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As of Friday morning, all signs pointed in the direction of Chipper Jones’ inevitable retirement. Jones suffered a season-ending torn ACL injury a little over a week ago, in what he already declared his final season.
I had my article outline set and ready to go. I would write a nostalgic article on Chipper’s career, filled with complementary statistics and personality praises. I envisioned the piece having a strong resemblance to the one I wrote after Ken Griffey Jr’s announced retirement from baseball earlier this the season.
By Friday night though, I had to completely scratch that idea and start anew. Chipper Jones was planning a rehab stint, in order to allow him to return to the Braves for the 2011 Spring Training and end his career on his own terms.
I am a lifelong Mets fan and I could not be happier.
Jones has spent the last 17 years making my team miserable, piling up over 40 home runs and dominating them for much of his career.
I used to be proud to say that throughout the second half of the1990’s and earlier 2000’s, I was one of the many New York Mets fans to take part in the taunting “Laaaarrryy, Laaaarrryy” chant that would rock Shea Stadium every time Chipper would come up to bat.
In retrospect, I’ve realized that we were hazing not only one of the best players of our generation, but also one of the most professional and admirable. If the only bad thing us Mets fans could find to make fun of Jones about was the fact that his first name is Larry, then there must not be many bad things about him at all.
In an era where players’ celebrity overrides the purity of the team-first mentality in sports, there are only a handful of players that separate themselves from the pack and conduct themselves in a manner to earn the respect of everyone they come in contact with.
Chipper Jones was and still is one of those players.
He has been the image of consistency over nearly the last two decades, playing in at least 150 games for eight straight seasons from 1996-2003 and only missed significant time to injuries twice before in his career.
Because of his lengthy career, Jones’ legacy has not yet been decided, but when all is said and done, an argument can be made for him to be mentioned in the same breath as the Tony Gwynn’s and Cal Ripken Jr’s of our generation.
Not only has Jones spent his entire professional career on the same team, a rarity in today’s sports world, like Gwynn and Ripken, but also like them he has left his mark on baseball history. If Chipper’s career ended today, he would finish with a 1995 World Series Championship. a career .306 batting average, a Gold Glove and would rank third all-time in home runs hit by a switch hitter, behind Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray.
Jones’ clean image is just as impressive as his talents. He represents blue-collar America, working hard day in-day out, never stepping out of line and balancing his competitive nature with respectful sportsmanship.
Hopefully Chipper will have a successful rehab and be able to return to his rightful place in 2011, playing third base for the Atlanta Braves.
If he does not though, I’m glad I can say I got to see Chipper Jones play.