Ken Rosenthal interviewed Chipper Jones and asked him about his decision to try a comeback next year. Jones says he’ll only continue to play if he can be an effective player. The key question: given the denial inherent in a professional athlete’s psyche, how will he know if he can still be effective?
I’ll know probably the first month of the regular season. Spring
training is always just to knock the rust off. You feel a little slow.
Maybe you’re not getting to balls that you would during the regular
season — the bat speed is not there.
All that stuff has a way of playing itself out. Usually you’re caught
up a couple of weeks, a month into the season. You’re primed and ready. I
don’t expect to come out in spring training the first game and be in
midseason form. That will take some time, a couple of weeks, a month.
Worth noting at this point that Jones was batting .230 with two home runs after the first month of the 2010 season. Did he still feel effective then? I assume so. But if he does the same thing next year, will he really hang it up?
We thought we had the answer to that question earlier this year when Jones gave off signals that he’d walk away from his contract early if he didn’t turn it around because he had so many other things that will hold his interest after leaving baseball. But he tells Rosenthal something interesting on that score:
I enjoy other things in life. My family is a big part of that. I
honestly think that while I’m still competitive — and while I will miss
that terribly — I have other things that I enjoy doing and want to do.
You have a shelf life where you can make absurd amounts of money playing
this game. I will take advantage of that shelf life for as long as I
Tone is everything, and only Rosenthal knows the tone for sure, but that last sentence could easily be read as a repudiation of the those leave-before-my-contract-is-up comments from earlier in the year.
The Braves will certainly put up with Jones drawing lots of walks but doing little else like he did early this season, thus allowing him to continue to “take advantage of that shelf life.” But does Chipper really considering such an indulgence to be the same thing as “being an effective player?”
It’s too early to cut bait on the Braves 2010 season, but I’m already starting to think about the 2011 season and wonder what it will hold for Chipper Jones.