Chipper Jones made a bold move. The Atlanta Braves boycotted. Chipper was right. The Braves went home.
What could have turned into a great series and a feel-good type of ending to a great season, instead, has ended in dramatic fashion. Not only is the National League Division Series loss still stinging in a lot of Braves fans hearts, but details about small issues are starting to emerge and really show how young the Braves really are. Two big issues are starting to swarm around the web and make headlines. Instead of “Braves advance to the NLCS,” we’re seeing “Braves boycotted Chipper Jones.” These things always seem to haunt Atlanta.
I’m not going to bring up the past with John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, but there’s history there, and Chipper was around to witness it. The Braves are a first-class, classy organization most of the time. They are. It’s one of the reasons why I love them. But, there are some issues that should never happen. Let’s talk about the Chipper Jones incident.
So, Chipper went on the team’s flagship radio station and was chatting about the Braves series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Chipper was asked to provide his prediction. He said the Dodgers in four. Oh My! Relax Atlanta! He doesn’t play for the Braves anymore. He doesn’t coach them. He doesn’t work for them. He doesn’t have a standard speech guide to follow. He’s allowed to form opinions. He made a simple prediction on what he thought would happen, and guess what? He was right. A lot of people said the same thing. Announcers, writers, big-time wigs, all were saying the Dodgers in four. I didn’t see the Braves boycotting the writers after the games when approached for quotes, did you?
The fact is, the Braves were hurt because someone so close would even think they could lose. Well you know what, everyone can lose. The Miami Marlins could win a five-game series, as well. It’s a prediction people. Chipper didn’t say “I hope the Dodgers win in four.” That would be a valid reason to be pissed off. He just predicted the Dodgers in four, as almost everyone else did.
Facts are facts. The Braves may have won more games in the regular season, but they were severe underdogs in a five-game series with the Dodgers. The Dodgers have a much higher payroll with much bigger names and producers. A lot of their guys have experience. They play in the big lights and under media pressure all year. These games were nothing new to them. On paper and matchup per matchup, the Dodgers outweighed the Braves. It’s true. The Dodgers had a lot of momentum and a lot to prove in the playoffs, but the Braves coasted in. If this were the Braves hitting well and pitching well, winning 15 consecutive games, the predictions could have gone the other way.
Think about it. The Braves have Kris Medlen going game one. That’s fine, but he’s not a game-one type of guy. So, you chalk that up. Mike Minor has pitched in a few big games before, pitching for the United States National Team and pitching well. He’s had monster seasons in high school and in college. He’s been on the big stage before and his mindset is terrific. I wasn’t worried about him, but he’s a rookie pitching against Zack Greinke. Uphill battle that he won.
Then it comes to Julio Teheran. Hey, I like the guy. I think he’s going to have a good career. He’s just incredibly young and has no real big-game experience. He’s from Columbia and struggled last year in the majors. But, he’s learning. It was a long shot to expect him to shut down the Dodgers, a good hitting team. This is where not having Tim Hudson hurts. He has big-game pitching experience and so did Freddy Garcia, which showed in game four. Garcia should have pitched game three. But, here we are with should have and would have thoughts, they don’t get us anywhere.
My point is … Chipper was thinking what every realistic baseball fan was thinking. It’s an uphill battle and from looking at the pitching alone, the Braves were underdogs. Like I said, he didn’t wish the Braves to lose, he just said what everyone else was thinking. Could he have worded it better? Sure. But I don’t think he expected this reaction.
But, I digress.
Back on subject. So, Chipper said what he said on the radio and word filtered through the clubhouse. The Braves asked for volunteers to catch his first pitch and no one rose to the occasion. So, Chipper threw to the mascot. He was pissed and rightfully so. He tweeted these out later:
Wanna thank the Braves organization for having me throw out the first pitch to the mascot tonite. Quite sure that’s never been done before!
— Chipper Jones (@RealCJ10) October 4, 2013
Nor will it EVER happen again!
— Chipper Jones (@RealCJ10) October 4, 2013
It was childish of the Braves to boycott it. If it was a joke, that’s fine and dandy, but the Atlanta Journal Constitution and other media outlets are reporting it wasn’t a joke. The players were honestly so upset they boycotted it. Set your feelings aside and catch his damn ball! It makes me more upset at the Braves management and leadership, namely manager Fredi Gonzalez, for not stepping up and at least catching it himself. It’s called class. If the other person or organization doesn’t show it, you still show it anyway. Be the bigger man, right? Instead, the Braves boycott it (like they need negative press anyway) and it’s all over the news. It was obvious those predictions and being an underdog were in the heads of the players, it showed, and they let Chipper’s comments get to them. If it didn’t bother you, then why cause a scene?
It should have been handled differently, is all I’m saying. Chipper is Chipper, but he is a legend there and has done a lot for that organization. He deserved respect, even if he did upset them with a prediction on the series that everyone saw coming. I would have loved to see the Braves pull it off and I really thought they could and would, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Craig Kimbrel caught by lip reading, upset about game
Kimbrel and thousands of fans will blame the loss on Fredi. Everything from not putting Dan Uggla on the roster to Kimbrel not getting the ball in the eighth inning of a must-win game. Aren’t they all must-wins at that point?
Deadspin has a video up of TBS showing Kimbrel and bullpen coach Eddie Perez talking in the ninth inning, and Kimbrel was fuming. I don’t blame him, he’s a competitor and wants the ball at all times. But, Kimbrel was held back after he was warmed up and ready to go because Gonzalez wanted David Carpenter to get two outs and kept saying Kimbrel can’t go six outs. Um, why can’t he? I understand they want him available for the next game, but there’s not going to be a next game if you can’t win Game four. Don Mattingly was quoted as saying:
“I feel a little bad for Fredi; I could have gone either way in the same spot. Then again, I make all my pitching decisions under the assumption that I’m about to be fired.”
He’s right. When it comes to the postseason, it’s pull out all stops. Here’s what Kimbrel said:
“No, I’m mad because I told him, if we’re winning after seven, I want to throw the last fucking two innings.”
I don’t disagree with him. If you’re going to lose, wouldn’t you at least want to lose with your best? I’d rather pull out all stops and lose with my best than have to face the questions and wonder “what if” later. Carpenter already was shaky once in the series. Why throw him in another must-win situation that has your job on the line?
Perhaps the problem is Fredi thinks his job is too secure and maybe that always has been the problem in Atlanta with postseasons. Perhaps, next time, Fredi needs to be motivated a little differently so that next year, there isn’t a “what if.”