I have a follower on Twitter who is a Braves fan in Venezuela. He often asks me things about the Braves that your average fan in Atlanta does not. Last night, he asked a question that inspired this post. Here was what he tweeted:
Chipper Jones is one of my idols, he’s my fav player ever. What you think Chipper means to the Atlanta city?
I thought about it for awhile, and then replied that while he’s one of my favorites and should go down as one of the greatest Braves of all time, there are a lot of fans here who don’t care for Chipper Jones. My twitter friend replied:
really? why?? I mean, Chipper is Braves’ Derek Jeter!
Unfortunately, no, he’s not. Braves fans either love or hate Chipper, which I don’t think is the case for Jeter in New York. There are two versions of the Chipper-hating. The first comes from an affair he had with a Hooters waitress in the mid-90s that produced an illegitimate child. You can read about it here (although you should note that after the article his wife did divorce him). He then proceed to marry another woman (not the Hooters waitress who got pregnant, although some websites mistakenly identify her as his second wife) only a few months after divorcing his first wife. It was basically two years of (unflattering) news stories on his love life.
When news of the affair broke, I was a teenage Braves fan. I’d had a lifesize poster of Chipper in my bedroom, which I promptly tore down. I was heartbroken that he was anything less than perfect, on or off the field.
Over a decade later, the last thing I think about when I look at Chipper Jones is the affair of the illegitimate child. For me, his personal life has nothing to do with what he’s accomplished on the field for the Braves. He’s a future hall-of-famer and his #10 will be retired in the next year or two. He’ll also go down as one of my favorite Braves.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a large contingent of fans who can only remember the times when Chipper has been injured. The injuries have been numerous over the years, often coming at the least convenient times for the team. However, I think this year should have taught everyone something. In the past, if Chipper was out of the lineup, the odds of getting a win were slim. Until this year. We finally have a team full of people who step up when Chipper is out, including the bench players like Conrad and Infante. For once, the burden isn’t on Chipper to be the sole producer.
Injuries aside, Chipper Jones has put up first-ballot HOF numbers in his career. He’s a career .305 hitter with a .405 OBP and a .535 SLG percentage. His 434 career homeruns place him behind only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray on the all-time list for switch hitters. He was on the 1995 team that won the World Series, was MVP in 1999 and won the batting title in 2008.
In addition, Chipper has taken hometown discounts to stay with the Braves and has gone to the team to restructure his contract when he thought they needed some extra cash to field a winning team. He’s been unselfish and a leader in the clubhouse for many years.
There’s no doubt in my mind he should be celebrated as one of the greatest Braves of all time. Will he be though? If you’ve ever listened to sports talk radio in Atlanta, you know there are a lot of haters out there. I’ll let some of the Yankees fans who follow this blog comment on the treatment Jeter receives in New York, but I’m positive it’s better than the way a surprising number of Braves fans treat Chipper Jones.
Braves fans – what do you think? Does Chipper deserve to be remembered as one of the greatest Braves of all time? Why or why not?
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