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.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 16: Starting pitcher J.A. Happ #33 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on June 16, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
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Did you know J.A. Happ is in the thick of the American League Cy Young Award race? Of all the contenders, he may be the biggest surprise, even ahead of Drew Pomeranz. Happ leads the league with 17 wins and only has three losses to go with it. He’s holding a 3.05 ERA and a 133/44 K/BB ratio in 150 1/3 innings.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Happ was struggling to stay in a starting rotation. In 2011, his first full season with the Astros, he finished with a 5.35 ERA. In 2012, he put up a 4.79 ERA with the ‘stros and Blue Jays. The next year? 4.56 followed by 4.22, both with the Jays. Then, with the Mariners, he continued the mediocrity with a 4.64 ERA before he was traded to the Pirates.

Under the tutelage of Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage, Happ turned his career around. In 11 starts in Pittsburgh, the lefty had a microscopic 1.85 ERA. That came with significant improvements in his strikeout and walk rates. Even the ERA retrodictors like FIP and xFIP, which had so often agreed with his uninspiring ERA’s, agreed that he had thrown like an elite hurler. So that’s how we arrived at J.A. Happ, Cy Young Award contender.

Among AL starters, Happ is fifth-best in ERA behind Cole Hamels, Jose Quintana, Aaron Sanchez, and Steven Wright. However, his 17-3 record is equaled only by Rick Porcello. As there are still a significant number of voters in the Baseball Writers Association of America who consider won-lost record, Happ is sitting in a good position and will be even better if he can cross the coveted 20-win threshold. He’ll get a bit of a boost as well if he can help the Jays return to the postseason for a second consecutive season.

Happ’s Jays will host the hapless — and Happ-less — Angels on Thursday evening. He’ll take on veteran Jered Weaver in a 7:07 PM EDT start.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Baltimore Orioles (Ubaldo Jimenez) @ Washington Nationals (Max Scherzer), 7:05 PM EDT

Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez) @ Miami Marlins (Tom Koehler), 7:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Seth Lugo) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Adam Wainwright), 7:15 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Josh Tomlin) @ Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels), 8:05 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates (Chad Kuhl) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta), 8:10 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (James Paxton) @ Chicago White Sox (Anthony Ranaudo), 8:10 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves (Matt Wisler) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray), 9:40 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants (Matt Moore) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Ross Stripling), 10:10 PM EDT

Let’s play the “how long has it been since the Cubs won the World Series?” game!

1908 Cubs
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It started with a no-good St. Louis Cardinals fan being a troublemaker. That no-good Cardinals fan was Drew Silva, who began things innocently enough, noting that, despite their dominance this season, any team can theoretically beat the Chicago Cubs in a short series because that’s just how baseball goes:

Cubs fans started giving him guff for that, so Drew gave some back:

And with that it was on like Donkey Kong (a super old video game which was not invented for another 73 years after the Cubs last won the World Series). I tweeted this:

And with that, my followers went crazy. Here’s a sampling of some of the best ones:

And, for that matter . . .

Too soon. Unlike the last Cubs World Series title.

Like I said, this was just a sampling. I’ve retweeted a ton more on my timeline and those I didn’t retweet can be seen in the replies here. My favorite one may have been “literally the invention of sliced bread,” which debuted in 1912, but I can’t find that tweet.

Please, Cubs fans, have a sense of humor about this. You have a wonderful ballpark that is not named after a third tier mortgage company, a grand history that is fantastic even if it hasn’t featured any championships and a future that is as bright or brighter than any other team out there. Maybe even come up with some of your own in the comments! History is fun! As is self-deprecation! What I’m saying is don’t be salty about this sort of thing. Salty is a bad look.

In other news, the Morton Salt Company was incorporated in 1910, two years after the Cubs last World Series victory.