Chipper Jones: "I'm on a year-to-year basis"

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Chipper Jones sat for a wide-ranging interview with Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Among the nuggets:

  • He’s spent a lot of his offseason hunting. Shocking.
  • Despite what a lot of Braves fans thought last year, he wasn’t hiding an injury or anything. His season-long slump was merely a function of things not coming together. While some Braves fans may be worried about that — could it mean that Chipper is just on the decline?! — I’m not. The dude simply hasn’t had any practice hitting when all of his body parts are functioning properly, so it was a new and foreign experience for the guy.  Want a good Chipper Jones season in 2010? Hope he pulls a hamstring in March that never really heals all season. He’s used to that. He’ll probably hit .309 with 27 homers that way.
  • Despite just starting his three-year, $42 million extension, Jones is “on a year-to-year basis right now.” If he doesn’t produce this year, he’ll quit. Based on everything I know about the guy, I believe him. Unlike many superstars, he has a pretty full life outside of baseball. Businesses, ranches and stuff like that. He says here that he’s sick of living out of suitcases and that “there’s certain
    politics that go with playing this game that I don’t want to have to deal
    with.”  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Jones walks after 2010.
  • As for his post-playing career, he says “I don’t think you could pay me enough money to
    manage, to be honest with you [Jones laughs], after seeing what managing has
    done to Bobby [Cox].”  Interesting observation, but I think that may be more a function of being Bobby Cox than managing. I got to meet Cox at the Winter Meetings. He’s roughly my dad’s age — late 60s — but he seems like he’s in his 80s in many respects. Tony La Russa is only a couple of years younger than Cox and has been managing just as long, and he seems like he’s 40 (dresses like he’s 20). I imagine that, like almost every job, in managing, the stress you take is equal to the stress you make.
  • Despite some lip service about moving “for the right personnel,” there’s no way he’s leaving third base. I think the Braves really screwed this one up major for Jones several years ago when they put him in left field for Vinny freakin’ Castilla of all people. You don’t move a Hall of Famer for a schlub like that. By doing so, the team soured Jones on the very idea of moving to first base at some point, to where now he wouldn’t do it unless a wormhole sent a 27 year-old Mike Schmidt forward in time to Atlanta in 2010.

I’m cautiously optimistic for something of a comeback season for Jones. Not a comeback to MVP-candidate Chipper Jones, but maybe a late-era Al Kaline kind of thing where he misses a good chunk of time due to age and breakdown but still manages to hit .300 and be productive.  Will that be good enough for him to stay in the game beyond 2010? Tough call. Right now I’d say it’s 50-50.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).