Category: Baseball


I have a new home and I’m finally coming to terms with that. I live in Boston where the Red Sox are king. My Jeter jerseys and my Yankee caps are not welcome here. As each day goes by I am getting a bit more attached to the Red Sox however. Something about watching a team flounder in the city that you live in and watching its fans suffer makes you root for them a little. Don’t get me wrong the Yankees are still my second favorite team but the Sox are moving up a bit(it’s a long road up though). But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the post traumatic stress syndrome caused  by watching the team you love collapse and how gun-shy it can make you.

I arrived in Boston last year at 11:48 PM on September 11. I almost didn’t get to take my train because I couldn’t find my ID. I probably would have given up on the city had I not been treated to the kindness of a stranger who vouched for me. I take things like that as a sign. I exited South Station in the dead of night waved goodbye to the state policemen that treated me to dinner and gazed upon Dewey Square not realizing that in one month exactly I’d go there and find the journey of a life time awaiting me. That is another story all together. That first month was different from the rest of my time in Boston. I wondered around the city each and everyday searching out new adventures. I sat in parks, went to bars, and hung out with the only friend who lived in the city. One day I was walking by Fenway and was given a free ticket to watch a game by a random fan who had an extra. We glided into park to what John Lackey pitch and of course he flubbed away a game that he had well in hand and Red Sox fans went home grumbling about their multi-million dollar paper-weight pitcher. It meant nothing to me however. Because I was a Braves fan and my team had their division well in hand and would never have this happen…. or so I thought.

I hadn’t bothered to try to watch the Braves since I got in town. I figured they’d hold on and I’d catch there play-off games in bars. My September had been hectic as I set up my transition to Boston and when I finally arrived I just didn’t feel like going out of my way to watch mostly meaningless regular season games. Then one day on a whim I checked the standings and the Braves lead had wasted away. I read article after article and check box score after box score trying to determine how this all happened. I couldn’t believe what I saw.

On the final day of the season I was floating around town aimlessly as usual. I couldn’t be bothered to watched the games because I had a bad feeling about my Braves. I wondered onto Newbury Street and a guy with a super nice car and nothing to do was parked and was listening to the Red Sox game. I listened with them and talked all the while jesting with the group about how the Red Sox would lose and miss the play-offs. Of course we all know they did and it happened in the most spectacular of ways. I was there I listened. It was incredible the emotions in that circle of people. In that circle you could find joy, anger, resignation, sadness, surprise, shock, awe, and everything in between. Then I heard it my braves had lost that day too. It was over. That was probably the moment I first started to identify with Red Sox fans.

The off-season was strange for me. I was at the media center of a political protest but I found myself everyday seeing what the Braves would do about their collapse. The answer to that query was essentially nothing. I found this strangely relieving. I felt age had a lot to do with the Braves troubles and I hoped Fredi Gonzalez had learning from his mistakes. So in my days I’d do news interviews, plan marches, and fret eviction and at night I’d think of who we could trade Jurrjens for and pray the Braves got rid of Derek Lowe(which totally happened. In the spring I joined a radio group and started a sports show. I bought the MLB TV package and watched my Braves play pretty well. I cheered the emergence Beachy and mourned his injury. I watched Uggla struggled and wondered if we could get rid of his contract. Ben Sheets was one of my favorite players and his return has made me smile. All the while in the background I saw the city of Boston come to terms with the fact that somewhere along the way they went wrong and changes were needed. September for them was just the beginning of what could be a long journey to a new type of Red Sox.

Its September again and life is way different. I  no longer wonder around the city. I walk with purpose and determination. I have responsibilities now. I do a sports radio show on an internet radio station so sometimes it seems like all I do is watch baseball. The Red Sox never looked like winning their division and the hated Phillies who led my Braves the past year are a sham of a team. The Nationals fill the hole of division rival out of reach and the second wild card gives the Braves an added cushion. Currently they hold the first wild card position with a 3 game led over the same Cardinals that took their position the year before and for the first time in my life I’m afraid for the Braves.

