Monday, March 9, 2009

Chipper Jones: The Yankee That Never Was

In many cases, it is difficult to truly appreciate greatness until long after a player has left the game he loves.

As a result, many stars end up epitomizing the “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone” philosophy.

This has never been an issue for Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves. Widely considered the best third baseman of his generation, Jones has displayed god-like ability and poised leadership.

While watching Jones collect over 400 home runs and a career .408 on-base percentage, it has been impossible not to imagine him wearing an interlocking NY on his cap.

Third base has been a position that the Yankees have struggled to fill since the departure of Graig Nettles after the 1983 season.

Nettles was acquired by New York in 1973. He was a Yankee legend eleven seasons later after producing six All-Star appearances, two World Series titles, and countless defensive gems.

Since that time, the Yankees have used the likes of Mike Blowers, Tom Brookens, Wayne Tolleson, Jim Leyritz, Randy Velarde, Wade Boggs and Charlie Hayes at the position.

There have been timeless contributions made by Scott Brosius and Aaron Boone during the dynasty years. However, there has never been a mainstay whose number could be retired amongst the greats in Yankee history.

Jones was born to wear pinstripes. He has always been valor and class personified, and would have had no trouble fitting the highly scrutinized “True Yankee” identity.

Jones showed time and time again that he could be counted on as a clutch performer, hitting .364, .345, .344, .333, and .321 in five of his postseasons. He collected 13 home runs, 47 RBI, and a .411 OBP in his many years of playoff baseball.

Jones’ Braves made the postseason a remarkable eleven straight years from 1995-2005, nearly matching the Yankees own dynasty years.

Always a thorn in his division rival Mets’ side, Jones has displayed his ability to perform in New York as well as on the game’s biggest stage.

Watching him sit with Derek Jeter in the Team USA dugout has only rekindled my past fantasies of Jones rocketing souvenirs to the “bleacher creatures” on a nightly basis.

What Jones was able to do last season at 36 years old is no less extraordinary than the culmination of his entire career.

Jones’ future induction into Cooperstown is merely a formality. He has already been a Hall of Fame lock since 2000.

The dreams of Jones reuniting the Bronx with a World Series ring will never die. Unfortunately this is one dream that it appears will never come true.

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