Even though we have known this was coming for the last year, it is still hard to believe that when players report to Orlando for spring training next month Chipper Jones will not be among them. Jones may show up to spend some time with the guys, but he will not be a member of the team. It's an idea that I still struggle to believe at times, especially because he went out with such a strong season.
This article will take a look at the best moment in each season of Jones's Hall of Fame career with the Braves from 1993 through 2012. The 1994 season is being omitted as he did not play due to a knee injury, but every other year is included.
On Sept. 14, 1993 Chipper Jones entered the game against the Cincinnati Reds as a pinch hitter for Jeff Blauser with the Braves leading 10-0. It was not the first time Chipper appeared in a game for the Braves, as he had played in a pair of other games, but it was his first at bat.
Jones stepped up to the plate against Kevin Wickander and hit a single to third base which was being played by Juan Samuel, who replaced starter Chris Sabo a few innings prior.
This was the first of 2,726 hits in his career and clearly the best moment for Jones during his cup of coffee at the end of the 1993 season.
Chipper Jones put together a great rookie season in 1995 and arguably was more deserving of the NL Rookie of the Year Award than Hideo Nomo, but the best moment in this season isn't much of a question. That moment is the Braves win over the Indians in the World Series.
Jones finished his great rookie season with a great postseason and won the lone World Series ring in his career. This moment was the highlight of the Braves dynasty that went from 1991 and continued through the 2005 season, as it was the only time the team broke through to win it all. This moment is also likely Jones's favorite career memory.
Possibly the best postseason moment for Chipper Jones, other than winning the World Series in 1995, was the way he carried the Braves in the 1996 NLCS. Jones came up with a huge series against the Cardinals, and the Braves needed every bit of it as the Cards took the Braves to seven games.
Jones hit .440/.483/.520 as he collected 11 base hits and three more walks. He may not have homered, but he proved to be the spark the lineup needed to advance to another World Series.
The Braves went on to sweep the Astros in the 1997 NLDS, but some may forget about the amazing series that a 25-year-old Chipper Jones had. Jones hit an even .500 with a batting line of .500/.583/.875 with seven times he reached base out of 12 plate appearances.
The Braves may not have lost this series without the heroics of Jones, but this was a look into the future at the ability he had to take over a series by himself.
Chipper Jones had a monster start to the 1998 season. Sure 1998 was another strong overall season for Jones, but his April was just crazy as it seemed like no one could get him out. He ended April hitting a ridiculous ..373/.449/.725 with nine homers and 28 RBI.
While Jones didn't win an MVP in 1998, he was arguably the best player in the game for the first month of the season.
One of the career-defining moments for Chipper Jones came in 1999. With the Braves holding on to a small division lead over the Mets in late-September and the Mets in town for a three-game series, Chipper put the team on his back and carried them.
Jones went four for nine with four homers and seven RBI as the Braves swept the Mets in a series that gave them some distance in the pennant race and the momentum to eventually win the NL East. This series also carried Jones to a well deserved MVP Award, as he hit .319 with 45 homers and 110 RBI.
As a Braves fan it will be impossible to forget about the late-season heroics of Jones in 1999.
There are not usually many homers hit during All-Star games, but when you do it in your home ballpark in front of your fans it becomes even sweeter for the player and fan base. That is what happened at the 2000 All-Star Game as Jones homered off James Baldwin in the third inning.
Once again in 2001 Chipper Jones put the Braves on his back in a sweep of the Astros in the NLDS. His 1997 heroics were great, but his 2001 numbers were even better. This time Jones went four of nine with three walks and hit a pair of homers as he put together an absurd batting line of .444/.583/1.111.
Jones 1.694 OPS in a playoff series was huge for the Braves and helped them cruise past Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and the rest of the Astros once again.
On Aug. 19, 2002 Chipper Jones stepped up to the plate with the game tied at six apiece against Rockies pitcher Jose Jimenez and hit a walk-off home run. Not only did this homer win the game, but it also became his third of the home series against the Rockies.
Jones has been known to have the ability to come up big in a series for the Braves, and a three-homer series punctuated by a walk-off homer is no different.
