Chipper Jones on loss in his finale: ‘Ultimately I’m to blame’

Chipper Jones. (AP photo)

Chipper Jones never imagined an error in his final game would cost his team a playoff game. (AP photo)

Bunting hanging from the rafters. Red tomahawks. An actual sellout for a postseason game (but then, it’s new again).

Ted Turner. Jimmy Carter. Bobby Cox (except in the stands, not in cleats).

Also, there was Chipper Jones. He was a 23-year-old rookie in 1995 when the Braves won the World Series. He was a 40-year-old, 19-year veteran when he was making his way from his home to Turner Field Friday for a playoff game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Perfect weather. Perfect backdrop. Perfect emotions.

“I told my dad, ‘This is why I know I’m ready to go. I’m not even nervous,” Jones said earlier Friday.

It wasn’t the perfect ending. No walk-off homer. No catching the final out. No fairly tale.

More like Stephen King.

Of all the endings Larry “Chipper” Jones envisioned for the final game of his career . . .

“This wasn’t one of them,” he said, completing a question.

A broken bat single in the ninth in five at-bats (at least he wasn’t the final out of the game). Three runners stranded on base. Worst of all, a throwing error on a potential double-play ball that opened the door to a three-run Cardinals’ fourth, signaling the beginning of a Braves’ meltdown.

The Braves lost their one-and-done wild card “round” to the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-3.

That didn’t take long. Thanks for coming.

Afterward, there were debates about one of the worst calls in baseball history: heretofore to be known as, “The Shallow Left Field Fly Rule,” which helped damper a potential Atlanta rally in the eighth. There was the questionable safety squeeze bunt by Andrelton Simmons in the fourth, in which he was called out for running inside the baseline (smothering another inning). There were two other errors that led to unearned runs.

But Jones, looking back on the final game of his career, wouldn’t hear any of it.

“There are a lot of guys in [the clubhouse] laying blame,” he said. “But I kept my mouth shut because ultimately I’m to blame. That ball was tailor-made for a double play.”

It was Jones’ first postseason game since 2005. He didn’t play in the 2010 divisional series because of a torn knee ligament. He decided against retirement because he felt he could still play, wanted one more chance to win another World Series and, “I don’t want the fans’ final image of me to be one of me hurt on the field.”

Nor did he want this image.

In the second inning, he struck out. In the third, he grounded to second. In the sixth, he popped to second.

In the seventh, with a chance to amend for all previous wrongs — two men in scoring position, two outs, a Jones-esque moment if there ever was one — he hit a meek first-pitch groundout to second.

But the biggest pratfall came in the field. In the fourth inning, with the Braves leading 2-0, the Cardinals’ Matt Holliday hit a potential double play ball to third. Jones fielded it but threw it over Dan Uggla’s head at second and into right field. Allen Craig followed with a run-scoring double.

“I made a good pick[up], got a two-seam grip and it sailed on me,” he said.

By the time the inning ended, St. Louis had scored three runs (two unearned). Four of the Cardinals’ six runs were unearned.

Did left field umpire Sam Holbrook botch the infield fly call, preventing the Braves from having the bases loaded? Clearly. But Jones wasn’t going there.

“Ultimately when we look back at this loss, we need to look in the mirror,” he said. That [infield fly] call is in kind of a gray area. I’m not willing to say that call caught us the ball game. Three errors cost us the ball game, mine being the biggest.

“It just seems that play turned everything around, and that’s what I’m most disappointed in,” he said. “Walking out of my last game, I certainly didn’t want to go [1 for 5] and make a play that losses a season. But that’s something I’ll have  to deal with in the days to come.”

It doesn’t change his career or his path to the Hall of Fame. It doesn’t change all of the games the Braves won because of him. But it wasn’t the final scene he imagined.

By Jeff Schultz

228 comments Add your comment

JSS

October 5th, 2012
10:21 pm

Let the Clusters vindication tour begin!!!

Baker

October 5th, 2012
10:23 pm

Bummer indeed.

He Hate Me

October 5th, 2012
10:23 pm

Trade Heyward NOW

Matty Bravo

October 5th, 2012
10:24 pm

It still hurts. We made 3 errors and had 12 LOB. Not all Chipper’s fault, not all the blown call’s fault. Fault goes everywhere. Sad way to end a career and a season.

