Chipper Jones: ‘I know it’s coming down to the end’

This homer on April 7 beat the Cubs. Chipper has hit one since. (AP photo by Rich Addicks)

This homer on April 7 beat the Cubs. Chipper has one since. (AP photo by Rich Addicks)

Chipper Jones isn’t sure when his playing days will end, but he’s sure of this: When it comes, the end won’t be ugly. “The one thing I don’t want to have happen,” he said Monday, speaking before the Braves’ game with the Mets, “is the spats between player and management that have happened here.”

The reference was to the acrimonious departures of John Smoltz and Tom Glavine in 2009. Both fences have since been mended, seeing as how the Hall of Fame pitchers are now Braves broadcasters. But Chipper doesn’t want even the hint of discord to accompany his leaving.

“I’ll take all the burden on me,” he said. “I’m not going to stick around and collect a paycheck — a big paycheck — if I can’t do it anymore. I’m not going to hamstring this organization or hamstring the next manager, whoever he is after Bobby [Cox]. There are too many things I love other than baseball pulling at me.”

This isn’t to say the best everyday Brave since Aaron is ready to take his last bow. Yes, he’s hitting .222 with two home runs and nine RBIs, and yes, he turned 38 last month. And yes, he has always been a pragmatist of the first rank. “I know it’s coming down to the end,” he said. Even so …

He likes the way he’s swinging. He consulted his personal hitting coach last week — “L.W. Senior,” as Chipper refers to his dad — and said: “How many times over the years have I been on a .220 streak and called you and said, ‘I’m OK with it?’ ”

Jones changed one of his swings — the left-handed one — over the winter. He’s trying to hit the ball with less topspin and more backspin. (Backspin lifts balls over the fence; topspin drives them down.) He has tried a lighter bat, tried keeping both hands on the bat longer, tried pretty much everything. And he believes he’s close to seeing a result. But he also knows that adjustments made by a 38-year-old carry no guarantee.

“When you get older, you try and compensate and supply power by getting bigger,” he said. “And when you get bigger you can fall into bad habits. And when you’ve been as injured as I have, it’s tougher to get out of funks.”

About the injuries, of which there have been many: “There are days when my wife has to put both feet on my back to roll me out of bed, and you wonder if it’s worth it.”

So: Is it worth it? For now, yes. “I agreed to play this year,” Jones said. But his contract runs through 2012, and he has long expressed a desire to play until he’s 40.

Chipper: “As I sit here today, I can’t say [playing two seasons beyond this] is going to happen.”

His aim this season, he said, was to groom Jason Heyward “to be the No. 3 hitter here for the next 20 years.” Here Jones laughed. “Little did I know he was laughing to himself, saying, ‘I’m already ready.’ And I believe he is ready.”

About hitting third in the order: When Jones was hurting and not hitting and his team was losing the way it was in April, did he consider asking Cox to move him to a different spot? Heck, he made the request.

“I get worried that Bobby — and I admire him for his loyalty — will be too loyal and worry too much about my feelings … He has to manage the team on how it’s playing.”

The team is playing better, and Jones believes “the doubles and homers will start to come” for him. But if they don’t and he winds up retiring at 38 … well, he’d be OK with that, too.

“I can look myself in the mirror,” he said. “I can walk away with my head high.”

The Braves without Chipper Jones: It’s a notion almost impossible to comprehend. “I’m flattered you say that,” he said, laughing again. “But the time’s coming.”

289 comments Add your comment

John

May 17th, 2010
5:41 pm

That’s exactly what chippie is doing, hanging around for his check. He had only 3 good years . He has needed a speech therapist to relate from day one. Go home chippie.

JSS

May 17th, 2010
5:43 pm

Did he pull an oblique or strain a hammy while giving the interview? It’s too late, he should have called it a day or moved to first to help the team, such the team player, Larry Jones!

Delbert D.

May 17th, 2010
5:49 pm

How many times does this song have to be sung?

Gravy Train

May 17th, 2010
5:54 pm

Chipper wants to be the best switch hitter of all time based on career stats. I would like him to do it. I just wish he had a little bit of Ripken in him. Turn the haters into motivators Chipper.

jam

May 17th, 2010
5:55 pm

my concern is his defense… it sucks. The batting will come, but i don’t think the defense is going to get better.

Eric

May 17th, 2010
5:56 pm

What drives me crazy is the illogical managing of bobby. Brooks conrad has two great games in replace of chipper and what does bobby do? Puts chipper back in. His “loyalty” is why he’s only won one series with the braves. They should trade chipper to an american league team for dh and get something while they can because he’s a liability now both on offense and defense.

