He’s about to turn 40, but Chipper Jones is still a mighty man

The knee needed draining, but the power? It's remaining. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

The knee needed draining, but the power? It's remaining. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

It is not my intent to write about Chipper Jones every day of calendar 2012, but let’s face it: The guy IS  amazing.

Hurts his knee in spring training before he can announce his impending retirement, has arthroscopic surgery, recuperates blurry-fast and is ready to go in the season’s fifth game, hits a home run in his first game back.

Plays two games in Houston (the Braves’ first two wins of calendar 2012), sees his knee swell on the plane home, gets 45 cc’s of gunk drained during Friday’s home opener, then returns Sunday and hits a home run in his first home game of his final season (another win).

The Braves so far: 2-4 when Chipper doesn’t play, 3-0 when he does.

Even in his final go-round, he remains a major presence in the field, in the clubhouse, even in the dugout. You’ll recall that the Braves had men on second and third with one out in the eighth inning of Friday’s tie game. Dan Uggla was up, Matt Diaz on deck. The Brewers might have walked Uggla to pitch to Diaz — or, more likely, a left-handed pinch-hitter against Francisco Rodriguez. Except that the Braves had  used Eric Hinske, their best lefty pinch-hitter, which meant they were down to Juan Francisco. Except that the Brewers didn’t know that.

What did Fredi Gonzalez do? Had Chipper — who’d just had the knee drained an hour earlier and wasn’t going to budge from the bench — grab a bat in the dugout. Maybe the Brewers would have pitched to Uggla anyway, but the notion of having Chipper walk to the plate with the bases loaded had to register. K-Rod worked to Uggla and broke his bat but, owing to the scooted-in infield, saw the game-winning hit dribble through. (And people say Fredi is a terrible strategist.)

Say what you will about Chipper — and by this late date everyone has said absolutely everything, pro and con — but the guy is still and has always been a big-time ballplayer. Yes, with better knees he’d have been even better longer, but even with bad wheels he has been great. Eight days shy of his 40th birthday, he’s still pretty great.

By Mark Bradley

162 comments Add your comment

K

April 16th, 2012
8:35 am

K

April 16th, 2012
8:36 am

Mark Bradley

April 16th, 2012
8:36 am

K is for kudos.

Rickster

April 16th, 2012
8:36 am

Dang. Second.

Rickster

April 16th, 2012
8:37 am

Or is it third?

K

April 16th, 2012
8:37 am

“The Braves so far: 2-4 when Chipper doesn’t play, 3-0 when he doesn’t”
Need to change doesn’t to does!

Galen Pell

April 16th, 2012
8:38 am

Fifth! Of whiskey!

coachx

April 16th, 2012
8:41 am

Chipper Rocks !

Galen Pell

April 16th, 2012
8:41 am

Quick edit needed Mark. He’s damned if he doesn’t and damned if he doesn’t.

Trojan

April 16th, 2012
8:41 am

Rest him every 3rd game and he is the best. Keep him rested even when he thinks he feels good enough to play.

K

April 16th, 2012
8:44 am

I am impressed with the reversal. How many times has a team started with 4 losses and then reversed course to win 5 in a row? Probably very rare. I was afraid they might not win more than 5 the entire month of April.

Mark Bradley

April 16th, 2012
8:45 am

Got it. Thanks, folks.

I’m not at my best when writing before 9 a.m. (Or after 9 a.m., come to think of it.)

Buckeye

April 16th, 2012
8:48 am

Chipper,

Look like a “mighty man” and lose the chin hair. You look like the front man from Metallica.

Taxi Smith

April 16th, 2012
8:54 am

We have been privileged as baseball fans to see this man play the game.

GT Trumpet

April 16th, 2012
8:54 am

What a wonderful ball player. I’m going to miss him next year.

hot sauce

April 16th, 2012
9:01 am

larry wayne jr for the win.

hope he comes back next year as the hitting coach.

Herschel Talker

April 16th, 2012
9:07 am

MB:

The man is indeed amazing. But is his 100 games worth $13 million? The contract albatross still hinders the Braves flexibility. His salary is a bigger negative than he is a positive.

HT

SimpleDawg

April 16th, 2012
9:14 am

Chipper Jones….Damn Good Brave !

