Tag Archives: Chipper Jones

Wild Card Friday (& Predictions)

For the first time in the history of this blog (and the sport in general), the postseason kicks off with two Wildcard teams playing a one game play-in the day before the real deal gets going.

National League: St. Louis Cardinals at Atlanta Braves

The last time Fredi Gonzalez was in this situation, he didn’t fare so well. He’s not a good manager, and his immensely talented team has brought him back for a chance at redemption despite his attempts to sabotage them all. It’s a testament to the winning culture in Atlanta, and the fact that they want to send their strong leader Chipper Jones out as he deserves; a winner.

The Cardinals had enough magic last season to last them a lifetime. If you were like us, you waited all season long for a Cardinals run that never really came. We have no doubts that the Cardinals will have some great runs in the future under Mike Matheny, and this season was a nice start to his managerial career. But these Cardinals are not made with the same ingredients that made them great at this time last year. They just aren’t.

They’ve still got the ability to score and knock down fences with the best of them, but there’s some smoke and mirrors within their starting rotation. Adam Wainwright has a lot of mileage on his arm, Chris Carpenter missed most of the season, and the wildcard game starter Kyle Lohse had a career year that seems to be an anomaly more than a constant.

The baseball gods will allow the Braves to extract some sweet revenge on the team that stole their spot like a thief in the night a year ago. Fredi and the Braves will win tomorrow night in Atlanta and give Chipper Jones one final crack at a ring that has eluded him since 1995. The Cardinals season ends tomorrow.

Prediction: Braves over Cardinals

American League: Baltimore Orioles at Texas Rangers

My goodness we love Ron Washington. His speech to his troops before World Series game seven last postseason is the thing that legends are made of. And how about those tricky Orioles? Who in their right mind had Buck Showalter and the Orioles here at this point? No one. Not a damn person outside the Baltimore fan base, and if you try to tell me otherwise you’re lying.

The Orioles have strung together a rag-tag bunch that includes Mark Reynolds, Robert Andino, Nate McLouth, and Chris Davis. Of course they’ll go to the Hellhouse that is the Ballpark in Arlington, to face all of those terrifying hitters and F-bomb dropping Ron Washington and they’ll start a pitcher (Joe Saunders) who I would consider waiver wire garbage. Were they trolling late-night for catfish the night that they found Saunders? He started seven games for the Orioles this season. They haven’t a season like this since I was still searching for my first kiss. And they’re going to let Joe Saunders decide their season? This is who you throw out there to decide the biggest game this team has played in decades? That’s TV I’ve got to see.

But you know what? The baseball gods are a funny thing.

Here are teams on the opposite side of the spectrum. One team is littered with superstars, while the other just appears littered. The Rangers will throw their high-dollar import special Yu Darvish to oppose Saunders. The Rangers have about as much postseason experience up and down the roster as anyone in the field this year. The Orioles have little to none.

Everyone in the world will pick the Rangers tomorrow night. It would probably make sense to do the same. But something in my gut tells me that this Texas team has learned the just how long and impossible the journey seems. They’re jaded. They dropped the World Series two years ago. Last year they climbed back up that tall hill only to see it slip away in the most gut-wrenching fashion possible in sports. If that wasn’t enough to kill the spirits of this team, getting caught by the Oakland Athletics and losing the division title after leading the way for 99% of the season has destroyed this team’s inner conscious. I’m telling you that they’re mentally cooked.

Look back at the other side now, those tricky Orioles. They don’t know what they’re about to embark upon. They haven’t been here. They can say ‘who gives a shit, the whole damn season has been crazy anyways’. They have been starting Mark Reynolds the last few seasons. What do they care? Here’s a situation where I think lack of experience helps a team. In this one game scenario, they can catch some lightning in a bottle because they aren’t able to fully grasp the moment. All the pressure in the world is on our beloved Ron Washington and his Cocaine Cowboys of the West.

Most of all, in this life when everything seems so certain; it isn’t at all. Go the other way with the pick that everyone will go one way with. When they zig, you zag.

Prediction: Orioles over Rangers

2012 MLB All-Star Game

[Box Score]

[HBT] [ESPN Diary]

-It wasn’t a banner All Star debut for Bryce Harper. Still, the gold cleats and a couple mighty hacks off Jered Weaver and company was good to see. VIDEO

-Chipper Jones walked off into the sunset with his single and his win. His pre-game speech was a memorable one, the NL clearly dominated for Chipper.

-Mike Trout singled, walked, stole a couple of bags in his AS Game debut. He’s unbelievable. Good read from the OC Register if you have time. Great read from Baseball Prospectus about Trout v. Harper debate that you might as well give a whirl to. Video of the pre-game presser available too.

-Quiet night for all Cincinnati Reds involved in the game.

-Even quieter night for Adam Dunn, the only regular not to appear in the game. When I read this, I realized possible reasons why.

Baseball is doing something right:

It’s Midsummer Classic Time

In my entire life, even as a kid; I’ve never looked forward to an MLB All-Star Game like the 2012 version that takes place tonight.

