September 11, 2009
It's impossible not to admire the current sentiment being shared by Chipper Jones(notes). Feeling down in the dumps after a sorry second half, the Braves' third baseman is saying he'd leave a whole bunch of money on the table and hang up his spikes if his performance isn't up to snuff with his lofty standards.
Here's 37-year-old Chipper getting real with David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
"I'm not going to tolerate the numbers I have right now for very long. I'm certainly not going to stick around for a big contract if I'm not having fun and not producing.
"I'm not saying I'm retiring at the end of this year or the end of next year, but if I become an average player, I'm not sticking around. I'm not going to hamstring the ballclub with the money I'm making, and I'm not going to be happy being a mediocre player."
In an age where we're forced to watch Brett Favre turn himself from a national hero into a national punchline, Jones' line of thinking is certainly understood and welcome. Perhaps he'd even like to share it with Ken Griffey before the ancient Mariner makes any plans for 2010.
And, yes, even if that means a few subpar seasons. He's been there for so long that I had to actually look up the Braves' third baseman — Terry Pendleton, not a hard pull at all — before his rookie season. Think of all the questions that will be asked if Chipper takes off. Will Vinny Castilla(notes) or Make DeRosa return to man third base? Can Tommy Hanson(notes) handle being the face of the franchise? Who in Atlanta will antagonize the Mets? Who will gives the bloggers across the league a chance to make jokes about Hooters?
On a more serious note, we've always been able to find Jones at the very small intersection where the stats-obsessed and the David Eckstein(notes) fans briefly meet. (In fact, Chipper might the sole car in the crosswalk.) I might be alone in this, but I've always imagined that Chipper would stubbornly stick around and try to make a run at 3,000 hits, no matter what he had to do or how many more injuries he had to fight back from. It seemed in his nature.
But the reality is that Chipper is still 609 hits away from that magic number and he'd need to average about 120 hits the next five seasons to do so. Not completely impossible, but not incredibly likely either. He probably wouldn't play past his current contract — which goes through 2012 — and it's hard to think he'd go DH for an AL team somewhere.
And so while I feel the urge not to encourage him further, I must applaud Jones' realistic take and wish to not be the guy earning a large and undeserved paycheck.