Future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones just wrapped up one of the better final seasons in major league history, hitting .287/.377/.455 with 14 homers and 62 RBI at age 40.
Unfortunately, the all-too-brief postseason wasn’t nearly as kind. Jones botched a double-play ball, contributing to a three-run fourth inning, and went 1-for-5 at the plate as the Braves lost 6-3 to the Cardinals on Friday.
For Chipper, it has to be a painful way to end his career. He was up as the tying run in the bottom of the seventh, yet he grounded out on the first pitch he saw from Marc Rzepczynski. He did get one more chance in the ninth, and he was able to reach on an infield single after fighting off some quality fastballs from closer Jason Motte. He was stranded from there and then walked off the field as Braves fans started hurling trash again.
Of course, this was hardly all on Chipper. Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons also made key errors. Outside of catcher David Ross and maybe Freddie Freeman, no Brave had an outstanding game.
Still, as great as Chipper Jones’ career was — and he ranks as one of the game’s three best switch-hitters of all-time — he bares some responsibility for the Braves’ playoff struggles over the last decade. If tonight’s one-gamer counts as a “series,” then Chipper was on the losing side of the last six postseason series in which he played. His last great postseason series was the 2001 NLDS against the Astros, when he hit two homers in a three-game sweep. In 25 postseason games since, he hit .219 with three homers and 12 RBI in 96 at-bats.
Jones shouldn’t head into retirement with many regrets, but there can be no doubt that he’d love to have that one throw and the seventh-inning at-bat back tonight.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.
Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.
Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.
Hazen issued a statement following the signing:
With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.