It’s a ‘who’s-who’, a ‘gang’s all here’ shot of some of my favorite figures of the past and present in the game of baseball. One of my childhood favorites Chipper Jones to Adam Dunn, into Josh Hamilton and Jay Bruce. Joey Votto, Aroldis Chapman, Mike Trout and the cherry on top was Bryce Harper. There’s never been so many of my favorite players involved in this game before. The closest I can remember was around the time in my life that I was still cutting the league batting leaders out of the Sunday paper and pinning them to a wall in my room. My mother hated that. It was tacky.

Baseball has a way of quietly bridging time and eras perhaps more than any other sport. Maybe tonight when there’s some down time in the dugout, Larry Wayne Jones will find some time to talk to Bryce (Aron) Max Harper. They could talk about Chipper’s first All-Star Game in 1996. He was the game’s young buck then, as opposed to being the game’s artifact that he is now. With all the big names that were involved in that game (and its virtually every slugger you can remember from the era) the game’s artifact that night might have been Ozzie Smith. He was 41 years old and playing in his final season. Ozzie played back in the late 70′s.

Baseball is amazing in that; I imagine if these guys sat around as a group and shot the shit long enough they would know someone who knew someone who played against Babe Ruth.

Take Adam Dunn for instance. Dating back to my high school years when I was still worried about proms and such (scary to think about that a ballplayer could bridge the gap from that era to fatherhood) I thought Dunn would pile up the All-Star selections. That’s what I read in a few different magazines when scouts talked about Dunn. He made his first All Star Game in 2002 in Milwaukee because he hit .300 on the nose the first half of that season. I don’t know how he did it, but I remember back then that Adam Dunn was a complete hitter. People thought he would hit .300 for the next decade and end up a Hall of Fame player. Dunn flew out to the track that night, barely missing a home run that would have saved Bud Selig from a lifetime gaffe. Dunn couldn’t leave the hero that night, but no matter. He would have a run of All Star appearances and MVP trophies awaiting him.

Fast forward to now. Tonight’s game is just the second of The Big Donkey’s career. We’re both on the wrong side of our prime now, Adam. But I’m still thrilled to see that he made it back. Maybe Jay Bruce ends up being that Reds outfielder who piles up the All Star selections. If you had told me when Joey Votto broke into the big leagues that he would end up the perennial MVP and guy who lead the league in votes and not Dunner, I would have laughed. Dunn, Bruce, and Votto all appeared in the same lineup in a different space and time. Oh and they shared time being a teammate of Ken Griffey Jr., tell me those guys don’t already have some great stories to tell.

It really all goes back to the youth infusion involved in this game. That’s what excites me. I love greatness, particularly at a young age. For Trout and Harper to each be part of this storied ballgame, it’s just really special. While interleague play has taken away from some of the mystique, you can’t tell me that the possibility of Harper going toe to toe with Chris Sale or Felix Hernandez for one AB doesn’t sound exciting. How about Mike Trout against Aroldis Chapman?

People who want to pretend this is a meaningless exhibition game need to know that it’s the finest All-Star game of any of the professional leagues. It’s a time honored tradition. One that takes you back to those summers in your yard with the neighborhood crew when you spent an entire day playing backyard ball and arguing about how Junior or Jay Buhner would fare against Hideo Nomo or Greg Maddux. The characters of the story are different now and we can’t have those old memorable times back.

The bottom line is we’re likely to learn which side of the league the World Series Winner comes from (21 of the last 28 World Champions have had home-field advantage in October) and we’re likely to see something memorable.

Plus you may want to someday tell your unborn son that you were watching the night that Chipper and Harper sat in the same dugout together. He won’t believe you.

The Baseball Show: Chipper Jones is Retiring

Last night on The Baseball Show, Mike Rosenbaum (The Golden Sombrero, Bleacher Report), M.J. Lloyd (Halo Hangout, Off Base Percentage) and I discuss the following show topics:

-Mike’s move to Bleacher Report as a featured writer
-Prospects and players that have been impressive around Spring Training thus far
-Chipper Jones’ retirement announcement
-Would you rather have a player hang around as long as possible, or retire on their own terms?
-Dusty Baker on the hot seat, our reaction
-The Arte Moreno GQ interview
-As always, much more and a preview of next week’s over/under & predictions show

Chipper on Jason Heyward: “He’s 90 Percent Back”

The significance of us sponsoring Jason Heyward’s Baseball Reference page could mean only one thing: we felt that the man was a generational talent ready to blossom in front of our eyes last year.

He wasn’t just rewarded with our admonishment. There was another Opening Day home run. There were SportsCenter comercials. A twitter account created solely to track when he hits a home run. He became Nike’s new ‘Swingman’.

But then the struggles came, and the injuries lingered. Heyward’s sophomore campaign became one continuous desolate ruin.

By reading an article focused on the reconstruction of J-Hey by Paul Newberry, we learn that Chipper Jones seems to think the worst is behind Heyward.

