There was an article in the AJC this week that explained Chipper Jones is no longer pondering retirement at the conclusion of the 2010 season. My first reaction was, oh good! The Braves won’t have to sign a third baseman in the offseason. But, is it really a good thing? Obviously Chipper has been the face of the franchise since his rookie year in 1995. There is no arguing how much he means to the Braves and the city of Atlanta. My concern is that the Braves are going to have a player who is more of a burden than a positive. I never thought I’d say anything like that, but as I become older I become more of a realist. God I am getting old (just not as old as Chipper)!
Are we going to get the same Chipper Jones who always has a nagging injury (or two) and has to miss a series once a month? If so, then is it really worth it? I am as big of a Chipper fan as anyone, hell the guy IS the Atlanta Braves, but by looking at the big picture, it may not be the best thing for the Braves…though it is better than any option they have in the minors—unless you really want to see Van Pope hit .103 2HR 20 RBI for a year.
Ultimately I feel it is good for Atlanta to have Chipper in a Braves uniform, if for nothing more than to sell tickets, but it cannot be in the same role we are accustomed to seeing him in. Chipper is not a number three hitter anymore. We have seen Jason Heyward in the spot this week and I’d like to see him stay there for the next 15 years. If Chipper is going to play in Atlanta for the next couple years, it has to be as a guy who hits lower in the order and one that takes a day or two off a week. He is not going to play 140 games and he is not going to hit 30 HR. Believe me, I wish it were different. I just want to see the Braves win and this is what has to happen to see that—hopefully I’ll be proven wrong.
Jordan Schafer has been making steady progress as he is recovering from wrist surgery. Schafer started his rehabilitation in Rome (going 6/22 2 doubles) and has now moved up to AA Mississippi. He has been hitting well here too going 3/8 so far and will be in Gwinnett Saturday. As soon as he is back to 100% I (hope to God) expect to see him in Atlanta—most likely sometime in June. I don’t need to list the dreadful stats the Braves outfield has been putting up (save Heyward and Hinske), so the addition of Schafer can do nothing but help the offense. It’s sad to say, but I have absolutely no faith in Melky Cabrera, Matt Diaz and especially Nate McLouth or as I like to think of him as “The New Dan Kolb.”
When McLouth was acquired from the Pirates last season, he was introduced as an All-Star and Gold Glove-winning outfielder that the Braves somehow maneuvered away from Pittsburgh. In reality, the Braves got a .256 career hitter with good speed and power, but a guy who just doesn’t seem to be able to handle pressure outside of the Steel City. We have seen glimpses of the player McLouth is “supposed to be,” but he never puts it together for long stretches and I’m beginning to think he never will. It’s depressing.
Speaking of Eric Hinske, I am happy to see him in the lineup for a few games this week. He is a solid bat for the Braves and has been one of their best off-season pick-ups in the last few years. So far Hinske is .314 AVG 12 RBI in limited action. I look forward to see him playing more OF and spell Troy Glaus at first on days he needs a rest. A week ago I would have been calling for Hinske to play every day at 1B as Glaus was hitting like a blind man, but recently there isn’t anyone I want to see up there more than Glaus with RISP—crazy! But, Glaus has been ripping the ball all over the field and recently over the fence. Maybe he’s not a telephone pole after all…Troy Glaus is a real human being! And he’s even a baseball player!
The Braves couldn’t have gotten much worse news (unless they heard Heyward was quitting to become a spiritual healer) this week when Jair Jurrjens not only re-aggravated his hamstring injury, but may have made it much, much worse while running on the field in Milwaukee. I’m sure Kris Medlen will fill in OK as a starter while Jurrjens is on the DL, but I was kind of hoping (dreaming is more like it) that Medlen would take over for Kenshin Kawakami at some point to give the Braves 4½ solid starting pitchers (I say ½ because that’s how often Derek Lowe is serviceable). I know KK has the worst run support in the majors and if the team scored more for him, he may not be 0-6…But he still has a 5.73 ERA for crying out loud! Maybe we can take back the Vasquez trade…I’m sure the Yankees wouldn’t argue. In fact, they may let us keep Dunn and Vizcaino just to get Javy out of the Bronx.
Yunel Escobar is set to play for AAA Gwinnett on Friday and if all goes well he’ll re-join the Braves in Atlanta on Saturday. Let’s hope this time off has given his leg and brain some time to recover. When Yunel is healthy (both physically and mentally) he is one of the most dangerous hitters with RISP in the majors. I expected a huge year from him this season and frankly still do. He is too good to put up numbers like he has so far, but unless he adjusts his attitude he will be another talent that didn’t live up to his potential.
Finally, congrats to Tom Glavine for getting his number retired by the Braves! Well, it hasn’t happened yet, but it will on August 6th. Of course, this is no surprise, but still I am glad to see it happen. Next up…John Smoltz (and hopefully Chipper sooner than later)!
Follow me on Twitter @ BRAVEinNY.
Until Next Time…Go Braves!