I’ve seen the Braves blow leads before late in the season before but something about last year was different. We had a good team that looked ready to compete and they blew it in a historic sort of way. It put the fear of god in me. Every Braves lose now makes me wonder if it will happen again. This year we have a smaller lead. Uggla is a disaster and McCann who I felt was once the best offensive catcher in baseball is struggling mightily with seemingly little rhyme and reason. It doesn’t help that this year I get to watch it all happen live thanks to my MLB TV package. The wins and loses this year mean so much more to me. As sad as I was when Beachy went down earlier in the year I’m more sad now when I see that Tommy Hanson can’t get it together. Kris Medlen has been lights out this year going 6-0 in seven starts and yet even with the relief that a start like his nine inning, twelve strike out performance where he gave up only an unearned run gives me I still in the back of my mind sit and wait for the wheels to fall off. Its maddening. I am haunted by a collapse I didn’t even get to watch.

But that’s the Journey of a life long fan isn’t. Its loving your team to an unreasonable degree. I often criticize Red Sox fan for taking it for granted that success would come and yet I did the same thing in my youth because of the Braves fifteen straight division titles. I learned my lesson after a few years of near misses and yet the second we look truly competent last year I allowed myself to fall again into complacency. Now I am on the edge of my seat begging for another taste of the post-season fearing that it will be snatched from me again. I suppose that’s why the Red Sox are growing on me. They know what it is to be bad and they know what it is to have it all and falter. I couldn’t tell you whose situation is worst this year to be honest. Part of me envies Red Sox nation and the fact they don’t have to agonize over another collapse. Yet as I listen to fans and broadcasters a like break down the teams failures I know I’m lucky.

Only time will tell if the Braves make the play-offs. Until then I’ll just enjoy Chipper Jones heroics and every win we get along the way. If this team can get hot all at the same time I think we could win the World Series. Especially with Strasburg done for the season. There will be moments I will fear the unknown and there will be moments I loathe the results but all the while I’ll keep sight of the fact its only a game. Besides it could be worse…. I could be a Mets fan.

Alex Ingram is the host of Occupy The Game a sports radio show featured on obr.fm on Monday nights from 7PM EST to 8. He is a former United States Airman,baseball player, an avid OOTP baseball player and blogger.

For more of his candid thoughts and responses to his fans on sports follow his show twitter @occupy_thegame for a more personal varied th0ught stream  check his personal twitter @ingrammi6.

Disclaimer:I’ve never written a game review in my life so be kind. haha.

ALSO AT THE END OF THE REVIEW IS A LINK TO A PODCAST WITH BRAD COOK FROM OOTP DEVELOPMENTS.

When I first read the book Moneyball I was a bit skeptical. Don’t get me wrong, I love the underdog and numbers just as much as anyone but a book about it seemed kind of dull. Surprise, surprise however, I read the book and loved it. After years of playing MLB The Show I wasn’t quite sure if a game like Out Of The Park Baseball(OOTP) was going to do it for me, but four years later I’m still playing and still loving every minute of it. The game filled a gap for me that was missing from a game like MLB The Show. I love playing franchises and while The Show has a fine franchise it isn’t nearly deep enough for me. I want that numbers experience that requires me to know the ins and outs of collective bargaining, the risks of picking a guy based on tools and not numbers, and the fun of organizing contracts to avoid future budget constraints. OOTP gave me that and every year it gets better.

Let me start by saying I can’t begin to explain to you how deep OOTP 13 is or even how much you can customize and control everything about your league and experience in the game. Do you want a 30 man roster? You got it. Do you want to mimic 1930’s financials in 2012? Go for it. Maybe you want to put certain guys into the Hall of Fame who didn’t get in? You can do that too. I could  spend all day just talking about the things you can do in the game to truly make it yours.

To begin with there are three main modes in OOTP baseball as well as a quickstart option and online for those who want to share the love. The first of the is Major League Game which sets you up with a basic MLB set up complete with players, salary fixtures, and minor league teams. One of the first things you’ll notice when you start speaks to some of the freedom you’ll have in this game. You can choose to be commissioner of your league which means you can change rules, adjust player ratings, force trades, set computer rosters, manage computer teams, and generally have run of the league. You can set it where you can’t be fired, you can as of the last update play solely as the GM, and you can even choose to start your career as a minor league manager for that extra challenge.

