Today, pitchers and catchers report to spring training along with some position players that are eager to get a jump on the season and put them in a position to come out of the gate as strong as possible. For the first time since the mid 90's there will be no Chipper Jones in the dugout. It is clearly the end of an era. The Braves have done a good job at re-tooling the roster in the absence of their recently departed future Hall of Fame third baseman. In honor of Spring Training opening it seems appropriate to thank Chipper for what he has done for the Braves and all the fans of the Braves over his career. Three Cheers!
In five years time there will be a ceremony held for Major League Baseball and that of course is the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. At that time, baring something outlandish and crazy, will be when the great Chipper Jones' road to greatness should be complete. Chipper should be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee and there should be no question about that. At least there will not be any controversy on what hat he is going to be wearing when he is enshrined in Cooperstown As a player who was drafted by Atlanta, moved up through the organization, World Series Champion in 1995, won an MVP in 1999, 8 times All-Star, 2008 batting champion and stayed there right to the end- 19 consecutive seasons, 14 of which resulted in consecutive division titles.
The Braves have seemingly known when to cut bait with players just as they have peaked and then parted ways to get younger or restructure...that didn't happen with Chipper. The Braves knew he was the face of the franchise and his production never warranted them to think otherwise. The only reason for any decline in production was from injury and no one could disagree that when Chipper was on the field that he was going to make the team better, more feared and had a leader out there with them.
Maybe at some point Chipper will make his way back into the game. Maybe in the Braves front office or maybe in some sort of player development role like a hitting coach (sorry Greg Walker). Imagine having Chipper Jones as a batting coach, it would be like talking hitting with Ted Williams. How could a player not get better?
Many people will compare him to other great switch hitters throughout history, Eddie Murray and Micky Mantle. That is a little unfair as he truly is his own man. He holds his own and can stand alone. He has earned that.
On June 13, 2008 Chipper was hitting .419
and there was talk that maybe he could be
the first player since Ted Williams to
end the season over .400
Not since Cal Ripken Jr. has a player announced his final year of play and enjoyed a farewell tour to the extent that Chipper enjoyed. Just about every team he visited, his last time into town, honored him and his career and more often then not passed along a nice thoughtful gift on behalf of the opposing franchise. Teams would not do that for a ballplayer that was just a good player, or a great player...but they sure would, and did, for a Hall of Fame player.
There will be a lot missed by Braves fans with a loss of the magnitude that is the loss of the face of your franchise both on the field and off. From a strictly on field view, the loss of a corner infielder. One who, for the majority of his 19 year MLB career, put up good solid defense and contributed offensively as not only the 3rd bat in the lineup but the backbone to the lineup but also the spark plug. Off the field, I am sure that he will still be the community minded guy who is involved in various charities. From a more indirect view, not getting to see Chipper and follow him and being inspired by him and his play will be a loss for the young kids. The average fan can see what impact Chipper has had on the growth of baseball in Georgia and the players that are being produced from those youth systems. Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann are just 2 examples already.
Fans will remember seeing that switch hitter with his Blond Bat from the left side and the Black Bat from the right side, that smooth swing that reminds you of Ted Williams and the bull dog look on the field and in the dugout.
It is an old joke but as many Braves fans have said and will continue to say: Thank You Todd Van Poppel! Van Poppel appeared as a tough player to sign and made it a no brainer for the Braves to take Chipper as the first overall pick in the Free Agent Draft. The rest is history!
There are probably rules that need to be adhered to, but would it not be fitting after whom-ever is selected to provide the introduction speach at the Hall of Fame (maybe his father, maybe Bobby Cox) in 5 years time to announce: "Please welcome this years inductee, Larry Wayne 'Chipper' Jones" and then hear it---
`All aboard! Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaa! ( dum-dum...dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum)
Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay` - Crazy Train by Ozzie Osbourn
Would that not just be amazing? Just imagine the goose bumps and chills!!