Dawgforlife

May 17th, 2010
5:57 pm

Well, I would be all for him moving to 1st base; but, who do we have in the minors that is a major league 3rd baseman?…answer none…well, we could always put Escobar at third and play Andrus at short…oh wait, Andrus went to Texas to get that World Series Texeria won for us

Big T

May 17th, 2010
5:58 pm

Hoss–You are Da Man, always will be! Thanks for all you’ve done in a Braves jersey. It will be a sad day when we no longer see you and Bobby leading our team.

Brownie

May 17th, 2010
5:59 pm

While he’s never been the most gregarious interview around, I’ve always admired how Chipper goes about his business….all business, which is why he and Cox have always gotten along so well.

Yeah, he has been hurt a lot, but that just happens to some players – he has played thru it quite a bit over the years. And while he’s missed some games, his production has been amazingly consistent. He is undoubtedly HOF: multiple year all-star, batting title, MVP award, World Series ring, AND considered the 3rd best switch hitter in history.

Most great athletes can’t find a way to hang up the cleats: Namath, Emmitt Smith, Willie Mays, Ali, Holyfield, Dominique, Jerry Rice, and yes even Michael Jordan, and so on. Chipper at least publicly acknowledges the reality is near.

Expect that if he rallies this season and bats anywhere close to .300 with 75+ RBI, then he’ll likely come back for one more. BUT, I really don’t see him doing that and will retire with Bobby.

So, he walks away from several million $!!! Hard to imagine…would any of us do it? Don’t be surprised if he retires, and the new manager next year hires him as hitting instructor. Take advantage of all that knowledge, and believe it or not while he doesn’t give a good interview, he does communicate pretty well with the players. It would be a great fit.

steve

May 17th, 2010
5:59 pm

No doubt Chipper was one of the best players ever to play for the Braves, he needs to move himself down to 6th in the batting order as he is hurting the teams chances of winning by not hitting for power or average, afraid to say it but he has really gone down hill in a hurry and if he does not start producing he needs to retire as he surely does not want to be remembered as a player that stayed around too long because of the money. I hope he turns this slump around as the team could really use his bat.

Donny Corleone

May 17th, 2010
5:59 pm

Hell, it’s already ugly.

Brave New World

May 17th, 2010
6:00 pm

Dear Chipper:

The time has come.

Remow

May 17th, 2010
6:01 pm

John, not sure what team you have been watching but Chipper will go into the HOF on the 1st ballot. As one of the most consistent, power hitting switch hitters of all time. So I am not sure what 3 years you are referencing. But up till the middle of last season Chipper has been one of the top 10 or 20 hitters in baseball.

KnightInATL

May 17th, 2010
6:02 pm

Got to respect Chipper for his honesty and integrity. #10 will be hanging from the left field rafters soon enough.

ITP Brave

May 17th, 2010
6:03 pm

I’m glad that the Internet haters are quick to troll on this article. While nothing has connected the world quite like the Internet, it unfortunately allows those weak-minded individuals to post pure hate in anonymity. Such a shame.

Mayor of Ponce

May 17th, 2010
6:05 pm

You mean all that hunting, fishing, and proudly admitting to not working out in the off season hurts your swing?

Mark Bradley

May 17th, 2010
6:06 pm

If I might be allowed to inject a personal note: I will miss Chipper Jones greatly whenever he chooses to leave. Great player, great guy.

Donny Corleone

May 17th, 2010
6:06 pm

To be fair, Chipper has never been linked to steroids (to my knowledge). In years past it was ok to give big contracts to star players in their late 30’s because most were on the juice which made them more productive in their later years. At least Chipper did what he did the right way. He was a good ‘un.

Brownie

May 17th, 2010
6:08 pm

Eric, I understand your point about Bobby’s mgmt style, but that loyalty and consistency ( all the player love that they know what to expect from him) is why he’s been such a great regular season mgr for so long. Now I would agree that his loyalty and conservative approach has cost us in the post season, where he should have been willing to ride the hot hand more often.

But your point about Conrad having 2 great games in a row…Bobby looks at it this way: Brooks has shown he CAN do it and will be someone we can count on when we need him. But Chipper has proven it for 15 years, and he will not bench Chipper because Brooksy had 2 good games. Same thing just happened with Escobar coming off DH, and him sitting down Infante.