JSS

October 5th, 2012
10:27 pm

And the shame that rained down upon the city and this state by the behavior at Turner Field will follow this town like that of people who are in those grainy b/w film clips on the wrong side of history! See, the same lack of control demonstrated in these blogs, there it was manifested for the whole nation to see!!!

Matt

October 5th, 2012
10:29 pm

Can’t spend any more money on MLB after this. No way.

CAC

October 5th, 2012
10:31 pm

Good on Chipper for accepting the blame. His error was the difference in momentum early on.

That’s said, this Braves team was resilient in late innings this year. They were good in close ball games. And they got cheated at precisely the time they were rallying. No denying that.

If that’s an infield fly, that means the umpire judges it a routine play. By definition, a routine play is a play that is easily made. The ss missed it. They means it’s not a routine play by any measure. It’s an error. Without that call, it’s bases loaded for Mac with one out.

Home plate umpire was terrible, too. Called several important strikes for Cards that he didn’t call for the Braves.

All that said, our defense was good all year. And it let us down today. Meds pitched well enough to win. And they threw away the game, literally and figuratively. Should never have been in that 8th inning situation to begin with.

Sad end to an amazing career.

Will

October 5th, 2012
10:31 pm

Of all the miscues, and there were plenty, there is no denying chippers error was where the game turned. There was no other feeling for long time braves fans after that error then “well, here we go again…”

Will

October 5th, 2012
10:32 pm

R u retarded? Heyward had a great season he is going to be one of the best players in the MLB in a few years

CAC

October 5th, 2012
10:34 pm

JSS- disagree that it’s embarrassing for the fans. They were frustrated, as well they should be. That was a horrific call. They protested the only way a crowd really can.

People get on the fans for not being passionate all the time. They were certainly passionate tonight.

tmcj

October 5th, 2012
10:36 pm

Another horseshiot call by an umpire in the post season against the Braves. I don’t agree with the fans throwing things on the field, but if you’ve followed this team for any length of time… you understand the frustation level.
Did tYhe Braves play well enough to win this game? No.
But how many horrible calls is it going to take to use replay in MLB?
If MLB is going to shove this 1-game playoff down the throats of every team, the replay should be manditory!

And don’t give me these ex-umpire’s on ESP-freaking-N saying it was the correct call and all that BS.

It

BobDawg

October 5th, 2012
10:37 pm

The Game was electric and the fans were willing the Bravos to win… I was there and it still hurts… I’m one of the fans that threw stuff on the field and while I’m sorry for doing it… There was passion in the stands that I had not seen in the ATL for a long time…
You can call us whatever you want but tonight there was passion in Atlanta…..

Ed

October 5th, 2012
10:41 pm

Yeah we’ll, the Braves made the playoffs…… and it was business as usual now time to prepare for the Falcons to do the same thing make the playoffs and flop!!!!!!!!

CSP

October 5th, 2012
10:42 pm

The Fans graduated into the big leagues tonight. There is shame on MLB to have such antiquated BS system relying on the most pompous humans on the planet to maybe, i dunno, DO WHATS RIGHT ONCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (That damn ball dropped right in front of me and my mom and pop as we tried celebrate Mom’s 74th)

Answer this

October 5th, 2012
10:42 pm

Yes Chipper you let us down! Its hard to beat you down after 20 years but this one hurts….looks like the crowd got out of hand but I am sure with stuff like that call it would have went on anywhere else in pro sports on a home teams field. Does not excuse it…nor does it excuse the call but very poor taste on both sides! Errors and lack of hitting and bad managing killed the season! Sad! Well guess what I can still say this through gritted teeth……wait until next year!
I will be here, a fan, I wont quit, I will hurt, but I wont quit because that’s not what a fan does! See you during the winter meetings……let’s reload and make another run for it……

Kris

October 5th, 2012
10:42 pm

It’s going to be an interesting offseason that’s for sure. One might think the Braves would opt to go into rebuilding mode. Chipper’s gone, both Bourne and McCann are likely gone, Hanson is probably gone. Hudson still has a year on his contract, but if they decide to rebuild he could probably fetch a couple of decent prospects. Our rotation next year should be Medlen, Minor, Teheran, Delgado and maybe Maholm if he is still around (at least until Beachy is ready to return). Find a couple of stop-gap OF’s, move Prado to third and there’s your team. I’d say trade Uggs, but who would want him? I think we’re just gonna have to eat that contract.

