Though Larry “Chipper” Jones “has had some missteps in his personal life”, SI.com’s John Donovan — presumably without the benefit of recent or vintage piss or blood samples — feels very comfortable proclaiming the Braves superstar “someone that you can believe in without reservation or apology.”
Jones, in 13-plus big league seasons, gives every appearance of being a legitimate, all-natural, steroid-free, HGH-free, amphetamine-free bona fide baseball star. In a game where sincerity gets clouded by synthetics, Chipper still looks and sounds like the real deal.
And Jones is better than too many people realize. He’s 10th among active players in OPS, at .949. Last season, at 35, he hit .337 with 29 home runs and 102 RBIs, slugged over .600, scored more than 100 runs … and he missed almost a month with injuries. It was one of his best seasons since he won the National League MVP award in ’99. Among switch-hitters, he is currently behind two Hall of Famers on the all-time home run list, with 386, 118 behind Eddie Murray and 150 away from the all-time leader, Mickey Mantle.
Yet Jones gets lost in the shuffle of this era — or period, if you’d rather — of the jacked-up and juiced-up, of those who make headlines for all the wrong reasons. But Jones has managed to steer clear of any accusations about using performance-enhancers, which is pretty amazing for someone with his resume so who has spent this much time in the spotlight.
“When your body of work is done and you are to be judged, in a baseball sense, I think people will recollect those kinds of things before they start judging the numbers,” Jones told me. “You know, ‘Did I ever hear their names coming up? Scandals, cheating. Whatever.’ And if they say no, then they’ll take a look at the numbers and go from there.
“In a certain sense, it could help us in the long run, eight to 10 years down the road. People will have to judge things and say, ‘You know, I never heard Chipper’s name coming up.’.
I know this won’t be a popular opinion amongst the CSTB readership, but I don’t think Donovan went nearly far enough in his effusive praise of Jones. What was preventing the journalist from wishing he could someday be buried in the same coffin as Chipper? Where’s the proposal to have Jones’ #10 retired in every big league ballpark?