Unless you’ve been hiding under home plate, you know that this is Larry “Chipper” Jones final season with the Atlanta Braves and the only big question remaining on this fan’s mind: is “Why do they still call him Chipper, when he doesn’t seem very happy?”
The Braves organization is constantly entreating upon us to share this historical experience with Chipper by purchasing commemorative photographic prints, baseball bats, and souvenir programs. It is imperative to get out to Turner Field and “Chop for Chipper” before all the memories disappear like so many Jeff Francoeur jerseys.
These efforts have not been in vain since I’ve been out to see Chipper four times this year, but my lasting impression of the Atlanta third baseman is one of dejection. Understandably, Chipper seems down about his reoccurring injuries, his impending retirement, and problems at home. From the stands, I have seen him more than once hang his head walking from the dugout to the middle of the field between innings. Moreover at home watching Braves’ broadcasts, when things go bad on the diamond, there are constant camera shots of Chipper sitting in the dugout with his head buried in a towel or tossing his batting helmet in disgust – this “official” photo really says it. Once in a while Chipper has been perky, but it seems it takes a trip to the All-Star Game or a three-run homer in the bottom of the 9th against the Phillies to do it.
I think it is wise of him to retire when he is still a productive baseball player and allow players and fans alike in other cities to pay their respects. As a hitter, he’s been solid this year, but defensively, I think there has been a noticeable decline, though this shortcoming remains an unmentionable during the broadcasts. Deservedly, he will slide into the Hall of Fame standing up instead of simply being known as the “Best Braves’ Third Basemen Since Darrell Evans“– sounds funny, but Evans was a very good and highly underrated player.
No one will be sadder than the Braves marketing folks. Year before last, they had Bobby Cox’s last season to commemorate; this season it was Chipper, and who will join the retirement caravan next year? Maybe the front office can bring back Andruw Jones for a final hurrah – you still see some “A. Jones” jerseys at the ballpark once a while. Or perhaps Dan Uggla, who’s hitting near his weight, can be forced into early retirement. Either way, in future seasons Braves fans will be singing the blues while Chipper may finally attain the bliss that seems to have eluded him this year.