Sonny Clusters

April 16th, 2012
9:27 am

Chipper could hit .290 in a body cast and that may be something we’ll see before the season is over. He is a pure hitter and there haven’t been that many on the Braves teams over the years. Now, we may make a little fun of the chin hair and deer tattoos and Mizuno ads he takes to the plate with him, but if he will always remember to take his bat up there we will forgive him. Besides being entertaining at the plate he is always good for a few laughs in an interview like when he hurt his hammock bone. The hammock bone comment got a re-write in the DOP (or whatever his name is) column awhile back. Not many ballplayers have a hammock bone and those who do are likely pure hitters.

Hurt Kurbstreit

April 16th, 2012
9:28 am

Chipper is also a Hall of Fame player in the clubhouse. He shows the younger guys how it’s done and is always there to help a teammate sort out his problems.

Sonny Clusters

April 16th, 2012
9:35 am

We was once told that the best ballplayers are the ones that don’t have a lot of things on their minds but baseball and we believe that to be true. If you was standing at third base and there was a pretty girl sitting behind the 3B dugout and she was smiling at you and blowing you kisses, you might become distracted. Same thing if you was standing out there and day dreaming about a 12-point buck walking across the infield knowing your gun was still in the dugout. That could distract you and cause you to lose a ball in the lights if it was a night game. We say keeping your eye on the ball and your mind in the game is what separates the really good players from the run of the mill ballplayers.

Dr. Phil

April 16th, 2012
9:36 am

MLB had a program on the most feared hitters in baseball, by player vote and by fan vote. Neither list included Chipper. I would agree that Pujos should be #1, but Jones should be near the top. He has dropped off in recent years due to injuries, but in his first 10 years, Chipper was the best hitter in baseball, in my opinion. I find his recent field play as amazing as his hitting, considering his injuries. I think that “mighty man” is a little overstated, though. He might make a pretty good manager.

Sonny Clusters

April 16th, 2012
9:36 am

We was filtered again. At least the page is standing still today. :-)

kappellmeister

April 16th, 2012
9:39 am

HT – dang that glass is just always half full, ain’t it?

Jack Dennis TN

April 16th, 2012
9:49 am

reckingball

April 16th, 2012
9:49 am

Dr. Phil 9:36……Don’t know if they fear Chipper, but the batterymates of the oppossing teams, always seem to be very wary of Jones, when he is in the batters box.
go braves

Jamaaliver

April 16th, 2012
9:51 am

Hard to believe that many of the fans here have been calling him to retire for almost a half decade.

He is my all time favorite baseball player, hands down. Can’t wait till he’s our hitting coach next year.

Sonny Clusters

April 16th, 2012
9:52 am

Not since we played ball on a team with a young Silky Sweaters have we seen anybody with the plate discipline of Chipper Jones. Chipper can wait on a pitch to hit better than just about anybody since Silky Sweaters was playing ball with us in Gwinnett County. We remember when Silky would come up to bat on the road, the crowds would taunt him and call him by his given name, “Sey-more, Sey-more, Sey-more” and that would just make him mad and make him want to get a hit and win the game. One day, somebody called him “Sey-more” and he just snapped. He was running to the dugout to get his deer rifle when Coach tackled him and took him out of the game. Last time we saw him he was up in a deer stand selling insurance.

Ostrich Racer

April 16th, 2012
9:57 am

My all-time favorite Brave — edging out Darrell Evans and Murphy.

If I managed the Mets (God forbid), any pitched ball in Chipper’s strike zone would be a $500 fine.

Herschel Talker

April 16th, 2012
10:12 am

kappellmeister:

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. You can’t deny that a guy making this much money and playing so few games is a hindrance.

HT

DawgDad

April 16th, 2012
10:23 am

It’s been fantastic to see Chipper come back and lift the Braves out of the gutter, but it’s a bit disconcerting to see how much they still depend on him.

There were some other positive signs this weekend: Starters going deep into the game, Heyward looking like an all-star, Bourn and Prado heating up a bit. Need to get Freeman and Uggla cranked up and find a Major League shortstop. Braves-Mets will be an interesting series this week.

Jamaaliver

April 16th, 2012
10:26 am

HT, is it fair to judge a player primarily by how much he makes? He didn’t come up with terms of the deal himself. Clearly he’s stil the most valuable player on the team.

Also, keep in mind that he has restructured his deal multiple times for the betterment of the team.

Chris from the Rock

April 16th, 2012
10:30 am

5 words I can’t wait to hear: Chad Durbin designated for assignment

retired

April 16th, 2012
11:00 am

HT your man made millions for an obscure football league and never will considered as one of the greats to the NFL ……. sounds like sour grapes to me…… and I like Hershel . Chipper earned his bucks (pun intended) over the years with loyalty and leadership. HIS PRESENCE is worth it (even if the salaries of ballplayers are generally obscene) in the relative world of sports pay.

