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Chipper Jones will retire after the 2012 season

Mar 22, 2012, 10:31 AM EDT

Braves Spring baseball

We had to figure this was going to happen, but it’s still a bummer: Chipper Jones announced this morning that he will retire following the 2012 season. There will be a press conference later today.

Jones is under contract for this year with an option that kicks in if he were to play 123 games this season. I would bet the under on that, but if Jones wanted to continue playing — and if he was anything other than a complete zero at the plate in 2012 — the Braves would almost certainly have welcomed him back.

But Jones has never been one to be unrealistic about his abilities or his age.  He openly considered retirement last year. He has been on record for some time admitting that he’s not the player he used to be and has talked at length about his age and how much harder the game is for him now than it used to be. He’s had a rough spring too. If it weren’t for the fact that the Braves really don’t have any better options at the moment, I get the sense that he’d retire now. Probably doesn’t want to leave the team in the lerch.

I don’t know how he’ll do in 2012. He’ll get on base at a decent clip because his batting eye is still decent. He’ll hit some homers, though not a ton.  He’ll miss some time due to injury. He’ll make most of the routine plays at third while displaying poor range.  In other words, he’ll be late-model Chipper Jones.

But now that he is announcing his retirement we’ll have a greater opportunity to think about his career as a whole. A career that, for as great as it has been, is probably underrated by some.

He has a career line of .304/.402/.533. The consistency of the early part of his career — it seemed like he hit around .310 with 30 homers and 110 RBI every year — was not as sexy as the numbers some were putting up in the mid-to-late 90s, but it was astounding, especially for a third baseman. It wasn’t until his MVP season in 1999 — and a period when he made destroying the Mets single-handedly a hobby — that people really started talking about him as one of the greats in the game.

After that there were ups and downs and injures and an fortunate time in left field. But even in his down years, he was a well above-average hitter. And even last year — when it became pretty clear that the end was near — he somehow managed more than 500 plate appearances and an OPS+ of 123. And while his defense has never been a particular asset, playing his entire career in the National League means that he has always played defense, which is remarkable for a big time hitter in this day and age.

His future: a first-ballot entrance to Cooperstown. And I’m not gonna listen to anyone who says differently. Not because I’m a Braves fanboy, but because he’s a top-5 all-time third baseman.  And, according to some, an all-time top 2. I think Schmidt is easily first. After that I think there some legitimate — and fun — arguments to be had involving Brett, Boggs and Matthews. But the fact that he’s squarely in that conversation says pretty much all you have to say on the subject.

Happy trails, Chipper. Here’s hoping you go out with one last nice season.

  1. drunkenhooliganism - Mar 22, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    I know he’s not done, and I wish him the best in his final year. But my favorite thing about him is how he wears opposing fans’ booing as a giant badge of honor.

  2. skids003 - Mar 22, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    I’m with you Craig, I hope he has a good 2012 and goes out with a good year. He will be missed, I’ve watched him many years. Good luck , Chipper.

  3. hasbeen5 - Mar 22, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    I was 11 in 95 when Chipper really came on the scene. I was playing high school ball in 99 through the early aughts when he was really a badass. As a switch hitting 3rd baseman, I loved being able to watch him every night on TBS. This is sad because a great player from my childhood is retiring, and because damn I feel old now.

    • aceshigh11 - Mar 22, 2012 at 11:28 AM

      Don’t feel bad…I was 16 in ’95. I feel ancient.

  4. El Bravo - Mar 22, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    It is a sad, but expected day indeed. Chipper is first ballot, no question. A switch-hitting legend with the prettiest swing in the game. I’ll tip my hat every time I see you at the plate this season, Chipper. You will be missed.

  5. lardin - Mar 22, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    Second Best Switch hitter of all time

  6. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Mar 22, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    I always respected him for his loyalty for his team, 22 years strong now (since he was drafted by Bobby). He’s the last active piece of the 1990’s Braves dynasty. He’ll be missed.

    • ajcardsfan - Mar 22, 2012 at 4:10 PM

      I hated that dynasty, you can probably tell why. However, happy retirement Mr. Jones, I have the utmost respect for somebody that plays a great career with one team.

  7. bravojawja - Mar 22, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    For all the complaints about his bad defense, he sure can pick ’em at the hot corner. No short hops get past him. He’ll finish off the Parade of Braves into the HOF.