Once you finally enter the game you’ll notice is the logos aren’t MLB logos. This has to do with licence issues and such but one quick stop to forum and you’ll learn this is easy to mod and all the hard work in that direction has been done for you.  The games features crisp and smart menu design which is nice considering you have a world of information at your disposal. Up top you have to main widgets to click for drop down menus and on the side you have buttons that take you to some of the most frequently used screens. There is a ton of information to be had in this game but it never feels daunting. I think that is in large part because of the menu set up. Of course within these menus you’ll find your standard options like like stats and leaders, trade, roster overview, and such but you’ll also fine a prospect ranking, salary obligations. and shop a player. These are some useful items not found in every game that helps OOTP 13 stand out a bit.

Trading: I actually love trading in this game. I’ll admit you can work over the AI and sometimes I wonder if the AI has any real plan moving forward past the season you’re in and the next but I still find some trades really rewarding. If you have draft picks trading on trading gets a bit easier in some ways but very interesting on the whole. With  it off(the default) its tougher but so fulfilling. Just today I was trying to get Strasburg from the Nats and failed but felt good about my failure cause it made sense and felt real. Shop A Player is big for me. You select a player from your team it shows you   instantly players a team would trade you in a one for one deal. You can only shop three players per day but this has often been the beginning of major deals for me. If nothing else it is a good barometer for a players perceived value around the league.

Free Agency: All the rules are here. Compensation rights, A and B free agents(if you turn off the new CBA rules), the new draft compensation rules, and arbitration. This year there is an off-season section that shows you estimated free agent demands, teams interested in a player, and a ranking of how a team’s off-season is going using WAR(wins above replacement.).  Free agents have demands on how much they think they should be offered and in what structure but you can adjust it to fit your needs before making an offer. Me myself I prefer a decreasing contract(makes it easier to trade later). Free agents will think about the deal and get back to you in email about they like your offer or not. The game is smart enough to have players leverage other teams offers against your for more money. I personally find it frustrating to not know what each team is offering at any given time but it is realistic and when i get out bid at the last second i smile because its still fun. One thing that does bug me is contract demands can get pretty crazy. As the off-season goes on they usually go down but its still kind of bothersome. It often leads to really big names being free agents into spring training.

Managing Games: I’m not much of a game manager myself but when I do I enjoy myself. You set the lineup just before the game. Taking into account the pitcher handedness, playtime, perhaps match up stats, and whatever is important to you. Once actually in the game you can play pitch to pitch or at bat to at bat. There are plenty of options for telling you batter or pitcher how to approach any given situation in the game. For instance i pitch around power or high contact guys, I do a lot of hit and runs, and I steal bases. You can make mound visits which the pitcher may or may not appreciate, you can double switch, sacrifice squeeze, or do any of those other nifty things that managers do. Almost everything you need to know to move forward in a game such as pitch count is easy to see or find. If at any point you want to skip ahead you can quickly do so.

Stats: There are stats everywhere and its great. The box scores for games have various options of the amount of time they kept and along with that you can control the level of detail career stats and historical stats will be kept in your league moving forward. All you classic like homeruns, ERA, and Walks are kept and ranked. Each Player also has saber metric stats like runs created, WHIP, and VORP recorded. Minor league stats, Major League stats, and college feeder league stats are all available. I suggest to get a full grasp player around with the menus and check it all out.

Rosters: The rosters for the Major and Minor leagues are easy to view and have many filtering options. Sometimes changing filters takes a bit more time than I’d like but I’m nit picking. Players actual and potential rating can be tracked and displayed in various ways and customized just to fit your style. Almost every menu shows these rating by default when looking at rosters. Moving players between minor and major leagues is pretty simple to do on the menus and there are screens that even advice you on the process. Of course you could turn that control to your minor league managers.

Scouting and Financials: The scouting in this game is still kind of a mystery to me. I don’t know how they do it. You scout can favor ability(stats today and the natural evolution of someone that age) or tools(favors potential over stats). Not all scouts are created equally. Keeping this in mind may help you find some diamonds in the rough. The financials are pretty brilliant. The Salary Obligations screen is very useful. Attendance ratings and such are readily available information. I feel the AI in the league is often smarter than real baseball which is good and bad. The is a lack of sentimental valuer on the AI’s part which cause moments like the Yankees to trade or release Jeter before he retires which would never happen in real life. They also give you good info on the trade screen about the money ramifications for each team although in my custom leagues this always gets out of whack after about ten years.