Mister Frisky

October 5th, 2012
10:46 pm

The song remains the same.Same old story same old song and dance.The more things change the more they stay the same.Chipper great regular season player.Just another player in 93 post season games.Not a clutch gene in any of these guys.

CSP

October 5th, 2012
10:46 pm

Kris, no way they don’t pick up McCann’s option.

Typical Postseason Braves

October 5th, 2012
10:47 pm

Braves play poorly every postseason. That’s why they only won 1 WS title in 5 tries and haven’t won a postseason series since 2001. They are who we thought they were and anyone thinking different was fooling themselves.

CSP

October 5th, 2012
10:48 pm

& No damn stop gap in LF. They need to get a guy in there who rakes. .310, 30, 125. With all the freed up capitol that’s their biggest off season get.

foxnellie

October 5th, 2012
10:49 pm

its fitting that the Braves lose the first ever wild card game

The Mighty Quinn

October 5th, 2012
10:51 pm

Can you imagine the riot that would have ensued if that call had been in New York, Chicago, or, God forbid, Phila-freakin’-delphia and against the home team? The umps were lucky only garbage was left on the field and not their heads.

Bob

October 5th, 2012
10:52 pm

The Braves lost the game due to poor fielding and anemic batting when they needed it. A horrible call in the 8th stopped any potential of making a comeback.

I was thoroughly embarrassed by the fan reaction. Standing in the 755 Club, I was amazed at the idiots who were throwing mustard and ketchup bottles down on the field. This was a sad day for Atlanta sports!

JWOOD

October 5th, 2012
10:53 pm

Fault goes to MLB for deciding to enact a 1 game playoff. It’s been said all year. Anything can happen in one game. It’s why you have 3, 5 and 7 game series. Baseball isn’t designed for 1 game.

JSS

October 5th, 2012
10:53 pm

That is not “passion,” that recklessness is cowardliness! What would have happened if one of those half filled missiles hit someone in the head? You dodged a bullet, and set a horrible example for the thousands of kids in attendance… No impulse control might appeal on a blog, but in “real life” it can cost if the most lethal ways!

Answer this

October 5th, 2012
10:53 pm

Very true Quinn…..and the fans would have been showing their passion…..not embrassing themselves

CSP

October 5th, 2012
10:55 pm

Bob it was a great day for atlanta sports. Maybe we won’t be mocked incessantly for sucking as fans for once. Maybe you need to step out of the 755 club once in a while…

Ken

October 5th, 2012
10:55 pm

Funny that no one is mentioning the late call on Ross’ timeout that led to a 2-run HR…

Never

October 5th, 2012
10:55 pm

Never could feel the love for Chipper. And stop with all the crap, he made millions and that was his primary motivation.

Phil's Fan in ATL

October 5th, 2012
10:55 pm

Gotta give the Braves all the kudos they deserve. The biggest choke franchise in all of pro sports gags up another one. Yes, horrible call in the infield fly – hey, MLB was lucky that didn’t happen in Philly – but it is amazing how the Braves make 3 errors, leave 12 on base & go 1-7 with RISP. Btw, I totally support the apathy of the fans. Seriously, the franchise may deserve respect for those 14 division titles, but in the end, in this society, you have to win it all every now & then. This is one snakebit sports city. Oh, and also, I’m even harder on the Philly home teams, so you don’t need to remind me of whateva about Philly. Yep, the Eagles suck & the Philthies choke ‘em up, too. But we’re not 1 for 14 & the Eagles have been a better team than the Falcons, even if both have no Super Bowl trophy. Hey, maybe the Falcons can end that this season!

CSP

October 5th, 2012
10:56 pm

Although they wouldnt stop throwing the mustard bottles…

Answer this

October 5th, 2012
10:58 pm

What happened if I hit the lottery yesterday! What happened if Chipped don’t make the error?! Bottle did not hit anyone so no need for what happen scenarios! Fans were angry had a right to be did not exhibit it in the correct way but maybe they should have just booed like good little Atlanta fans? Continued with the status quo so all the badgers nationwide could continue to bash the bad fan base here. Can’t have it both ways! Not a good way to show anger but we did it no one was hurt but the fans for having to sit hrough that forcrap call!

Kris

October 5th, 2012
10:58 pm

Ken – it was a bad call, but it doesn’t factor into the end result so who cares?

