It’s one thing to be 39 years old, less than a year removed from major knee surgery and suffering from a meniscus tear.
It’s an entirely different animal if you are the starting third baseman for a National League contender.
Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, a soon-to-be Hall of Famer, has been one of the most productive players on the roster thus far. He is currently tied for the team lead in RBIs at 27 and has been holding down the hot corner pretty effectively.
Although he is clearly not the player he once was, he continues to consistently produce, as he has for years.
Many agree that he is the greatest third baseman of all time, but his prime has come and gone. He has only appeared in more than 140 games once in the past eight seasons.
If the first decade of the 21st century in sports will come to be defined by anything, it will be by superstars significantly extending their primes. In football, we saw Brett Favre play into his 40s while competing at highest level.
In basketball, players such as Grant Hill of the Phoenix Suns and Jason Kidd of the Dallas Mavericks continue to start and produce on championship contending teams as they approach 40—when most players retire from the NBA before they turn 33. Steve Nash of the Suns, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavericks and others challenge for the MVP title, even though they are approaching a decade removed from their statistical primes.
Baseball is different. Players such as Barry Bonds and Andy Pettitte extended their primes, although steroids have been pointed to as the chief catalyst behind those anomalies.
There are many players not connected to steroids who have had long careers that continue today. José Contreras and Raúl Ibañez of the Philadelphia Phillies continue to contribute to their team. (Contreras is currently on the Disabled List.)
Chipper Jones and New York Yankee Jorge Posada are both approaching 40, have been multiple time All-Stars and are probable Hall of Famers. They have both been experiencing different types of adversity over the past few days.
For Posada, he was recently dropped to ninth in the order and removed himself from the lineup, although the cause of this removal remains uncertain.
For Jones, his knee has been a recurring injury for the last several years. Playing at one of the most difficult positions in all of baseball has not helped things either.
Chipper Jones may feel that he has a few more years left in him, but he currently gets cortisone injections before many games just to stem the pain long enough to play.
Money is not an issue. Jones has stockpiled tens of millions of dollars over his long career.
The Braves are also in an interesting position. Martin Prado seems to be the heir apparent to the third base job. He took over the position in 2010 and performed quite well. He currently plays left field.
If Jones retires after this year, Prado will move to third base. The Braves will probably not pick up a team option on center fielder Nate McLouth, opening up two outfield holes to be filled, with right field being manned by Jason Heyward.
The best way to send Chipper Jones out would be with a ring.
The Atlanta Braves are certainly not World Series favorites, but with a little bit of luck and a few well-placed swings, anything can happen.
Baseball is a funny sport.