Everything else: There are newspapers which report on everything from trade and trade rumors to a one of you players opening up a BBQ restaurant in the city. The latter of which is apart of the new interactive storylines implemented in OOTP 13. Lots of times this will lead to choices. Like a hitter complaining about playing time which forces you to make a decision to comment on it or not which in turn affects player morale and such. I love the sound of this but admittedly never seen it in action, possibly because of the way i manage my teams and the success we have. A brand new real-time simulation modes let you watch games play-off  side by side which makes for excellent drama near the end of a season. Playoff races have never felt more real in the game than they do now. When you get to watch updates from games and se and feel teams play-off chances rising or slipping away.

Historical mode allows you to do all you can in the Major League except all throughout the history of baseball. Miss the Steroid Era? Then jump back in the nineties and play as the the Cardinals. Want to down Murderers Row jump back and play the Red Sox. By default teams move and change names at all the proper times in history, and player develop on a similar trajectory. All of this can be customized to high degree which aids you if you really want to change the tide of history.

Custom Leagues allow you to create whole leagues from scratch. You can you use preset templates and even start with preset leagues from counties like Japan and Taiwan. This year it is easier than ever to create a Euro or world league with the option to pick regions for your league not just countries. I love making a Euro League based in multiple countries.

All in all this is a great game. The best part about it though is the community. There is a highly active forum that you can learn so much from just by checking it out. The developers seem pretty responsive and way more active than you’ll see from EA or Take 2.

To close out: I recommend this really anyone who loves the financials of sports. I also recommend to people looking for something different. Its a great game that gets better and better every year. Sure there’s not fancy graphics or complete player control but for anyone who thinks they can run day to day operation of there team better then the guys in charge now this is ultimately rewarding as it gets. You can do almost anything your mind can dream of for the game.

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Record: 45-45

Standings: Last in the AL East at 10.5 games back.  2 games back of the second wild card position.

Top Pitcher So Far: Darren Oliver 38 games from the bullpen, 13 holds, and a 1.30 Earned Run Average.

An Explanation of Holds:  Okay so if you have no idea what a hold is and you can’t find a synopsis on net its ok. Most baseball fans haven’t caught up on holds either. A hold is when a pitcher comes in in the later part of the game(usually the seventh or eighth inning) and holds the lead. That’s all. They pitch well enough in an inning(that is not the last inning or it’d be a save) to keep their teams lead intact.

Top Batter So Far: Edwin Encarnacion .296 Batting Average, 25 Home Runs, 62 Run Batting In.

The Blue Jays have been good not great for years now. The coming of Jose Bautista a few years back really had me believing they would finally make the play-offs but to this point it hasn’t happened. This year much like almost every team in the AL East they have bounced up and down the standings and frankly I expect that trend to continue. I could see them winning a wild card spot and by the same token I could see them finishing last in the division. Part of this line of thinking comes simply from the fact that the AL East is a tough division and the part of this notion comes from me simply feeling like that who the Blue Jays are. They are a middling team in Batting Average and On-Base Percentage but a top ten team in runs. This comes simply from the fact that they hit a ton of Home Runs. Bautista’s average is down this year but Edwin Encarnacion is playing like a hero.  There pitching however is spotty. You might have noticed I put a reliever as their to pitcher so far and not even the closer. That’s not a good sign for your staff usually. They don’t really have any pitchers that stand out. Kyle Drabek, who they got from the now famous Roy Halladay trade, has not quite panned out yet as the prospect they hoped he was when he arrived in Toronto. I find that to be the biggest hurdle to over come.  A lack of pitching especially in this division is a big problem.

Best Case Scenario: The best case scenario is they make the second wild card spot but with their pitching I can’t see them making it very far. The Playoff are all about having a few front of the rotation guys that can blow the other team away. Their offense is strong but not nearly strong enough to over come the hurdle of really strong armed clubs in the American League play-offs.

Worst Case Scenario:  I am don’t see this team finishing with a losing record so I think playing .500(read: 5000) ball is the bottom line for this team. Its definitely a step back in there eyes and not where they want to be at all but it’s no shame in this division.

