Wed Jun 08 06:43pm EDT
Chipper Jones(notes) said that if teammate Jason Heyward(notes) can muster "80 percent" of his own capabilities while playing with an injured right shoulder, then he should be on the field — because the Atlanta Braves need him there.
Jones is 39 years old, with 17 years of major league experience, 441 home runs and 10 trips to the disabled list (so far) on his Cooperstown résumé. Heyward is 21, coming off a spectacular rookie season — but one in which he played through several nagging injuries.
So, it's easy to see why Jones thinks he can offer guidance.
Though he was eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday, Heyward reportedly has not swung a bat in more than two weeks and isn't ready to hit from a tee yet. Heyward has said he doesn't want to try to play until the pain is gone.
But that's not good enough for Jones, whose comments as reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution go to show that you don't have to be in high school in order to get pressure from your peers:
"I think where Jason might have erred was the comment that he made, 'I'm not coming back until it doesn't hurt anymore.' That has a tendency to rub people the wrong way," Jones said.
"What Jason needs to realize is that Jason at 80 percent is a force, and Jason at 80 percent is better than a lot of people in this league. And that there are a bunch of his teammates that are out there playing with discomfort and not healthy, and still going at it."
Holy cow, Chipper's going to hurt Heyward's other shoulder if he twists his left arm anymore. Or make him fall on his face and break his nose because of the guilt trip. As a respected team leader, Chipper's voice will be heard inside Atlanta's clubhouse on any topic he so chooses.
Jones wants to appear as trying to influence Heyward by having him put team before self. But it comes off as disingenuous: Chipper knows his days are numbered (he's been talking about retiring for a while) and his chance to win another World Series might come down to, well, this year or never more.
Heyward has many more summers to go. And he knows it.
"I thought I could play with it some; I had some stretches this year where I was where I thought I should be," he said. "But the wear and tear of every day and how hard I play, and swinging the bat every day, made it worse gradually. It's a little frustrating, but while I still have time — this is only year two of my career — so I most definitely need to take care of it."
Heyward's first duty is to himself. But even looking at it from the team point of view, what Chipper wants Heyward to do is reckless. Heyward was batting .214/.317/.407 in 161 plate appearances, and went 4 for 41 with one extra-base hit in May, before being shut down. At best, those stats are 80 percent of the worst guy on the a major league bench. That's not what Jason Heyward can do. That's not what the Braves want.
And where does Chipper get that Heyward is at "80 percent," anyway? That's how you pull muscles, by yanking stuff out of your keister. By using Chipper's logic, and health history, can we trust that he knows how to manage even his own injuries? How much you want to bet that Chipper trying to play through injuries of his own made them worse? He probably cost his team with ineffective at-bats, and with bad defense, because he was too proud to say he was hurt and shut it down.
While they're hanging near the top of the NL East, the Braves came into Wednesday ranking 24th in runs scored in the majors, and 21st in OPS. They do need Heyward's bat, but not the one he was swinging before he went on the disabled list in late May.
Chipper Jones has loads of experience but, in this case, lacks wisdom.