Chipper Jones deserves to tip his cap at the All-Star Game.
Since Sunday's MLB All-Star teams were revealed, there's been quite a bit of griping over which players were voted or selected to the American League and National League rosters. But ultimately, we're talking about an exhibition, one that should provide baseball with a showcase.
Ideally, that means the best of the best—not necessarily the most popular—should be on the field during the All-Star Game. But the game also presents an opportunity to pay tribute to some of the sport's longtime stars, those who have become legends before their playing days have ended.
The fans were getting this one right anyway, as Jones was the leading vote-getter among the five finalists. He's put in 19 years as a major leaguer. He's 40 years old now. Why make the man sweat out those final voting results?
This way, baseball can give Jones the final bow he deserves while ensuring that one of its younger stars also has a place in its midsummer spectacle. (This also makes the NL Final Vote more competitive until balloting closes Thursday afternoon, compelling more fans to keep clicking votes online.)
It's not perfect. Based on the latest voting results, neither Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill nor Braves outfielder Michael Bourn will win that last spot on the NL roster. Either of them is probably the more deserving All-Star.
If you really wanted to nitpick, you could say that Jones doesn't really deserve to be on the All-Star team, playing in 45 of the Braves' 79 games going into Tuesday night's play. Yet his six home runs and 29 RBI still put him among the top-10 third basemen in the NL. And his .828 OPS ranks him fifth among major leaguers at his position.
Season numbers aside, Jones' career is merit enough for this honor. Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson said it succinctly to The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore: "Chipper should be on it, period."
Besides, the fans already made it alright for third basemen who have played only 45 games to be named to the All-Star team when they voted the Giants' Pablo Sandoval into the starting lineup. This isn't about putting a team of the best players together. It's about giving the fans the players they want to see. If Sandoval is going to Kansas City, why not Chipper?
As my fellow B/R colleague Zach Rymer wrote earlier on Tuesday, Jones deserves the same sort of sendoff Cal Ripken Jr. received in the 2001 All-Star Game. Ripken's numbers that season may not have warranted an All-Star selection, but his career most definitely deserved one last moment in the national spotlight. And the fans got to watch a memorable performance from Ripken in that game.
Go ahead and take issue with several things baseball does. We do it here most everyday, whether it's the umpiring, rules, All-Star selections or instant replay. But putting Jones on the All-Star team and providing him with a national curtain call is what baseball does so well. The sport knows how to pay proper tribute to its best.
Jones is even excited to play in Kansas City. When is the last time you heard that from a player?
"So it’s the one ballpark I haven’t played in in my career and how fitting is it, that my last All-Star game gives me the opportunity to do that," Jones told David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Looking forward to playing in a new ballpark or at least taking batting practice in a new ballpark."
The 2012 All-Star Game just became that much more compelling. Well done, MLB.
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