Chipper leaning toward retirement
Braves great expected to announce his future plans soon
ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones informed the Braves on Tuesday afternoon that he is leaning toward retiring at the conclusion of this season. But the veteran third baseman has decided to wait a few more days before making a public announcement.
"I'll have something to tell you, it's just not going to be today," Jones said late Tuesday afternoon. "It will hopefully be before the end of this homestand. But right now, I'm not ready to say anything."
Jones met with Braves president John Schuerholz, general manager Frank Wren and manager Bobby Cox during a Tuesday afternoon meeting at Turner Field. Cox walked away from the meeting with the understanding that he might not be the only Braves legend retiring at the end of this season.
"The best I can gather is he's thinking about retiring at the end of this year," Cox said. "Until he talks to [the media], I really can't give you a correct or definitive answer."
With the three-year, $42 million contract extension he signed before the start of the 2009 season, Jones is guaranteed $28 million over the course of the next two years. Before officially announcing his retirement, he is expected to meet with the Braves to negotiate how much of this money he will still receive.
While Jones is certainly expected to receive a portion of the $28 million, he has said multiple times that finances would never affect any decision he made regarding retirement. According to baseball-reference.com, the former National League MVP has made more than $140 million in his career.
"He's been thinking about this all spring and through the winter that this would be his last year," Cox said.
After winning his first career batting title in 2008, Jones returned to Spring Training the following year and said he had contemplated retiring at the conclusion of the '09 season. An avid hunter who has never sought the spotlight, the laid-back veteran has always seemed to be most comfortable while spending time with his family and friends in Atlanta or at his Double Dime Ranch in Texas.
When Braves closer Billy Wagner announced in April that he will retire at the end of this season, he indicated the desire to spend more time with his family in Virginia.
"I knew I could compete and play," Wagner said. "But I enjoy being with my family and having that peace of mind of knowing that I'd be home with them, and not have to deal with the expectations of each season. I was content with that."
With a .306 career batting average, Jones has established himself as one of the greatest switch-hitters in Major League history and a likely candidate to gain entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. During his 17 seasons with the Braves, he has captured one World Series championship, participated in two World Series, been part of 12 division winners and captured the 1999 National League MVP Award.
Along the way, the six-time All-Star has became one of the most popular players in Braves franchise history.
"He's been the face of the organization for the last 18 years," Wagner said. "Every organization has had its guy. The Astros had [Craig] Biggio. It's always a weird and strange feeling for an organization when something like that occurs. But you can't play forever."
|"I'll have something to tell you, it's just not going to be today. It will hopefully be before the end of this homestand. But right now, I'm not ready to say anything."|
|-- Chipper Jones|
But over the course of the 147 games he has played since then entering Tuesday, Jones has hit .231 with a .363 OBP and a .357 SLG. In the process, he has battled a number of nagging injuries and admittedly started to feel old.
"I think he's getting frustrated getting injured so much, especially at the end of his career," Braves right-hander Jair Jurrjens said. "It's just so hard for him to stay on the field. Sometimes your body just says, 'That's enough.' I just hope he can keep helping us for one more year to get back into the playoffs."
Chipper homered in the eighth inning and doubled and scored in the third to boost his average to .233 on Tuesday. He sits at four homers and 23 RBIs in the 52 games he has played. Jones has maintained his position in the third spot of the Braves' lineup. This has been aided by the fact that he has drawn walks with regularity and compiled a strong on-base percentage.
"I think he can still get on base, knock in runs and still be productive," Cox said. "It's up to him. He can really help us. He's not too far removed. He led the league in hitting two years ago and was second the year before. It's still there."
As the Braves' general manager, Cox opted to pick Jones, instead of Todd Van Poppel, as the top overall selection in the 1990 First-Year Player Draft.
Now as he prepares to walk away from his career, Cox is hoping that Jones finds success over the remainder of this season and opts to alter his current plan to make this the final season of his playing career.
"If he gets going, hits .350 the rest of the way, I think I would change my mind," Cox said referring to Jones, not himself.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.