"Pawn to king 4 or . . . pawn to queen 5? (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
It's very easy for a Phillies fan to hate Chipper Jones. After all, over the course of his 19 year professional baseball career with the Atlanta Braves, he has absolutely murdered the Phillies. In his 969 plate appearances against the Phillies, his triple slash line is .332/.444/.598, good for an amazing 1.042 OPS. For Chipper's entire career, that's his highest OPS against an NL team (faring better against only two AL teams - a 1.239 OPS+ against the Rays (in 93 plate appearances) and a 1.369 OPS+ against the Twins (28 plate appearances)).
As if that isn't enough, his public persona is one that is despicable. We've chronicled and lambasted it enough throughout the years here on The Good Phight - his adultery, his forever being linked with a wife beater, his throwing teammates under a bus, his whining about injuries, his whining about umpires, his constant injuries, his naming his daughter something absurd, his looking like someone who enjoys the Tomahawk Chop too much, and his being a 40 year old man who still calls himself Chipper.
But in his final year, maybe it's time to take a step back and appreciate Chipper Jones in a way that we haven't before. Sometimes, you just have to be a better human being than you normally are, and today, I'll try. So below you'll find my take on appreciating Larry "Chipper" Jones:
Hustle: Chipper Jones hustles, and we rarely appreciate it. Probably the most momentous display of his hustle came in December 2008. Chipper had spent a Saturday afternoon with his daughter Shea and was heading to Bobby Cox's house, where Chipper was going to leave Shea for the evening. Chipper looked at his watch, saw that it was 7:25, did some quick math, and realized that if he didn't hustle, he would miss his 7:45 reservations. He drove just a bit quicker, sprinted up the driveway at the Cox residence, left Shea with "Uncle Bobby" without giving her a kiss goodbye, and made it to Hooters with a minute to spare. That's hustle!
The Little Things: During flights to away games, on off-days, and during the off-season, Chipper Jones has long dabbled in the world of nano-technology. Nano-technology is the manipulation of matter at the molecular level. This amazing field of science has broad applications in medicine, electronics, energy, computing, and a host of other fields. Chipper's gifts, both mental and physical, combine to make him a perfect nano-scientist. His rare fine motor skills combined with an IQ that has been measured in the 170 range has lead to surprising developments in the field. His creative thinking will also impact society in the future. After all, the idea to use nanotechnology to build the fabled space elevator? All Chipper's.
Plays the Game Right: Chipper Jones is a master chess player. While not quite the level of a Bobby Fischer or Garry Kasparov, Chipper regularly advances deep into international competitions. When looking back on his chess playing days, Chipper points to his great accomplishments, such as being the first professional athlete to master the art of casting, playing and winning against twenty 8 year olds simultaneously, and even once beating Deep Blue. When asked why Chipper is so successful at chess, an internationally acclaimed coach (who did not want to be identified) responded, "he plays the game the right way."
Grit: When he's too injured to play baseball, Chipper Jones delivers meals to the hungriest of the hungry. He regularly boards planes to the poorest countries of the world and seeks out the slums facing the most devastating forms of hunger. In those areas, he finds the weakest individuals, those struggling with food shortages in ways we could never comprehend. Chipper actually delivers the meals to these individuals himself. He's not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty, all for the sake of his fellow human beings. If he comes home with dirt and scratches on his face from all of his hard work and long hours, he is known to tell his teammates "this is the price you pay for feeding the hungry and helping advance good in the world." His teammates, knowing only the language of baseball, look at him in awe and utter in unison: "That's grit."
Determination: Ever concerned about the quality of umpiring in the majors as well as the lack of commitment from younger players who refuse to play through injuries, Chipper Jones was determined to make a difference. Just this off-season, after battling through the bureaucracy of the players' and umpires' union, he prevailed and created the Chipper Jones Institute for Quality Umpiring and Injury Ignoring. When no one initially signed up to participate in the inaugural season of the Institute, Chipper personally stalked 18 umpires and 53 major leaguers, using text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, and personal visits at their favorite strip clubs to get their attention. He ultimately convinced them all to attend the Institute, where he himself lectured them for 10 days straight (10 hours per day) about the right way to call a game and play through injuries.
Always Gives 110%: Chipper Jones has never taken home a penny of the money he earns from baseball. In fact, he doesn't just donate 100% of his salary to charity - he donates 110% of it. In a famous quote from a 2007 biographical mini-series about Chipper's life that aired on the History Channel, he stated: "Why should I be blessed with the luxuries of the modern world when others suffer so deeply? Sure, I could give just 100% of my salary to charity, but would that really be doing enough? As ballplayers, we are trained to give 110%, so that's what I do."
Class: There is nothing of greater importance to the good folks of Atlanta, Georgia and the fans of the Atlanta Braves than class. And Chipper Jones has never missed a class for anything. Growing up in Florida, Chipper Jones was famous for attending every single class from pre-school through 12th grade. When he entered the amateur draft as a senior in 1990, it was a tough decision, as he realized it would take away from him going to college and attending even more class. But life as a professional ballplayer gave him opportunities to attend class still. At newbie class, both for the MLB and the Braves, Chipper showed up on time and never missed a day. When rehabbing all of his injuries, he never missed a rehab session. Why? Because he treated it like class. He loves class so much, in retirement he's looking forward to getting his college degree, a masters, a Ph.D., and several post-doctoral degrees as well . . . all so he can attend more classes.
It's clear all of the Chipper Jones haters have been wrong, very wrong. The man is great, and we have ignored his greatness for too long. I'm glad I've finally, in the last year we'll have to face him as a Brave, set the world straight on this point.