As the MLB playoffs begin, there are a lot of new faces making their post-season debuts. The likes of rookies Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are working toward adding to their growing lore. The Yankees are trying to add another piece of silverware to the mantle. Nonetheless, fans also saw the end of a great career. With the Atlanta Braves’ loss to the St. Louis Cardinals (6-3), they not only end their season but also Chipper Jones’s 19-season major league career.
Fresh out of Pierson, Florida and the first overall pick in the 1990 MLB, 18-year-old Jones quickly made his way through the Braves’ minor league system, going on to be the youngest player in the MLB on his debut in 1993. He would, however, spend the next year (the 1994 strike-shortened season) on the DL due to an ACL tear.
Nevertheless, upon his return, he lead all rookies in RBIs, games started and played, plate appearances, at bats, and runs scored. Jones was able to find his way to stardom through his ability to switch hit, a rarity in the game of baseball. He could hit for the average or power, easily. This ability gained him comparisons to Mickey Mantle by some. He won his only World Series that same year, although he went to the championships two more times over the span of his career.
From there, he went on to win a National League MVP title in 1995, be an eight time all star, and the NL batting champion in 2008. In the 2006 season, he became the Braves’ career RBI leader.
However, all good things must come to an end. The 40-year-old third baseman announced in March of this year that the end of his career would coincide with the end of the Atlanta Braves’ season. Thus started a season-long swansong. Over the season, Jones was consistently applauded during games even by opposing fans. Everyone came out to see the legend play in their stadium one last time. In his last home at-bat, he was honored with a standing ovation by the Braves’ faithful.
Although the perfect ending for the future Hall of Famer would be another World Series title, it will not be so. Jones’s season ended earlier than most would have liked in a messy NL wild card game. Fans wanted to blame the umps, but Jones himself took the blame due to a throwing error and a poor batting performance.
With his retirement ends an era for the Braves organization, which has relied on him for years through several below par seasons. He has batted .303 BA, 468 HRs and 1,623 RBIS. Through the years, he could have taken the easy way out, through free agency or by demanding a trade, but he instead chose to stick it out and help along the way. In 2005, he was willing to restructure his contract to free up $15 million for the team to go after free agents.
Jones represents what is lacking in today’s game–a one-team man. For that, he earned the respect of many.