Third baseman Chipper Jones packed his bags and prepared to take his family to the Bahamas on Friday, but not before he discussed various topics with MLB.com, including September's collapse, Jason Heyward, the search for a hitting coach and his own future.
MLB.com: It has been a little more than two weeks since you and your teammates completed a historic collapse that denied you what had once seemed to be a [sure] trip to the playoffs. How difficult has it been for you when you've thought about all that went wrong after you entered September with an 8 1/2-game lead in the National League Wild Card race?
Jones: I'm living one Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at a time. I'm very disappointed. This has never happened to me before. But my dad always told me, if you play this game long enough, you're going to strike out to end the game or make an error to lose a game. And sometimes your team just doesn't get it done in September.
I thought we had a great year up until September. We played 4 1/2 good months of baseball. That's not to be overlooked. We were in prime position to achieve our goals, and we came up two games short. When you come up two games short, it's easy to look back and think about how many games we gave away.
You think, 'Golly, what if I could have seen that ball in the lights in Florida?' Or if we didn't walk a guy here. Or if we had gotten the hit there. There are a lot of what-ifs. But if you sit around thinking about what-ifs, you're going to drive yourself insane. Sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce your way. That's probably simplifying it too much. But it keeps you sane.
MLB.com: How do September's events affect how you are viewing the 2012 season? You've said you plan to play at least through the end of next year. Is this still the case?
Jones: We know we have a good team, and we know we're going to have a good team next year. I'm motivated to come back and do it again. I'll be ready.
MLB.com: What do you think proved to be the team's most significant problem in September?
Jones: I put it on the offense. We couldn't string any hits together. We had a bunch of guys who hit .230 to .270. I think everybody that hit in that range will tell you they are better hitters than that. It was just a situation where we had a bunch of good players have off offensive years.
MLB.com: Hitting coach Larry Parrish was dismissed two days after the conclusion of what proved to be his only season with the Braves. How much of the blame should be put on his shoulders?
Jones: I will never blame a hitting coach, because once you get to this level, you know what you're doing. Can a hitting coach make a difference? Yeah. But I think it's up to a player to make certain adjustments. Larry put his time in with each and every guy that needed help. It helped some and didn't help others.
MLB.com: Obviously, Heyward struggled throughout this past season, and his struggles seemed to extend beyond his bothersome right shoulder. How can you help get him back on track?
Jones: We need to get him some confidence back. I think that's the main thing right now. I saw a guy at the end of the season with zero confidence. We've got to get that back, because you can't play that game with zero confidence. I'm going to call him up a few times during the offseason and just try to boost his ego a little bit. Hopefully, that will help.
MLB.com: Are the pieces in place for this to be a productive lineup? Like Heyward, what will it take for Martin Prado to bounce back from what was the worst year of his young career?
Jones: I'd like to see us be more consistent, whether that's with [Dan Uggla] spreading 35 homers over six months as opposed to hitting the ball in three months. I think we all know Martin can be much more consistent than he was this season. For whatever reason, he developed some fundamental flaws. I hope he gets it worked out and returns to being that .300 hitter we were used to seeing.
Prado was in the cage every day with Parrish and Lee Elia. It was just one of those things he couldn't get out of.
MLB.com: Who was the club's most valuable offensive asset throughout the course of the season?
Jones: Freddie Freeman hit in a bunch of different spots in the lineup. He would be my pick. He was steady. After we had a little sit-down early in the season, he really realized, 'I've got to bring it every day, and I've got to be consistent.' He was the most consistent by far.
MLB.com: General manager Frank Wren has not revealed whom he might hire to serve as his new hitting coach. Do you think Triple-A Gwinnett's hitting coach, Jamie Dismuke, is a solid candidate?
Jones: I love Jamie. I like Jamie a lot. He's very hands-on and positive. I know all the Minor League guys that come up love him.
When guys are struggling, they send them to the Minors to see Jamie Dismuke, so the organization must feel pretty confident that Jamie knows what he is doing. If that is the case, Jamie would be a great candidate for this job. There are a bunch of great candidates for this job. But if you want to keep it in-house, Jamie is your guy.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.