While nothing is written is stone just yet, there is a pretty good chance that the Atlanta Braves will find themselves sans-Chipper Jones when the team reports to Spring Training in 2011.
(Oh, and, yeah, I know that the Braves are a first place team with a lot going right for them.)
Well, that is provided that Chipper maintains his blisteringly cold .228/.375/.341 line that he carried into Tuesday night over the remainder of the season (the OBP is good, I’ll give him that, but his job, as the No. 3 hitter, is more about driving in runs than getting on–and with only 22 RBIs (batting .267 with runners on) with Jason Heyward and Martin Prado in front of him, there is simply too much pressure being put on Glaus/McCann to pick up what Jones is leaving behind).
As it stands today, the former perennial threat for 30 or more homers and a .300 or better batting average is a defensive liability at the hot corner, is 8-for-his last 35 ABs, and can’t keep a clean bill of health to save his life (from fingers, to obliques, to his back).
What’s more, the now-38-year-old Jones is being outplayed by all of his potential replacements on the bench.
Brooks Conrad is only six extra-base hits behind the sure-fire Hall of Famer in about a third of the plate appearances.
Omar Infante (who has only 30 fewer ABs than Hoss) holds a .314/.351/.387 line.
And Eric Hinske, who has appeared in one more game than Chipper (although with 50 fewer ABs), and his .316/.386/.556 line makes one wonder why Chipper is even getting chances at all (well, I say that…but I do know the reason–too much loyalty (if you get my drift) on the part of the manager and a $14 MM paycheck this season will do that).
In my humble opinion, the best interests of all parties involved would be for ol’ Larry to ride quietly off into the sunset in a Ken Griffey Jr.-esq fashion–he just doesn’t seem to have “it” anymore (and I’d love to be proven wrong).
But, we all know that’s not going to happen.
The fact of the matter is this: Chipper is fading…and has been fading rapidly since winning his lone batting title back in 2008.
His nostalgic presence in the Braves locker room is doing more than linking this club to pitching-dominant ways of the Braves teams headed by Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine…and that’s not helping the team win games.
It’s been tough to let go of the image of Chipper as a MVP candidate…but seeing what is as close as futility as you’ll see on a Major League diamond night-in and night-out has really let that image escape my mind.
It’ll be tough to replace the name-value that came along with Chipper over at third (although “Brooks” is a pretty cool name…just saying is all)–but if that three year, $42 MM extension (that’s Carl Crawford money, right there…wink wink, nudge nudge) does indeed fall off of the table…that’ll be a pretty easy pill to swallow.