Chipper Jones

Chipper Jones: “A bad motherf****r”

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Spencer Hall at SB Nation has a column up about Chipper Jones, his life, times and city. It’s not a biography — you know Jones’ story by now — it’s more about the essence and zeitgeist of Chipper, the teams he played on and the city in which it all happened:

You knew Chipper would work in Atlanta simply based on his face. He could have been the mascot for the Atlanta Crackers … Chipper looked like a walking definition of cracker: slitty eyes, swaggery, slow steps to the plate even as a rookie, and a fondness for Oakleys and sleeveless shirts.You knew he would work for so many reasons. He came to the plate to “Crazy Train,” the precursor to totalling a Camaro, or chugging a 12 pack of Natty Lite before a Jackyl concert, or hitting a baseball with the name “Chipper.” His real name was Larry Wayne Jones, the name of a serial killer, state agricultural commissioner, or budding candidate for the position of cracker baseball pope.

Hall goes on to talk about how, despite this perfect fit — which assumes a lot of stuff about the south and race I’m not sure I’d always assume, but that’s for another day — Jones’ is not the same local(ish) boy makes good tale, mostly because of the unfulfilled promise of the 1990s and early 2000s Braves.  How “the metaphorical trophy case” was never filled, and how it compares to the city itself, full of empty McMansions and development that seemed like inevitable successes, went bust just like the Braves’ hopes of multiple world championships in the Chipper Jones era.

Not gonna lie: I’m having some trouble with this one. Why? Because like so many fans who came to the team because of TBS, the Braves are not a local phenomenon to me. Outside of the airport and a few minutes on 1-75 heading down to Florida, I’ve never been in Atlanta at all. Heck, I’ve never even been to Turner Field.  To me and so many others, the Braves are a TV-and-watch-them-when-they-play-road-games-nearby thing, and thus the rhythms and the resonances between the city and the team are simply absent in my experience and the experience of so many others.

Which, by the way, goes a long way towards explaining why Braves fandom is the curious and seemingly passionless thing it often appears to be. If you didn’t grow up with a bunch of like-minded kids, if you didn’t pack into bars watching games, everyone cheering for the same thing and if you didn’t high five other fans on the way in and out of the park before and after big games, there’s inevitably going to be something missing.  They Braves mean an awful lot to me, but just like the bands I listened to with my headphones on in my room when I was growing up, they’re a personal thing, not a communal thing.

So I read this and I enjoy, if for no small reason than the prose.  But I have to admit: the idea of a city thinking about Chipper Jones as a thing is sorta odd to me. He’s always been a little man on my TV. Or that guy I met once at spring training or saw when he came to Ohio to play the Reds. Oh well.

Anyway, worth a read, especially Atlanta people.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.