|Chipper Jones a Throwback||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on April 13, 2012
Chipper Jones is an anachronism in the modern game, a player who has spent his whole career with a single team.¬† The game changed irrevocably back in the 1970s when the reserve clause was struck down and teams lost the rights to control a players fate and how much they'd pay in salary.¬† It ended the era of teams being assured they would have a certain player in their uniform for as long as they played the game.
In baseball today there are only seven players who've spent their career of more than 10 years with just a single team -- Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins, Todd Helton, Michael Young, Mariano Rivera, Brian Roberts and Chipper Jones. You could add Ichiro Suzuki, but he played in Japan first.
It's not to say that organizations wouldn't love to keep some of their players, but free agent money is huge and not many players are offering up hometown discounts to stay with a team.¬† And as player loyalty has waned, so has organizational loyalty.¬† Reality means small and mid market teams trading away top players and getting a good return in prospects simply because they can't afford to write checks to those players down the road.
But every one of the players mentioned above has shown an interest in staying with his team.¬† You can call them the lifers.¬† That's not to say that they don't want to be paid fairly, or even in some cases be grossly overpaid, for staying with an organization.
A few, however, have been willing to leave some money on the table in negotiations, but as far as I know the only one to ever actually renegotiate his contract to give money back to his team so they could have the flexibility to improve their on field product has been Jones.
2012 will be Chipper's swan song.¬† He already has announced that this will be his last year and he'd like to do it on a winning note.¬† That's always been who he is, a gamer with a hypercompetitive streak. ¬† He'll be 40 just about the same time he sees his first official pitch this season due to yet another surgery which he's undergoing just to play this one more season.¬† And no, he's not just there for the money this year -- he's walking away from a guaranteed contract for 2013.¬† Jones is walking away because he knows that it's time.
His career has been a rich one by baseball standards.¬† In 18 years as a Brave he's been with the team to the playoffs 12 times, three times to the World Series and once to a World Championship.¬† He's been an MVP, a seven-time All-Star, a multiple Silver Slugger winner and a hero to boys and girl all over the south.¬† He's been the face of the franchise, the epitome of what it meant to be a Brave.
Playing the game the right way was always his style.¬† He even embraced his changing role over the years as he evolved from rookie to superstar, to veteran role model to part instructor and from everyday player to limited duty player.¬† It wasn't always easy and there were some small bumps but for Jones the decision to remain a Brave was one based on respect, and the organization returned that respect to a hard working ballplayer who always gave his best and did what he thought was best for the team.
Sometimes that seems like a very rare thing, especially in the media circus atmosphere that pervades contract talks and the bitterness it often engenders.
That's never been Chipper Jones.¬† He wasn't one to make brash comments (except maybe about the Mets back in the day and even then he backed them with his bat).¬† All of those things are what made him a great player, a great teammate and the longest tenured player with a single team in the modern game.