It's a shame that this series between the Dodgers and the Braves isn't between the best in the NL West and the best in the NL East. But the Dodgers haven't held up their end of the bargain this season, floundering several schools behind the lead pack. It's even more of a shame that, for what will be 11 straight Dodgers-Braves games after Monday, we will not get to see Chipper Jones.
As someone who is still bitter about 1991, I disliked the Braves for years. The fact that they were on TBS meant that I saw an inordinate amount of their games, relative to other teams (remember, this was before the Extra Innings package). That they continually made the playoffs year after year made them an easy target for my jealous rage. However, over time the layers of hate were peeled away, slowly but surely. I began to like the trio of Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddux. I loved watching Andruw Jones patrol center field, which made his putridity in blue even more painful. I even began to enjoy the Braves' announcers. Skip Caray was a good announcer, and even more fun to imitate in a Kermit The Frog voice. I was able to look past the perm and see Don Sutton as an excellent analyst (his son is a different matter, however). But most of all, I respected the hell out of Chipper Jones.
The Braves drafted Jones first overall in the 1990 draft, and he seemed destined for greatness. After about a month in the big leagues, in 1995, here's what Tim Kurkjian, then of Sports Illustrated, had to say about Jones:
Obviously, Jones is supremely confident, despite having played in only 39 major league games at week's end. But he's not really cocky. "I call it a necessary arrogance," says Jones. "You've got to have that to be successful in this game."
The son of a baseball coach, the 6'3", 195-pound Jones was groomed to be a big leaguer, and now he's on the verge of stardom. "I feel I do all things well, and I'm intense about it," he says. "I've patterned myself after Cal Ripken and Dale Murphy. You can't do any better than that."
Jones has had a great career, and should enter the Hall of Fame shortly after his career is through. He has had seven full seasons with a 140 OPS+ or higher, plus two more years if the plate appearance threshold is lowered to 400. His career OPS+ is 142 in 9,654 PA. He has had several seasons of five wins above replacement -- eight per Fangraphs, or seven per Baseball Prospectus. He is seven doubles shy of 500, he has scored over 1,500 runs, and is nine RBI shy of 1,500 in his career. At .306/.405/.536, Chipper is one of 14 players with at least 2,000 games played to hit at least .300/.400/.500 in his career, a group that includes 11 Hall of Famers, plus Frank Thomas and Edgar Martinez.
One can only hope that his torn ACL, which has shelved Jones for the rest of this season, hasn't also ended his illustrious career.
- Hiroki Kuroda, who has 108 strikeouts this season, is nine punchouts away from setting a new career high, which was set in his first MLB season of 2008. His high in Japan was 165, set in 2005 while with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp
- The Dodgers are 20-29 all-time at Turner Field
- Andre Ethier is hitting .381/.447/.690 in 12 career games at Turner Field in Atlanta, with three home runs and 11 RBI, although he has just three hits in 14 at-bats against tonight's starter, Tim Hudson.
- Matt Kemp has four hits in nine at-bats against Hudson, including a home run
- The Dodgers today signed Ethier's brother Devon, a 32nd rounder from this year's draft
Get your guesses in for Xeifrank's game simulation here.
Game Time: 4:35 p.m.
TV: Prime Ticket