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.

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).