Thursday, September 20, 2012

CHIPPER JONES, NONDESCRIPT SUPERSTAR

Wednesday night was, unofficially, the last time Chipper Jones will ever play baseball in Miami, assuming he retires at the end of the year and doesn't Brett Favre us for six more seasons. The Marlins honored him with a short video presentation, before having Jeff Conine and Jose Reyes present him with a fishing pole. (The Heat promptly retired his number.) And that was that. Larry Wayne Jones waved his helmet at the crowd before his last at-bat, acknowledged their standing ovation and then immediately grounded out to second.

I said it last night, that I've never been less sad to see someone leave the game of baseball, which I was then told is the greatest compliment you can give an opposing player. But, that's not really what I meant.

Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, David Ortiz? They were just some of the guys representing an era of superhuman, ball-crushers. Pitchers like Roy Halladay and Roger Clemens? Dominating players you just had to watch. Alex Rodriguez? A guy everyone loved to hate. Derek Jeter? Was (and still is) the face of Major League Baseball.

And then there's Chipper Jones, probably the best athlete I'll ever not care about.

Chipper has been really good for so many years, but that's all you can ever say about him: that he was really good for so many years. Fair or not, at any point in the last two decades, if someone were to ask you about the best players in baseball, you'd rattle off 15-20 other guys before you even thought about saying the name Chipper Jones.

Part of it is because he plays for the Braves and there's nothing even remotely exciting about that team. Atlanta is easily the most nondescript good team in baseball. Name a team you forget is in playoff contention these days more often than the Braves. I dare you to find one. The NL East is the Roy Halladays, the hilariously awful Mets, those wacky Marlins, the upstart Nationals and then that team that plays in that state nobody cares about. It's like watching Bizarro World Derek Jeter. (Seriously, could you even imagine how differently we'd view Derek Jeter if he played his entire career in Atlanta instead of New York?)

The other part of it is that he has absolutely no redeeming qualities, other than being a great baseball player. Think about it. Manny Ramirez was great and quirky. Barry Bonds was great and cocky. GIANCARLOCRUZMICHAELSTANTON is great and beautiful. Gary Sheffield was great and always looked like he was ready to murder someone. Chipper Jones is great and nothing. He's a robot if a robot had less of a personality. At one point last night, the Marlins Park Kiss Cam found Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman and Chipper Jones in the dugout, and while the other two were playing it up for the camera, Chipper had the face of the newly married guy who can't hang out with his fun, single friends anymore. We get it, Derrick Rose. We get it.

Even Chipper's demons are nondescript. An 18-month affair with a Hooters waitress? 18-months isn't a torrid affair; it's another painfully boring relationship. And a Hooters waitress? I mean, Jesus, could this entire story be any more dull and cliché? I'll bet the kid he had with her grows up to be perfectly normal, too. Not a crackhead, not rich and successful; just a guy who sits in a cubicle 10 hours a day and also maybe writes a blog.

The game last night lasted just under three hours. The Marlins lost 3-0. The Jose Reyes bobblehead looked kinda like Jose Reyes, but could also pass for any number of Spanish guys with facial har. Josh Johnson was just bad enough for it to be considered a bad outing, but also just good enough for you to say, "Well, I mean, he wasn't that bad." The nachos had no flavor. Even the stupid sea creature race almost ended in a tie.

When you really think about it, last night's game was the perfect tribute to Chipper Jones' career.

Farewell, nondescript superstar.

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