As far as your suggestion that the Braves trade Chipper to an AL team to be DH…there is no way any team would give anything of value up for Chipper at this point in his career. DH’s are there to provide power and productivity, and Chipper doesn’t fit that bill right now at all. And Chipper just stated that he doesn’t want the acrimony recently seen with Glavine and Smoltz (which I believe was entirely the players’ faults on both accounts), so if the handwriting is on the wall….Chipper’s retiring – certainly won’t be any trade.

drbasic1

May 17th, 2010
6:09 pm

I can’t believe all the people coming down on Chipper. He has been the braves for so many years. i think half of you would put your parents out to pasture if they got to old….Yet when he comes around…and he will…you will all deny saying you said anything…….just like Glaus, where is all the trade talk now??? Must also be Tech fans………..

beauvighn

May 17th, 2010
6:11 pm

For all the crap he has taken on here, and I shoveled alot of it, I admire the guy. Not many players would say that Bobby can’t be too loyal at the expense of the team. Your a stand up guy Chipper. Not get the bat going..

jerry

May 17th, 2010
6:11 pm

I don’t believe what has been posted on this blog so far is anywhere near representative of the way most Braves fans feel about Chipper.

NavySealDawg

May 17th, 2010
6:14 pm

Remember the movie Forrest Gump. . . your still Lt. Danz

Dr.Dave

May 17th, 2010
6:17 pm

Mark — Good stuff. I admire Chipper and the haters can take a hike. I’ll be in Cooperstown in ‘15 or whenever it happens.

Steve

May 17th, 2010
6:18 pm

I bet he leaves after this season. Especially with Bobby retiring. I don’t think he can handle playing for a different manager, even if it is Freddy Gonzalez (that’s my prediction). Mark who would be the every day third baseman if he retires after this season?

drbasic1

May 17th, 2010
6:18 pm

JERRY

Granted but check the blog over the past couple of weeks….i realize this is only a very small percentage of “Braves Fans”, but these seem to be the most vocal and i guess the most fair weathered….

DP

May 17th, 2010
6:20 pm

I don’t get all the Chipper bashing. The guy is a pro, a future Hall of Famer and one of the greatest Braves of all time. He has always been a student of the game. Even with a low batting average this year he still has a good OBP because he’s not up there hacking away at sliders in the dirt like Andruw Jones or Jeff Francouer. Chipper played 150+ games virtually every year through his early 30’s. He has been breaking down physically at roughly the age that most players broke down prior to the steroids era.

Chipper was an All-Star at 3rd and moved to left field for a couple of years to accommodate the Braves. How many stars do that willingly in this day and age? How many players have walked away from an 8 figure paycheck because they’re not playing up to their old standards? I can’t think of one who has retired in the middle of a fat contract as Chipper is talking about doing.

Chipper couldn’t have made it any clearer in this article that he’s told Cox he’s OK with being moved down in the order so Heyward can move into the 3 hole. I don’t know what Cox is waiting for. Opponents still clearly respect Chipper enough to pitch around him on a regular basis, so why not put him cleanup behind Heyward so Heyward might see a few more pitches to hit?

KPH

May 17th, 2010
6:22 pm

Chipper Jones is a class act and has been nothing short of amazing with his play for the Braves. Anyone who dosent think Chipper Jones deserves to end his playing day’s on his own terms is a selfish non
Braves fan. He will know when to hang em up before all of you self professed baseball gurus and he will do it with style and professionalism. And yes loyalty still means something to some people.

You go Chipper! Most of the Braves fans really appreciate what you have done for this ball club! You are right the day is coming but I hate to even think about it.

NOTSO FAST

May 17th, 2010
6:31 pm

KPH HAS SAID IT BEST.

vet, then and now

May 17th, 2010
6:32 pm

Brooks Robinson, George Brett, Eddie Mathews, Alex Rodriguez: don’t see larry Jr in that company.
Get away from Atl and see some real ball

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley. Mark Bradley said: Chipper Jones: ‘I know it’s coming down to the end’ http://bit.ly/9ZRj6X [...]

tsk, tsk

May 17th, 2010
6:34 pm

just read your comments KPH, ask his first wife about a class act and showing loyalty

tee

May 17th, 2010
6:35 pm

Chipper been overrated for the last 5 years! Its time to rid ourself of him, but I must say its been great having him around. Best Wishes for whatever he do in the future.

Sidslid

May 17th, 2010
6:36 pm

The math is starting to work against 3,000 hits. Too bad. Until a couple years ago, he was the best balanced average/power guy since George Brett. Wish he would have stayed in left and we kept Andrus and put Andrus at 2nd and Prado at 3rd. As it looks now, Salty was good trade bait, but Andrus is going to be a lead off hitter for the next 12 years.

Mark Bradley

May 17th, 2010
6:40 pm

Overrated the last five years? Didn’t he hit .364 in 2008?

