By Josh Kramer
11 NL East titles. 3 NL Pennants. 1 World Series. Want to know what all of these numbers have in common? They are all things that the Braves accomplished during the Chipper Jones era in Atlanta. Larry Wayne Jones Jr., known to the world as Chipper, has been the heart and soul of Atlanta baseball for nearly two decades now. As he enters his 18th full season at 3rd base for Atlanta’s favorite team, Chipper is ready to bid farewell. And I for one commend the guy.
There are three things that come to mind when I think of Chipper that I love to see in professional athletes. Those that do it the right way on and off the field (Chipper had one minor off-field hiccup). Those that win. And those who know when it is the right time to retire (this third one is largely thanks to Brett Favre). Chipper Jones has been a mainstay in Atlanta since 1995, though it should be noted that he appeared in a few games for the Braves back in 1993. The guy has put up gaudy Hall of Fame caliber numbers, but that is not what Chipper Jones was about by any means.
-One MVP Award (1999)
-One NL Batting Title
-Two Silver Slugger Awards
-454 home runs (third most ever for a switch hitter)
-A lifetime .304 batting average
And believe me, I could go on.
When it comes to Chipper Jones though, it is not about the numbers. It is about the “team” results. Chipper has been with the Braves for 17+ years. In 12 of those years, Atlanta made the playoffs (11 NL East titles and 1 Wild Card). Only one other player comes to mind in this day and age who has been able to lead his team to consistent playoff appearances the way Chipper has. And that would be none other than the King of New York, Derek Jeter. As you all already know, if you look up the word “Winning” in the dictionary, you would see Charlie Sheen’s face, and of course Derek Jeter’s mug. So not bad company for old Chipper.
Also, Chipper played during the peak of the “Steroid Era.” To this day, nothing has come out in regards to the Atlanta 3rd baseman using steroids. So kudos to him in an era where not many guys were above it. Now Chipper by no means was perfect. But who is perfect? He did engage in an extramarital affair with a Hooters waitress which resulted in a child. But Chipper never did anything to harm the game. And now he is going out on his own terms.
The “Golden Era” of Atlanta baseball has ended, at least for the time being. Many are predicting the Braves to finish 4th in the mighty AL East that features the likes of the Phillies, the newly energized Marlins, and the talented Washington Nationals. When it comes to the National League, Chipper Jones was the “Ultimate” franchise player (Jeter has been in the AL). He was a mainstay during the best years of the Atlanta organization that consistently put up All-Star caliber numbers. Now, with his numbers not nearly where they were in his prime, Chipper realizes it is his time to step down. I am glad that Chipper will get the proper sendoff with a nice 162 game tour around the country. Let’s hope that Derek Jeter will take note of the way Chipper is handling his later years. Savor the 2012 season, because many will be asking about Chipper Jones in 2013.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.