It’s not quite embarrassing for Larry Wayne Jones – yet. Chipper is hitting just .226 with a .729 OPS, but he is just two years removed from the best offensive season of his career (2008 when he hit .364 with a 1.044 OPS) and has still been able to play in about 90% of the Braves’ games thus far. At 38 at a demanding position and with a history of health concerns, the durability is notable. And while the performance is not, it’s still early – Mark Teixeira is hitting .209 with a .697 OPS. Jones is guaranteed $20 million next season if he plays, yet may not. That’s somewhat refreshing to hear, but what are the conditions?
Obviously he is not playing great right now, but what will ultimately likely make the decision for Chipper is if he both sustains the poor play through the season (not likely – to this degree at least) and the Braves finish below .500 (possible, they are hovering at it right now). Gone are the days of Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux and the Atlanta dynasty and Chipper is a clear Hall of Fame candidate with little less to prove. Jason Heyward has even showed up on the scene to take the torch. Whether it is after this season or next, Chipper Jones has left his mark on the game while he powered one of the greatest runs by any team in recent history.
Chipper Jones joined the Dan LeBatard Show on 790 the Ticket in Miami to talk about retirement, Jason Heyward, Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz, paying to see Tiger Woods, and plays Dan LeBatard’s favorite segment “douche or no douche.”
On if he would ever walk away from $20 million guaranteed:
“One thing that I have always said is that I’ve never played this game for money. I play it because I enjoy playing it and I’ve been pretty good at it for the last little bit. The reality is that I have a lot of things pulling at me away from the game. I’ve got four little boys at home and a wife who has sacrificed a lot during my team in the big leagues. I make no bones about it. I am seriously considering it no matter how this year ends up for the Atlanta Braves. It’s something that’s still in the works, but hasn’t been ruled out for the end of the year. I’m not going to stick around and hamstring this organization if I’m not playing well and not enjoying myself… I’ve committed to play this year. I’m not going to walk out on the club. But at the end of this year, if I don’t feel like I can contribute at a high level like I always have, then it is a possibility that I will walk away… There’s no line. It’s just a feel of whether I’ll be able to continue to do this at a high level past this year.”
On comparing 20 year-old Jason Heyward to himself at 20:
“It’s not even close. At 20 years old, I was in AA. I went into my first big league Spring Training and was completely overmatched. This kid is, number one, he’s got his head on straight. He’s a great kid. He came into camp and he was not the least bit overmatched. He was not the least bit intimidated. He came in with the mindset that he was not just going to make the team, but to be an important cog in this club. He wanted to go out and do some damage once the season started. It didn’t take him very long – what three pitches before he had his first homer and three RBIs. I’ve never heard the stadium as loud as it was when he hit the ball out of the ballpark against Carlos Zambrano on Opening Day. This kid is special.”
On the pitcher out of Maddux, Glavine or Smoltz that he would least like to face:
“I would have to say Smoltzy. He had the most dominant stuff. You felt like you could go up there and form a gameplan against the other two and put the ball in play and have a chance to have one fall in against those two guys. Ultimately, I faced them both and got some knocks off them. Smoltzy was the one guy I never faced. I faced him in Spring Training. And man, you talk about electric stuff. If he did not want you to make contact, he could prevent you from doing so.”
On whether he would rather hit a walk off homerun at home or at Shea Stadium:
“That’s a real good question. I would have to say Shea Stadium to be honest with you. I’ve always enjoyed that stage. The fans obviously motivate you to do the best that you can. If you can be successful on that stage, especially with the history that I have there with the fans, it’s awfully gratifying. Shea Stadium had a lot of sentimental value to me. I hit my first homerun there in 1995… I’ve grown to love New York. When I first came up, I didn’t really enjoy playing there much. But it’s grown on me over the years. I always enjoy my time when I am there.”
And douche or no douche – bunting during a no-hitter:
“1 – 0 game, no douche. More than three runs, douche.”