Steve

May 17th, 2010
6:44 pm

Chipper Jones overrated? Tee you must be drunk:

2009 – .264, 18 HR, 71 RBI
2008 – .364, 22 HR, 75 RBI
2007 – .337, 29 HR, 102 RBI
2006 – .324, 26 HR, 86 RBI

Yea, how “overrated” he is.

Tyler

May 17th, 2010
6:50 pm

I will say he does get hurt a lot, and it starts to get old, but NOBODY can deny that he has been consistent as a great hitter!!!! Just 2 years ago he hit .364 and won the batting title… I agree, he may need to retire after this season, but BRAVES fan do need to appreciate the player and hitter he has been!!

Chief Knock-a-Homa

May 17th, 2010
6:51 pm

He’s a drama queen, retire today, your certainly not earning what your making, have the going away party at Hooters…

Ricky Boy

May 17th, 2010
6:51 pm

I echo your comments Mark, “Great player, great guy”.

The unappreciative fans we find here are the ones who know absolutely nothing about the game and what it takes to be a productive player year in and year out.

My hats off to Chipper for a stellar career and hoping he finds his groove back. There are still plenty of us who appreciate him!

Duffy

May 17th, 2010
6:52 pm

There are very few players in MLB today that have played with only one team their whole career. I applaud Chipper for staying with the Braves and being an important part of that team. I don’t get to go to many Braves games in person, but when I go, Chipper still gets one of the biggest applauses from the crowd when he takes the plate. I think true Braves fans will miss him when he retires.

Nick P

May 17th, 2010
6:54 pm

Im gonna miss him and Bobby! So any of you all are so ungreatful and have so much to thank both of these Braves for. They helped Baseball becoe a big time sport in Atlanta!Especially at a tie when the Hawks and Falcons werent woth the bucket to you know what in! Thanks for so many memories and hopefully you will right the ship and go on through the ret of your contract productively! Braves Rock!

Remow

May 17th, 2010
6:57 pm

vet, then and now: You mean the Brooks Robinson who at age 38 put up these numbers?
BA .201
HR 6
RBI 53

George Brett at 38
BA .255
HR 10
RBI 61

Eddie Mathews didn’t make it to 38. Was pretty much done at 34.
BA .250
HR 16
RBI 53

And of course Arod is Aroid. Maybe if Chipper had been on the juice he would have 600 dingers by now. Chipper is doing just fine for his age. Please get your details right.

Check out Chippers numbers posted by Steve and compare them age wise to the guys you list. It is an eye opener.

BravesAreDone

May 17th, 2010
7:01 pm

Chipper was the only way the Braves seemed to be able to win a game for several years. He has been a class act for this organization. He has been loyal and committed to the Braves even working his own salary down at a point to try and bring in other players. He seems to enjoy the role of team leader. Those of you saying negative things about him are frankly ridiculous in my opinion. I am thankful to Chipper for all he’s done for this team, and I’m thankful for all he still does.

TM

May 17th, 2010
7:04 pm

I’m done ripping Chipper for his lack of production. Reading his comments confirms that he understands where he is and what is happening. Chipper will take his place in Braves history and rightly so.

That does not excuse Bobby Cox though! For the 539th billionth time, his loyalty is getting in the way of putting the best lineup on the field. Bobby will take his place in Braves history too, but most everyone will include at least one (likely both) of the following statements when talking about Bobby Cox:
“He should have won more than one championship” and
“He was an extremely loyal manager. A lot of times to a fault.”

And that is frustrating as a fan.

Dacula

May 17th, 2010
7:04 pm

Great article. He will be sorely missed. I was in high school when he broke into the bigs and it will be a sad day when he is gone. Having said that, I do think it’s time to move Heyward into the 3 hole.

the dream

May 17th, 2010
7:04 pm

Mark,

Great Article on one of my favorite players of all time. I think he’s done quite enough to merit a spot in Cooperstown, but do you think he’s worth a first ballot look when the time comes?

BravesAreDone

May 17th, 2010
7:05 pm

TM–agree with everything you said! Last year Bobby kept Kelly Johnson in way way too long when everyone watching the team knew Prado needed to be in there every day. Bobby is just way too loyal.

Mark Bradley

May 17th, 2010
7:06 pm

Yes, the dream. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. And thanks to you and Dacula for the kind words.

Hey Knuckleheads...

May 17th, 2010
7:07 pm

To quote Eddie Murphy… “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY??”

Time to find a new 3rd baseman (who doesn’t have cold sores).

Trey

May 17th, 2010
7:09 pm

Brownie,

You forgot one player! Bret Favre, he always claims he is retiring then he comes back. He is the worst about not knowing when to hang up the cleats.