(Updated: 11 p.m.)
The celebration Friday night wasn’t merely for a player and his career. It was for a player who in his final season had managed to will his team to one more postseason.
Imagine if the backdrop was similar to a year ago. Imagine if the Braves found themselves handing out gifts to a retiring legend before a game Friday night, mugging for cameras with forced smiles, knowing that when the ceremonies ended they would have to return to the reality of the standings, their fingers digging into the side of a cliff.
Imagine if Chipper Jones hadn’t ignited a city and a team on Sept. 2. He hit that walk-off, three-run homer against Philadelphia. It punctuating a five-run ninth inning that gave the Braves a miracle 8-7 win over the Phillies. It was like plugging a team into a light socket. The Braves had lost 10 of 14. They were on the verge of being swept at home by