Well, I’m wrong. I’m wrong and I’ve been wrong for about five years. When we get older, the hardest thing to do is realize that what we think and believe might, just might, not be so accurate. April Fool’s Day came late for old Vinnie and I realized I’ve been wrong about Larry Wayne Jones Jr for some time now. Chipper Jones is the most important Atlanta Brave there has ever been. More important than Hank Aaron. More valuable then Greg Maddux. You can make the case that John Smoltz holds this title. You can say that Smoltz was so clutch (yes SABR geeks, clutch players DO exist) and so vital to the Braves’ title runs that he, and not Chipper, is “the man”. But good gravy, if the Astros game on Tuesday night illustrates anything to Braves fans, it shows that Chipper Jones single handedly stop the season beginning losing streak at three games.
For the last few years, I’ve railed against our boy Larry. He’s hurt all the time. He’s a prima donna that craves attention. He is our version of Bret Favre, hinting of retirement to get us to love him more. He seems more interested in hunting with Adam LaRoche than baseball. He’s holding the Braves back from making moves to ensure the future success of the club. But I missed the obvious. Chipper is a one in a couple generations type player. He WILL go into the hall of fame. He’s the best switch hitting player not named Mickey Mantle (Eddie Murray, I still love you). And you can bet money he’ll have a statue outside The Ted in about 5 years.
When Eli Manning of the NY Giants said he was in the same class of Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers and his brother Peyton, people laugh. So he simply “balled out” and won his second Super Bowl. When Braves fans would wax poetic recently about how great chipper was/is, I would roll my eyes. Sure, he’s really good. But come on people, he’s no Jose Constanza! Boy oh boy, what a fool I’ve been. I feel like I asked Bobby Petrino for a ride home on the back of his motorcycle. Chipper is proving to anybody and everybody that he IS the best player on this team, the last link to the Braves’ glory days, one of the signature talents in MLB and the catalyst for winning baseball in Atlanta.
Man, I’ve been SO wrong. When Smoltz was in his last few years with the Braves, you could tell he was kinda mailing it in. The only thing he cared about was golfing, thinking about golf, lowering his golf score, Tiger Woods and golf…you get the point. But in all seriousness, Chipper doesn’t do that stuff. He talks about winning, playing and succeeding. He DOES pull the “hey, I can’t live forever” type drama that all aging players do. But maybe it’s because he wants us to appreciate him. Make sure Braves fans still love him, respect him and that we’ll reflect on what he’s meant to this club. Maybe Chipper is that crazy uncle that says, “Kid, you’ll miss me when I’m gone”.
Well, Uncle Larry, we WILL miss you. I’m not a 9 year old. I don’t have poster of Chipper in my room, although my wife HATES the Pussycat Dolls poster I have up. I don’t own a Chipper jersey or anything like that. My favorite Brave of all time is Dale Murphy, followed closely by Bob Horner. But since I’m Chipper’s age, I DO appreciate what he’s done and what he’s doing. He’s 40 years old and he’s the best Atlanta’s got. Better then Jason Heyward. Better than Craig Kimbrell. Better than…wait for it…wait for it…Jose Constanza! Chipper is simply the best and I won’t doubt him again. Isn’t that right, Pussycat Dolls?