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Chipper Jones Needs to Play or Retire

Joel Barker@joelabarkerSenior Writer IApril 17, 2009

ATLANTA - APRIL 11: Infielder Chipper Jones #10 of the Atlanta Braves bats against the Washington Nationals on April 11, 2009 at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Who among us die-hard Braves fans was not excited when it was announced that Chipper Jones’ contract had been extended another three years?

Who among us was not thrilled with the fact that Chipper would be a lifetime Brave—especially considering the circumstances in which John Smoltz left Atlanta for the hated Red Sox three months ago?

Now just two weeks into the season, Chipper has already missed three of the nine games Atlanta has played. Now, we get news that Chipper is likely to be out for this weekend’s series against the Pirates.

Sure, it’s the Pirates. But Chipper also missed the last two games of the Marlins series in Atlanta—both of which were losses for the Bravos.

The Florida Marlins are the hottest team in baseball, and Chipper can't play because of a bruised thumb.

A bruised thumb? I can understand how a bruised thumb would keep you from holding a bat and grasping a ball. But if it’s not one thing with Chipper, it’s another!

During the spring, the future Hall of Famer got hurt swinging a bat.

Since the 2004 season, Chipper has been out for numerous injuries.

It’s been everything from gimpy hamstrings, to pulled oblique muscles, to a bad toe, to an injured hand, and now a bruised thumb.

From his rookie season, 1995, through the 2003 season, Chipper averaged 155 games played per season. Since 2004, he’s averaged 124 per season, including career lows of 109 in 2005 and 110 in 2006.

Now I know that once players hit that 33-year-old mark there’s usually a drop-off in production. But that didn’t happen with Chipper. It was a drop-off in health for him.

Chipper is still every bit as productive as he’s always been, when he plays.

So you might ask why I think it’s time for Chipper to retire with those dreadful club numbers without him in the lineup.  

The No. 1 reason is to allow the youth movement to take over at third. Give Freddy Freeman a shot at third. Maybe former 3B top prospect Eric Campbell will get his head on straight.  

At least this would give the Braves something to look forward to, and they won’t have to continually be in limbo, wondering whether the aging star is going to be hurt or if he’ll be ready to play.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Chipper Jones. Chipper has been my favorite Brave since his rookie season.

As a matter of fact, I can name you five players who have been the face of my Braves since I was a teenager—those players that I drive two hours to Atlanta and pay crazy parking and ticket prices to watch.

Those five are Dale Murphy, David Justice, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, and Chipper Jones—with Chipper being the absolute favorite.

At the very least, the Braves should bring up their star prospect to at least share time with Chipper. Maybe Chipper should go into semi-retirement.

Don’t count on Chipper playing 130 games. Pencil him in for 80-90 games and develop your youngsters at the hot corner when Chipper is off.  

Heck, try Martin Prado out over there! Prado and Omar Infante have been great over there in their limited starts. While both can hit, they’ll never be compared with Chipper Jones.

With Chipper consistently hurting, the future needs to happen sooner rather than later. Prado and Infante can fill in for short spurts, but someone needs to be ready to take over in the hot corner long term.

At this point, I’d be surprised if Chipper lasts as long as his new contract does.

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