LakeDawg

October 5th, 2012
10:59 pm

Time to turn the page from playoff chokes. 17 years is too long.

LakeDawg

October 5th, 2012
11:00 pm

Chipper lost the game.

kreedham

October 5th, 2012
11:02 pm

Not that it helps now but MLB can correct it and not have a 2nd wild card next year!

CSP

October 5th, 2012
11:02 pm

@ Answer this. A woman got hit with a full water bottle in section 128, in front of me.

cp

October 5th, 2012
11:04 pm

Listen…as far as the fans go…if this was NY, Boston or Chicago the trashing of the field would have been celebrated as what passion these New Yorkers…Yankees, Red Sox..Phillies..Cubs etc etc fans have. Save the hypocritical garbage. Atl fans are far and away the smatest and classiest fans in the MLB

Phil's Fan in ATL

October 5th, 2012
11:09 pm

@never. Amazing to me how you got the Chipper thing so wrong. He could have made more by leaving here, and he gets paid huge money to entertain & do something you and I, and countless others, cannot do. Stop p*ssing & moaning because someone makes a lot of money. If you make $42k a year, respect yourself & deal, and don’t be a little whining girl – and be so inarguably wrong in your 4th grade assessment of a guy you do not know. I’m a Philly fan & know the guy is a first ballot HoFamer, maybe unanimously. Too bad some of his class didn’t rub off on you.

Chipmunk

October 5th, 2012
11:11 pm

No excuse for a veteran of Chipper’s experience to make such a horrible error – that was the decisive turning point in the game, and the Brave’s slide.

Answer this

October 5th, 2012
11:11 pm

@CAP
She should have ducked!

Orange Brave

October 5th, 2012
11:13 pm

i hate bud selig. this entire process was flawd. ridiculous infield fly rule is only icing on the cake. only.

really, a one game playoff. ?D?D?FD?/eere

Answer this

October 5th, 2012
11:13 pm

Agreed CP!
@CAP
I got two of the lottery numbers correct…still did not win!
Was she hurt, was there blood?
She will live!

Never

October 5th, 2012
11:14 pm

Hey idiot (Phil’s fan), the owners love clowns like you. You just keep right on buying what they’re shoveling.

W T Freak could Chipper have done to make a fraction of what he was paid. Please, tell me.

Sonny B. Layne

October 5th, 2012
11:15 pm

Can’t a few of you on several Blogs give Chipper a break? Look at everyone’s batting average on the team & see where he placed. I doubt the Stud we get to replace him does that well next year, unless they move Prado(Who the Braves did everything they could to get rid of) to 3rd. He’s 40 yrs. old & has been wounded many times. And yes, he missed games, but he is a 1st round HOF. I don’t know about all you guys, but I don’t do my best work through a very emotional period. What do you think that Chipper has been going through the last couple of weeks?

JSS

October 5th, 2012
11:18 pm

Philly has a special police precinct and court in the stadiums… In NYC, their butts would in holding cell at Rikers by now… In Chicago, ask anybody whose seen the checkerboards come through Wrigleyville or the bleachers at US Cellular what happens to a fool caught throwing stuff on the field since 2002… You dodged a bullet, stop making excuses for idiots!

Sonny B. Layne

October 5th, 2012
11:18 pm

And Chipper took the blame for the lost. Actually he had a lot of help.

Gritsfalcon

October 5th, 2012
11:24 pm

The comedy of errors are an embarrasment! And the fans,…….oh my gosh!

eric thomas

October 5th, 2012
11:24 pm

I was forced to leave the game with my two kids because of beer bottles raining down on us from the upper decks. It was a terrible call but throwing stuff toward the field when people can get hurt is worse. It does not prove we have passion it only shows stupidity. And because of others stupidity we missed Chippers last at bat.

Mitchell

October 5th, 2012
11:24 pm

Has he never won a game in which he made a costly error?

I believe he has.

We lost the game because of the umps.

Period. End of f*ing sentence.

Everybody knows I’m as cynical as it can possibly get but 6-3 is not an insurmountable deficit.

We all know Martin Prado.

Give Martin Prado a chance to swing the bat in the 8th inning of that game with the bases loaded… two outs or no outs… he’s going to win the gd game.

Martin Prado would have won that game.

One swing of the bat it would have been 7-6 Braves.

Period.

The umpires didn’t allow that to happen.