Other than Hank Aaron, there is probably not a bigger name for the Atlanta Braves than Chipper Jones. After all, he's been with the team since he got drafted in 1990. He made his debut at the show in 1993 and played eight games. After missing the 1994 season because of an injury, he has played for 18 straight seasons.
In that time, he won the MVP in 1999 and was in the top 25 in MVP voting for 12 of his years. He was a seven-time All-Star, won two Silver Slugger awards and was the runner-up behind Dodgers pitcher Hideo Nomo for the Rookie of the Year in 1995. He is currently 72nd among all-time hitters with 2,646 hits -- with the possibility of surpassing Jake Beckley, who is in 50th place with 2,763 hits. Of Chipper's hits, 592 are doubles and 459 home runs while having a .304 batting average and 1,585 RBIs.
While other stars of the game such as Mark McGuire, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds got caught up in the steroid controversy, Chipper has kept his integrity and remained true to himself and the game. If I had a vote, he would someday make it to Cooperstown.
However, when I look at him now, I just think about stars such as Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan and Jerry Rice. At one time they were at the best in their sport. Unlike Barry Sanders who stepped away with people wanting more, these athletes didn't know when to hang it up. Did Chipper Jones' decision to retire come too late and could it hurt his image in the future?
I really thought that last year should have been his year to walk away with his head held high. After having his best season at the plate in 2008 with a .364 and getting on base close to 50 percent of the time (.470), I could see how he could say one more year. But then he failed to hit my weight the next two years with a .264 and .265 average. He had a slight boost last year, getting nominated to the 2011 All-Star game last year. That's when he should have said his good-bye.
But no, he has to go out in grand fashion by having a somewhat farewell tour. How embarrassing is that after announcing that this is his final year, he tears the meniscus in his left knee in spring training while stretching? He's on the DL list again, this time after getting a contusion on his left leg. They drained 120 ccs of fluid from a hematoma. Because he goes all out he tends to land on the disabled list as it is. I don't think it's in him to back off, which I respect. But is that enough to possibly hurt your image? I know he said he wanted to help the team and hopefully make it to the World Series for the first time since 1999, where they got swept by the Yankees.
I guess if I made close to $40 million over the last three years, I would be out there with a pair of crutches or a wheelchair. But considering that he has a net worth of more than $100 million and has made more than $155 million, I have to ask if maybe he really feels that he could help the team at 40 years of age or is it just his ego talking?
Manny Fils is a sports writer for The Citizen. Fils can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.