“He’ll get it done. He’ll get it back. He’s 90 percent back,” Jones said.

I hope Chipper’s right. This guy has a chance to be the crown jewel of the entire league if he’s right. There’s some other interesting points in the write-up–like Heyward coming off a bit ‘snarky’ when asked about childhood memories of David Justice and Fred McGriff.

There’s also a bit where new Braves hitting coach Greg Walker mentions this:

“We went back and looked at 2010, when he was really good,” Walker said. “We said to him, ‘OK, this is what you did. You’ve done it before, so that’s you.’ We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here. We’re not trying to change Jason Heyward. We’re trying to get him to maximize his potential. We showed him. We filmed him and showed him what he looks like now, and how he looked in 2010. He saw the difference. To be honest with you, we haven’t made a lot of changes. We’re just trying to clean him up and get him back to where he was.”

So if you’re keeping score at home, Greg Walker and the Braves do not want to change Jason Heyward. But they want him to hit like he did in 2010.This idea is absurd, because if you saw him at the plate for much of last year, of course the Braves would like to change Jason Heyward. But you must be careful with the treatment and wording of such things around young potential stars.

And my mind shifts back to that rumor we heard way back when–when someone had said that the legendary Bobby Cox had said that Heyward was like a Ferrari: you have to be careful with them, you don’t want to dent them.

The Atlanta Braves are going to be alright

The Atlanta Braves sit at 43-33, 10 games over the .500 mark and four games behind the Philadelphia Phillies for the coveted first place spot in the NL East.

The Braves enter their three game weekend series in San Diego on the mend. And when these guys get fully healthy they’ve got the opportunity to be a downright scary squad.

They’ve weathered some tough storms in the early part of this season, and have still managed to play 10 games above .500 baseball. They’ve gotten barely anything out of Jason Heyward–who someday should evolve into the biggest prize in all of the game. It might not be this year, but it’s fair to expect that Heyward will perform better for the remainder of the year than he has so far. Another player who falls in that category is Dan Uggla, who has been way worse than his career norms.

If they can just remain reasonably healthy and continue to tread water at the current pace for a few more weeks, they’re going to get back Martin Prado and Tommy Hanson back by the middle of July. That’s when this team will open it’s sales and be running wide awake, we presume. By then, they could be the best all around team in baseball.

This squad is likable for many reasons.

One of those reasons? They’re our MLB: The Show ’11 team of choice (with the addition of Michael Bourn). Johnny Venters, Chipper Jones, Craig Kimbrel, Uggla, Heyward, Prado, Jordan Schaefer, Nate Mclouth, Brian McCann, the list goes on and on. It’s a nice nucleus they’ve compiled to run down those Phillies.

The Braves are going to be right the thick of things until the end of things. Count on it.

Atlanta gets a huge lift from Brooks Conrad, Heyward looking good

[Box Score]

[AJC Braves]
I listened to about 8 innings of this game on the MLB At-Bat Radio app while playing MLB the Show.

They’re calling him “Clutch Conrad” in Atlanta, but if Brooks Conrad keeps hitting bombs like this one I don’t know how you could possibly call him anything else.

K-Rod imploded and the Braves eventually won it in the bottom of the 10th inning to salvage one game in the series. Jason Heyward walked, singled twice, drove in a run and scored a run.

Chipper Jones also matched his career high with 5 RBI in this game including 3 hits and a home run, but left the game with a strained abductor muscle.

Brian McCann saves the Braves

Brian McCann had the big moment yesterday, as Wandy Rodriguez had shut the Braves down for 8 innings. In the 9th inning with two outs, Mcann pinch hit and homered off Astros closer Mark Melancon. This tied the game at 1-1 and sent the game into extra innings.

In the 11th inning, McCann homered again off Jeff Fulchino to give the Braves a 3-1 walkoff victory at Turner Field. This also happened to be a game in which Jason Heyward (1 for 3, two walks) and Chipper Jones (1 for 5) returned from injury. The Braves now head out to Arizona to play a Diamondbacks team that plenty of teams are making hay against. This is a time in which the Braves can really make a move in the NL East.

Early in the season I heard a fair share of Atlanta Braves fans say that they didn’t think that they could catch the Phillies so they were actually rooting for the Phillies if the Phillies’ opponent was anyone that could be considered a threat in the Wild Card race. With the way Philadelphia is having trouble scoring runs, and the fact the surging Braves are just 1 and 1/2 games behind the leaders of the division with Florida sandwiched in between.

Larry Wayne Jones is not quite done yet

File this under ‘things that make us happy’ category.

It’s been a quiet off-season but last we heard, Chipper Jones was going to attempt a heroic comeback this season to go out on top after a heartbreaking season-ending knee injury last season.

Today, he knocked a cover off of the baseball. Here’s a pic of it. And here’s a tweet from the AJC’s Dave O’ Brien.

We weren’t ready to say goodbye to this cowboy just yet. So if he’s knocking the cover off the baseball in January there’s a decent chance we’ve got one more summer in the sun with Chipper Jones.