Chipper Jones will start at third for the 18th straight season.
Longtime Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones has been the target of retirement speculations often over the past few seasons. Amid several injury-plagued campaigns, it was thought that Jones would consider hanging it up in order to preserve his health. However, Jones has quickly dispelled any of those notions.
In an interview with Braves reporter David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jones was quoted as saying, “As long as I am healthy and having fun, I’m going to keep going.”
He went on to say, “I sit here with three weeks to go before spring training, and I’m not ready to say that this is it.”
Of course, there is also more at stake to Chipper’s playing career than just having fun. Jones is due a vesting option in 2013, with incentives to appear in games. If Jones reaches 123 games played, his salary will increase from $7 million to $9 million, plus $1 million more at 128 games, 133 games, 138 games and 140 games. However, Jones has not appeared in more than 126 games since 2009.
Jones has also not stopped producing. In 2011, he hit .275, with 18 home runs and 70 runs batted in. He had some nagging injuries, but was still able to play in 126 games for the Braves, much improved over the 95 games he played in 2010; a season cut short by a significant ACL injury.
It was not surprising to see the Braves star ready to get back on the field. After one of the most crushing collapses in Major League Baseball history last season, everyone in the Braves organization has been eager to get back on the field and prove that the collapse was a fluke. The Braves were one of the National League’s better teams going into September. On August 25th, the Braves had a 10½ game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals, who would eventually win the National League Wild Card. The Cardinals played great baseball over the last month of the season, and the Braves did not, going 9-18 in September.
If the Braves are to have a successful run at the playoffs, Jones will have to play an integral role. The Braves franchise has not done much this offseason as far as acquiring new talent. Their core of young players like Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Julio Teheran and rookie Tyler Pastornicky will have to mesh with the veterans in order to have a successful year.
As the 2012 season approaches, Braves fans can look forward to seeing a familiar face over at the hot corner, as Jones will start at third for the 18th consecutive season in a Braves uniform. Time will tell if he can match his production from last season, and return his Atlanta Braves into postseason play.
This article was originally featured on Examiner.