JSS

April 16th, 2012
11:04 am

Money talks… He’s the big line item on a team confined by its budget. So, he’s a hinderance if you’re not getting at least 145 games a year from him. That’s the shame in it… And folks, yeah it is a two-way street (a deal); but certain people howled when they made such salary decisions in the first place… Wren and or Schuerholz are not getting a pass…You can make mistakes when you’re not making Kawakami, Ortiz, and Lowe deals…

David Granger

April 16th, 2012
11:05 am

It would be real nice to see Chipper stay healthy and play 135-145 games (day off now and then)…and have a good year his final season.

bakerman

April 16th, 2012
11:16 am

Herschel, if you can’t see that the Braves are a better team with Chipper in the lineup, then you don’t understand the game. We had better enjoy this year because we are weaker without him.

Fly On The Wall

April 16th, 2012
11:19 am

I’d rather we put that money on Chipper and know what we’re getting, than waste more on the throw away players we keep getting off the scrap heap. How much money has been wasted in the past few years while so many have been calling for Chipper to give it up?

I surely will miss Chipper…and only hope he can be replaced by someone at least half as valuable as he has been.

JSS

April 16th, 2012
11:33 am

Weaker because you never made the hard choices in the correct manner… That is a self-inflicted wound…

Chip

April 16th, 2012
11:43 am

WIth apologies to Murph, Knucksie, Mad Dog, Smoltzie, Glavine…

Best…Atlanta…Brave…Ever

Thanks for the memories.

Tony C.

April 16th, 2012
11:55 am

Just call him “Hoss”. The guy is money….I’ve seen him do any and everything you could ask a ballplayer to do; and he’s done it in a manner and with a consistency that few others can approach, let alone exceed.

I’m going to miss hearing “Crazytrain”….and watching the other team’s players tighten up that extra little bit.

reckingball

April 16th, 2012
11:55 am

How many games did Chipper play in in 2011, as compared to the rest of the team? I have read that he was 3rd or 4th, in most game appearances. Don’t know if that is correct.
I wonder how many people buy tickets, so they can see Chipper play? How many of those people buy food and drinks while they are at the game?
How many Chipper jerseys and other Chipper items, do the Braves sell?
Go Braves! Beat those Muttros!

Sonny Clusters

April 16th, 2012
12:01 pm

Chipper’s hitting right now is pretty special but when he takes the field and has to move left or right – and especially with Pastornicky being exposed with limited range and an inability to field ground balls hit to his right – the left side of the infield is going to be reminiscent of when Sonny Jackson and Larvell Blanks were over there slinging leather. Look it up.

Don

April 16th, 2012
12:02 pm

“Chipper is a Mighty Man”
He is indeed a Mighty HITTER.
But you seem to continue to forget or ignore the fact that in the National League, a player must play defense half of the time – And the judgment of him as a “Mighty” player must include that fact.

Sonny Clusters

April 16th, 2012
12:02 pm

Yes, Larvell Blanks.

Ebenezer Snerdberg

April 16th, 2012
12:06 pm

Please, write Durbin a check and show him the door. Bring up Gearin. Or is he Fredi Cox’s Ken Norton?

kappellmeister

April 16th, 2012
12:06 pm

HT – Actually, you cant put a price on solid clubhouse leadership. Ask the Red Sox. If the Braves win a pennant this year and select Larry Wayne as their MVP, will you eat your crow like a man?

mrj

April 16th, 2012
12:15 pm

Chip, you forgot “Aaron”. He was pretty good too, in his prime (20 years of prime!)
But I do agree with the rest of your list. I didn’t get to see Aaron until the very end of his career. Sure wish we had cable tv then. But Chipper has been amazing, regardless of the number of games played. None of his injuries were soft or inflated. He truly played the game in a manner that his body just couldn’t keep up with. In entertainment/ sports salary terms (which are ridiculous), he has earned his salary. For his production the past few years, the salary is not out of bounds for the league. Chipper will be missed.

reckingball

April 16th, 2012
12:29 pm

@12:06…..Is Durbin a heavywieght boxer too?
He might should try boxing full time, at this stage of his career, as a pitcher.

Larry

April 16th, 2012
12:30 pm

Yes, Chipper has been a shot in the arm when he’s played because he’s produced…the sad part is how poorly this team plays and is managed without him.