Last year Chipper Jones, mired in a deep second-half slump, said that he might just retire after 2010 and walk away from millions. He backtracked on that earlier this season. Now he’s back on his “I may just give it all up” horse:
“I make no bones about it. I am seriously considering it no
matter how this year ends up for the Atlanta Braves. It’s something
that’s still in the works, but hasn’t been ruled out for the end of the
year. I’m not going to stick around and hamstring this organization if
I’m not playing well and not enjoying myself… I’ve committed to play
this year. I’m not going to walk out on the club. But at the end of this
year, if I don’t feel like I can contribute at a high level like I
always have, then it is a possibility that I will walk away.”
Jones is hitting .219/.377/.336 with only two homers and his usual assortment of bumps and bruises. Despite this, the Braves have the second best record in the NL in the month of May and are second in runs scored. It would be great if he could turn it around and add to the party, but so far the Braves have gotten by just fine without him producing.
It’s one thing to struggle. It’s another thing when you struggle and have it not really matter. Jones has always been fairly frank in assessing his performance and place in the universe. Based on these comments, I think he’s pretty well aware of it now as well. If he realizes that he’s no longer needed, I have no doubt that he’d walk away from the $20 million+ he’s owed and retire.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