baseball player and one of the best hitters since Ted Williams. I agree with Jeff’’s assessment of Chipper, but I would add Eddie Matthews to Chipper and Hank. Matthews didn’t hit for great average, but he hit an awful lot of clutch homeruns in Milwaukee, and who could forget the homer off of Sandy Koufax in Atlanta Stadium. Matthews was a great leader and team player. Chipper is making the right decision. I hope that he and the Braves send him out with a good season.

JSS

March 22nd, 2012
11:15 am

Rothschild
March 22nd, 2012
11:08 am
“JSS and HT, trolls of a feather. Two trolls in a pod.”

There are people spitting coffee and soda all over keyboards in AJC blogdom at that statement! Where can they send you the bill?

Lou Filerman

March 22nd, 2012
11:16 am

Jeff, what are the odds that Hank Aaron comes to Chipper’s jersey retirement? I mean seriously he hasn’t showed up to any the last few years.

Daily Stinger

March 22nd, 2012
11:16 am

Unbelievable production throughout Chipper’s HOF career. There is no doubt that when he’s healthy he can still contribute and have a big impact on this team. Despite that I still have a hard time justifying Chipper playing about 120 games (if we’re lucky) for ~$14 million. It sure would have been nice to have half that amount to spend on a LF to bolster our line-up.

Todd Van Poppel

March 22nd, 2012
11:17 am

A year late and $14 million short.

It’s sad when an athlete wears out his welcome. Take Schultz with you! Yall two together would rack up at Hooters!!!

Todd Van Poppel

March 22nd, 2012
11:21 am

“He loves the game and has a desire to win. His motives end there.”

Doesn’t matter Schultzie. He has hamstrung this team the past two years with his salary and INJURIES.

Jared

March 22nd, 2012
11:24 am

Great! Now the whole year is gonna be Chipper this, Chipper that-give him a gold third base and kick him to the curb.

JSS

March 22nd, 2012
11:26 am

Eddie Matthews was the best 3rd baseman ever to put on the Tomahawk! Clete Boyer was the best 3rd baseman fielding wise to play in this town. He did on that minefield masquerading as a major league baseball field at Fulton Co. Stadium… I’ve said it before, between 1997 to 2002, Chipper was one of the greats, but in the past 9 seasons excluding his .364 season at the plate, it has been just sad to watch for the most part…

WinOne4theChipper!

March 22nd, 2012
11:28 am

Win one of the Chipper!!!!! You will be missed. I hope to see you return next year as our hitting coach, if not as our manager. You may not have any previous head coaching experience but you have on the job training and have coached a number of our players with their hitting. You got me interested again in Braves baseball 19 years ago while I was still in the Marine Corps and I enjoyed bragging about you to my fellow Marines(especially to our New York Mets Marines!)

I hope we can send you out as a 2012 World Series Champion and I hope our front office will make any necessary additions to our roster this year in order to make that happen. You deserve to have only the very best year as you ride off into the sunset, although we will never allow you to leave us completely. You are the “Atlanta Braves” and we need you back to guide the Braves to many more World Series titles!

God bless you! You are a class act and a role model to not only today’s and future MLB players but also to our children who look up to you as a MLB player of integrity.

Thank you for your many years of Braves baseball and for restoring hope among us fans!

Geo. from Augusta(Chipper fan for life!)

dave

March 22nd, 2012
11:29 am

AMEN, JS … AMEN

DePort

March 22nd, 2012
11:33 am

Thank you … finally someone sticking up for Chipper!

SSIgator

March 22nd, 2012
11:34 am

Now that the final act of the Cox era is coming to a close, maybe the Braves can finally dump their motto: “The Atlanta Braves – Do Less With More”

Archie

March 22nd, 2012
11:36 am

He has kind of a Ted Williams thing going on with the local fans. He always has this way of rubbing fans the wrong way. Whether it’s his brutal honesty, cockiness or selfishness, fans can call it whatever they want. You can like or dislike the guy all you want, but the bottom line is he’s the best “Atlanta” Brave of all time. Aaron and Matthews had their best years in Milwaukee. Dale Murphey will always be a fan favorite, but his career doesn’t add up to Chipper’s. The Hawks and Falcons don’t have anybody who matches up to him either, so he’s the best pro athlete this town has ever seen!

Sneakers O'Toole

March 22nd, 2012
11:36 am

Greatest ATLANTA Brave and my favorite all-time athlete. Gonna miss you Hoss.
Lets go out with a bang. How about 25/90/295 and a WS title.

Sid

March 22nd, 2012
11:37 am

It’s been all about him for the last couple of years. He’s an old prima donna, reminds me of Madonna fighting for relativity as her arse continues to sag.

Jeff

March 22nd, 2012
11:38 am

I can’t wait to see how the NY Mets fan react to him this season. I have a sneaking suspicion he might get some cheers of respect from them this year.

Ryan

March 22nd, 2012
11:38 am

As much as I liked Glavine, Smoltz, Maddux and multiple other Braves – Chipper is my favorite ball player of all time. Played 19 great seasons for the Braves and played honestly through one of the most turbulent times in baseball history.

