(the Atlanta third baseman explains to a young fan that the latter’s mother wearing orange shorts is not nearly enough to establish paternity)

You’d think a world class athlete like the soon-to-retire Chipper Jones would be able to tune out the odd chant of “LA-RRY, LA-RRY”, particularly as he’s long been replaced as Public Enemy No.1 in the hearts of Mets fans by their own club’s owner. However, appearances sometimes deceive, and Amazin’ Avenue’s Matthew Callan contends that Chipper isn’t quite so simple (“perhaps Chipper simply has something in his soul that craves animosity?”), and I’m willing to indulge any argument more sophisticated than my own (ie. the paucity of Hooter’s locations in the NYC metropolitan area makes him edgy).

I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason the Mets became Chipper’s target is because they offered him something he could not get in Atlanta: a spotlight all to himself.

As good and as popular as Chipper was, at the height of Atlanta’s dynasty he took a backseat in most fans’ minds to the Braves’ historically great rotation of John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux (and Steve Avery, briefly). Apart from his MVP year of 1999, Chipper was never seen as the primary reason the Braves won, his year-in year-out consistency less noticeable than their pitching staff’s dominance. There’s also the fact that Braves themselves took a backseat in local fans’ minds, their yearly clinching more expected than treasured. Even in 1999, when the Braves were playing their most hated rivals in the NLCS, they had a very hard time selling out Turner Field.

I think Chipper arrived at his dislike for the Mets and its fans organically. However, I also think that once he tasted the attention this brought him, once he realized how he could toy with the emotions of a jam-packed, screaming, swaying Shea Stadium, he found this offered him something he did not have in Atlanta. When he came to Queens, all eyes were on him in a way they weren’t at Turner Field, even if all those eyes were staring daggers at him.