When crowds hear “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne echo over the speaker system at Turner Field, they can be assured that Chipper Jones is not far behind. The Atlanta Braves honored the former third baseman by retiring Jones’ jersey in the rafter next to names such as Tom Glavine, Dale Murphy and Hank Aaron to name a few.
As Jones watched from the press box to see his former team squeak out a 3-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday night, he admitted that he probably could have played a couple more years in an Atlanta uniform before calling it quits.
“I probably could have played one, maybe two more, years, but it just wasn’t in me.” Jones said. “I have to fall in love with the game all over again.”
With so many memories Jones has had at Fulton County Stadium and Turner Field it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing that position.
Jones doesn’t necessarily miss the game of baseball, at least not yet, but there are plenty of things this Braves organization will miss about him.
5. Veteran Leadership – At one point in time this season the Braves had 11 players on the active roster who are age 25 or younger. With long time Brave Brian McCann at the end of a contract year, its hard to tell who will step up as the veteran leader of this ball club.
“I learned a lot just by watching Chipper and seeing how he carried himself as a professional,” said Andrelton Simmons, who played with Jones his rookie season and hit a homerun in Friday’s game. “I grew up watching [Jones] and then to play alongside him was a dream come true.”
4. Mets Killer – There was no organization that celebrated Jones’ retirement more than the New York Mets. Jones tormented the organization with clutch hits and home runs at Shea Stadium. The man called Larry (his given first name) by New York faithful hit for a .313 average with 19 homers and 55 runs batted in in 88 games, along with a .308 average in three games during the 1999 National League Championship Series.
3. Power on Both Sides – Early in the season Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez attempted to adjust his lineup of left handed and right handed hitters to give his team the best possible matchup against opposing pitchers. But nothing says versatility more than a switch-hitting player that can hit for average and power. Jones is the only switch hitter in Major League history to hit for over a .300 average (on both sides) and hit for more than 300 home runs.
“He is one of the best hitters in the game, he was born to play the game and born to hit,” said longtime teammate Tim Hudson. “He’s great from both sides of the plate and can hit with power and is a great clutch hitter.”
Starting pitcher Kris Medlen is the only switch hitter left on the team and although he does have a home run this season it would be safe to say Medlen doesn’t quite have the hitting prowess of a Chipper Jones.
2. Consistent Defense at The Hot Corner – Paul Janish gave his best Jones impersonation at third base late in the eight inning against the Diamondbacks when he dove to his left side and gunned down a runner at first base. Atlanta has rotated three different players to platoon the position but so far the future at third is uncertain.
“We have to do what we have to do, you simply can’t replace a Chipper Jones, he is a Hall of Famer at that position,” said Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez. “We just have to do the best we can and who knows maybe the next star defensive player is at another position.”
So far Jones’ replacement Chris Johnson has six errors at third, which ties him for third most on the team.
1. End of an era – Chipper jones’ departure doesn’t just mark the end of a career but the end of the Braves ’90s dynasty as we know it. Jones was the last standing member of the 1995 World Series team that brought Atlanta its first and only World Championship. Jones has given the Braves plenty of memories over the years but Braves president John Schuerholz seemed to say it best during the pregame ceremonies, “Chipper did not play for the Braves forever but he will forever be in our hearts.”