Good Grief

March 22nd, 2012
11:41 am

Hitting Coach Chipper Jones… that has a nice ring to it. It’s always sad when a good player announces their intention to retire. And just think. We’ll have a few years where Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz, and Chipper all go into Cooperstown back-to-back-to-back. As a lifelong Braves fan, that makes you happy.

Not Soon Enough!!!!!!

March 22nd, 2012
11:41 am

Gimper Jones – the Disabled Veteran – will retire!!!!! Oh boo-hoo!!!! Not soon enough to suit me. Him being a 1st ballot Hall of Fame’er means nothing to me and nothing to the current team…..Honest????? If he was honest he wouldn’t be around to take the money – from a team that could well spend it in other areas!!!!! He is no Saint Bobby……go ahead and leave now!!! This team is going no where anyway and certainly not with you hobbling/limping around at 3rd Base – Good Bye and Good Riddance!!!!!!

Trojan

March 22nd, 2012
11:42 am

Jeff: You are right. Chipper under appreciated.

Billy

March 22nd, 2012
11:42 am

JSS what a idiot, your nightmare has just started are did 3 years ago.

Chipper is all Class..I have enjoyed all 19 years. Has he ever made mistakes yes but who hadn’t..God Bless Chipper Jones and thanks..Mr Brave!

Ted M

March 22nd, 2012
11:43 am

It was a good idea to announce it early on.

He is a first ballot Hall of Famer.

I wish I could say he has a good shot at going out like Tony La Russa.

hooter honey

March 22nd, 2012
11:46 am

I’ll miss you, Larry!

BFanAlways

March 22nd, 2012
11:47 am

He is 1st Class! Perfect example of a player playing for love of the game!

Bill

March 22nd, 2012
11:47 am

Hate to see Chipper go but maybe he will be our next manager..Happy trails.

garcia

March 22nd, 2012
11:47 am

What a special career. He is a first vote HOF’er…no doubt. I can hear the chants: Laahhrry, Laahhrry during his speech in Cooperstown.

No steroids, no excuses. That is the definition of a real man. Thank you Larry. I still recall the disappointment I felt when Van Poppel advised the Braves not to draft him. At the time, I felt rejected and dejected. I thought the Braves had hit a new low. Little did I know that it was the turning point of the franchise that would begin an unprecedented winning tradition in Atlanta.

You don’t always get what you want; you get what you need.

emmysmom

March 22nd, 2012
11:48 am

Chipper, you will be missed by so very many. But welcome to the HOF!

JSS

March 22nd, 2012
11:50 am

“Mr. Brave?” As long as Dale Murphy and Henry Aaron are alive, Jones will never be “Mr. Brave!” “All class?” And do you think Pabst Blue Ribbon is fine Milwaukee brewing at its best too? Billy, were you hitting the PBR when you put that sentence together?

DePlane

March 22nd, 2012
11:51 am

Why announce this now? If you’re not done yet….and presumably you have a year to play…then play and stow it until after the season. This smacks of attention seeking. Last I looked you’re getting paid big bucks this year…so go out and win.

To me, overpaid self-agrandizing atheletes are a dime a dozen…and I really don’t want to hear about how great you were before you even retire. Now go play ball and prove you’re not here just to collect a check.

Bill

March 22nd, 2012
11:52 am

~~~~~Win for 10~~~~~

1eyedJack

March 22nd, 2012
11:55 am

Should make Sonny Clusters happy.

BJ

March 22nd, 2012
11:59 am

DEPLANE……..well said…..ditto………….

Sid

March 22nd, 2012
11:59 am

Herschel Talker

March 22nd, 2012
11:03 am
JSS:

Well said. Chipper has been a rock for us, but his time has long since passed. He really needs to retire today.
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He’s doing it right but doing it right now is the 16th most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

“The first time Braves manager Bobby Cox saw Chipper Jones, he knew he was going to be a star. ‘That face,’ Cox said. ‘He has that face.’ It is the face of a baseball lifer, a guy who was born to play the game. A baseball lifer doesn’t necessarily mean playing until you’re 45, then managing or coaching the rest of your life. It also means playing the game properly, doing what you’re told, doing what’s best for the team, adjusting constantly and, of course, winning.” – ESPN Columnist Tim Kurkjian in ESPN The Magazine (August 3, 2005)

Lastly, think about what he is worth in the dugout and the locker room to the younger players. He’s a Brittanica of baseball knowledge. It’s in his heart, he knows it’s time. He has played his butt off in a Braves uniform, Don’t know what bug is up JSS’s butt for Chipper but unless he can hit for a higher %, or field better I suggest he take a back seat on his Chipper attack.

Sid

March 22nd, 2012
12:03 pm

JSS

March 22nd, 2012
11:15 am
Rothschild
March 22nd, 2012
11:08 am
“JSS and HT, trolls of a feather. Two trolls in a pod.”

There are people spitting coffee and soda all over keyboards in AJC blogdom at that statement! Where can they send you the bill?
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You never fail to remind that you are a legend in your own mind.