  8. Paul Zummo - Mar 22, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    As Mets fan I am obligated to say that Chipper sucks!

    But he’s also legitimately a top 5 third baseman and all-time great.

  9. Old Gator - Mar 22, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    I was 45 in 1995 and I’m about 12 or 13 now. Regression is definitely one of the many great things about getting old. But it does feel like Chipper has always been there, doesn’t it? Gonna have to mark my calendar for the days when the Bravos come to town to play the Feesh and make a special point of being there for those games, just to be sure I have an opportunity to wish one of the great ones all the best on the rest of his journey.

  10. dcfan4life - Mar 22, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    Another conversation topic to ask is with Chipper retiring, the last of the core Braves will be gone, is there time done, especially with a new ownership that WONT spend? Before Washington had a team, i used to love rooting for the Braves. Chipper, Maddux, Bobby Cox, some of the most professional guys you ever saw. I wish Chipper all the best in his final season. Unless its against the Nats…lol.

  11. steele9153 - Mar 22, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    and brooks robinson, too!

  12. steele9153 - Mar 22, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    I was 15 in 1995 and the man had literally been there as I went from high school to college to now 10 years out of college. difficult to imagine him out of the game. as phils fan it will be odd to not see hi penciled in the lineup. happy trails, larry

  13. nategearhart - Mar 22, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Wish the Braves were coming to Kauffman this year so I could help see him off. Rats! Maybe a trip to St Louis is in order.

  14. sdelmonte - Mar 22, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Checks schedule…September 9 is Chipper’s last trip to MetsLand, though I don’t think it’s the same for him since they tore down Shea. Wonders what parting gifts the Mets will offer him, besides lots of boos. He saw coming to Shea the way some basketball players did coming to the Garden: it’s the big NY stage and you put on a show.

    He will be missed, but we get one more year to appreciate him on the field.

    And imagine if Mo retires after this season. The 2018 induction ceremonies could be something amazing.

    • drunkenhooliganism - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:00 PM

      I just checked and I already have tickets to Sunday September 23rd, which will be the Braves last game in Philly this year. If he’s healthy enough to play, It’ll be cool to be at the game.

    • Kevin S. - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:48 PM

      Nah, no boos. They’ll bury the hatchet like Knick fans chanting Reg-gie! Reg-gie! in Miller’s last trip to MSG and it’ll probably be the most surreal thing of the 2012 season.

      • sdelmonte - Mar 22, 2012 at 2:19 PM

        Crazy thing about New Yorkers. We hate right up to the point when we realize we really love.

  15. mdpickles - Mar 22, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    I was in high school when Chipper was awarded MVP, I’m now 33. As a Phillies fan, I’ve had the good fortune to watch him play many times and enjoy his talent and class. When he comes to Philly and the crowd chants , “LARRY, LARRY!”, it is meant as a sign of respect.

  16. buffalomafia - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    Chipper Jones is HOF bound!

    Now why dont the cheap owner if the Braves aggressively go after David Wright of the Mets?

    • hasbeen5 - Mar 22, 2012 at 2:11 PM

      Are you a Mets fan that just wants to get rid of him?

  17. casey5jones - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    Of all the players that represented the Braves during their best days, over a decade, he would be the last to leave. In a way it would signify the end of that era (from a last chapter of a book kind of perspective).

    It will be a sad day.

  18. buffalomafia - Mar 22, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    Like I said earlier, the Braves shouldn’t waist any time trying to get David Wright!

  19. foreverchipper10 - Mar 23, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    Of course this happened on a day I didn’t really have time to get on here.

    Everything factual about this has been stated either by Craig or by the commenters who had nothing but nice things to say about my favorite ball player. With that out of the way this season will be the second in three years that we will have a farewell tour to an icon in the Atlanta Braves organization (Bobby Cox being the other). I was already planning on attending one or two Braves games this year but now I will have to put extra effort in making an appearance and grabbing tickets on the 3rd base side. It will be a sad, sad day personally to me and to all Braves fans when #10 hangs it up at the end of the year. Best wishes Chipper. I will mark my calendar for your inevitable induction into the HoF.

  20. buffalomafia - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    AGAIN! Will your cheap ass owner try to get David Wright now? And I mean NOW!

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