Chipper Jones did not just hit a walk-off home run in 2003, but he did it twice for the Braves in the same season. The first came against the Reds on May 27 with Chris Reitsma pitching, but he also hit one against Pittsburgh on Sept. 5.
The walk-off homer is always a special moment in baseball, and when it happens more than once in a season for a player it is even better as it shows just how clutch that player can be.
The highlight of Chipper Jones' 2004 season was his play against the St. Louis Cardinals. He only played in six games against the Cardinals, but he managed to hit .304/.360/.826 with four homers. Although each of the homers was a solo shot, Jones managed to abuse Cardinals pitching in the 2004 season.
Chipper Jones went on a tear to end the 2005 season and keep the Braves' streak of division titles going for another season. Jones hit .357 with five homers and 20 RBI in August and followed that up by hitting .283 with eight homers and 21 RBI in September.
Jones late season tear where he hit 13 homers with 41 RBI in his last 49 games helped the Braves win one final NL East crown during their long run, a division title that ended up being the final one in Jones''s career.
On Aug. 14, 2006 Chipper Jones recorded his first three home run game as he hit three against the Nationals at home. Jones homered off Ramon Ortiz, Ryan Wagner and Travis Hughes as he went four for five with three homers and five RBI.
This was one of the best single game performances of Jones's career.
At the age of 35 Chipper Jones put together one of the best seasons of his career. Jones hit .337, which was a career-high at the time, and led the National League with a 1.029 OPS. He also hit 42 doubles, 29 homers and batted in 102 runs in just 134 games.
Some had thought Jones may be nearing the end considering his age and the fact that injuries had ruined his past few seasons, but this season showed everyone that Jones was still a force.
The biggest surprise about the 2008 season was that Chipper Jones had a career-year in terms of batting average at the age of 36. Jones surprised many as he went on to hit a career-high .364, which beat his previous career high of .337 from the year before at the age of 35. It also earned him his first and only batting title.
Jones spent this season doing something remarkable in leading all of baseball in batting average, which wasn't something he had really been known for in his career.
The most memorable moment of the 2009 season could be where Chipper Jones spoke with the New York Times about possibly retiring because of a sub-par year by his own standards. That season didn't have too many positives, if there is a silver lining to the season it would be the way Jones hit the Phillies to start the season.
Jones went four for eight with a homer and a pair of doubles in the first two games of the season, as the Braves won each against the rival Phillies.
Although Chipper Jones suffered a torn ACL that made him miss the end of the season and the playoffs, it was his play that helped lift the Braves to the playoffs. This is important because 2010 was the Bobby Cox Farewell Tour, as he like Jones gave advanced notice of his retirement.
Bobby Cox and the Braves had not been to the playoffs since the 2005 season, when the Braves long streak of 15-consecutive division titles ended. Sending beloved manager Bobby Cox to the playoffs one last time as well as sending the franchise back to the playoffs was a highlight to the season for Jones.
Chipper Jones entered the 2011 season coming off a torn ACL, which happened in August of the previous season. There were some that questioned his health headed into the season considering his age and the fact that the injury happened late in the previous season. Once again Jones proved all of his doubters wrong.
Jones earned an All-Star selection, his first since winning the batting title in 2008, as he hit .275 with 18 homers and 70 RBI in 126 games. Those numbers would be solid for anyone, but when you consider he was 39 years-old and coming off the knee injury those numbers add even more value.
Jones did what he did best during his career, which is continuing to amaze Braves fans with his ability to do special things.
The year 2012 will be remembered by Braves fans as the Chipper Jones Farewell Tour, as Jones was honored in every stadium the Braves played. This was hardly unexpected and certainly deserved, as everyone wanted to say goodbye to one of the best players on the last 20 years.
However this wasn't Jones hanging around too long. He still had plenty left in the tank as evidence by his batting line of .287/.377/.455 with 14 homers and 62 RBI in 387 at bats. Sure Jones needed some extra rest for his 40-year-old body and missed some time with injuries, but his performance earned him his eighth and final trip to the All-Star Game.
Not many players get to go out with the kind of goodbye that Jones got, which is partly due to the advanced notice he gave, but even fewer guys get to do it with the level of success that Jones had in his final season.