Record: 46-44

Standings: 9.5 games back. Tied for 3rd in the AL East with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Conversations That Happen Every Time I Talk About the Sox:
Me: Ehh the Sox are doing pretty bad this year.
Sox Fan: Yeah but they’re getting better that’s got to count for something.
ME: Ehh.. I guess. (Pause) Hey remember when you thought John Lackey was going to be good.
Sox Fan: (sigh and nod)

Top Pitcher So Far: Felix Doubront( Much like Zobirst I’m not going to dignify his performance with stats)

Top Batter So Far: David Ortiz .316 batting average, 23 Home Runs, 58 RBI’s, .414 On-base Percentage, and 101 hits(he leads the team in all these categories)

The Red Sox are the second most confusing tale of the first half…. except we’ve seen it all before. The Red Sox started off last  this season much like I started off high school, floundering and blaming all the wrong things for their problems. But they sort of picked things up. They’re tied for 3rd in the AL East and that counts for something. They are only a game back in the wild card too. at this rate by September they should lead the wild card by about ten games and there’s no way they can screw that up right. If you are feeling like you’ve heard this story before well you have. The Red Sox are thus far following an eerily similar scrip to last season, but fear not I for see a different end. The Red Sox can flat out hit the ball. They are struggling on the pitching side of things but are 2nd in Runs, 5th in Batting Average, 6th in On-base Percentage, and 4th in Slugging Percentage. I honestly don’t expect their pitching to get much better but what it can do is be more consistent. It helps that there’s no John Lackey. While I still think pitching is the key to true sucess you just can’t ignore this line-up. Carl Crawford is coming off the disabled list with should give them an improved defense and an infusion of speed. This will be good going forward.  With a bit more consistency in the pitching department this line-up could carry them a long way.

Thoughts about the Team: If this team makes the Play-offs Big Papi Should win the MVP. No player has been more valuable to his club this year than him. I know we have a tendency to give this award to the player with the flashiest number but how good has this guy been. He deserves the award and I’m a Yankee fan. If we are really talking about who is indispensably valuable to a team Papi has to be the guy. He provides numbers and leadership to a team that many thought was missing that last year.

Best Case Scenario: They can make the Play-offs as a wild card and their offense could send them to the AL Championship Series but I think there they get out pitched. If David Ortiz wins an MVP along the way more power to them.

Worst Case Scenario: They get a big lead in the wild card and fall apart like last season. If this were the Atlanta Braves who suffered a similar finish last season. I’d rather we just not even be in the race than that happen again.

Record: 46-44

Standings: 9.5 games back. Tied for 3rd in the AL East with the Boston Red Sox

Something That Has Nothing to Do With Anything: I really hate that they won’t let Joe Maddon wear the Hoodie anymore. It really had a Belichick feel to it.

Top Pitcher So Far: David Price 12-4, 2.80 Earned Run Average, and 13 quality starts in 18 tries.

Top Hitter So Far: Can I Pass…Fine Ben Zobrist (I’m not mentioning his stats look for yourself}

So I’m going to say something and everyone is going to think I’m crazy. I actually like Tampa Bay’s chances going forward more than the Red Sox or the Orioles. No the Rays have had a crappy season and rank 28th in batting average, 21th in On-Base Percentage, and 26th in Slugging Percentage. The interesting thing is despite this they are 16th in Runs. Which says they are efficient with the chances they get. Now almost everyone on the team is having a career low year and it is unlikely that this trend will continue for everyone. This means if they use there chances at similar efficiency their run productions is sure to go up. Add to that they have in my opinion a much better rotation than Baltimore and Boston they could be formidable to say the least in a grab for the wildcard spot. David Price is leading a rotation that boasts The ninth best Earned Run Average in the majors, the 10th best Batting Average Against, and 12th best WHIP(walks + hits/innings pitched). To some of you that might sound good but not great but remember they play in a star studded AL East which can put up numbers that scare pitchers.

Silver Lining: Evan Longoria has only played 23 games this year so far. He is a big part of getting that offense back on track. Even though there is no set return date look for the team to see him return to the line-up soon and if history is any indication, he’ll return in a big way.

Best Case Scenario: There is a strong possibility in my mind that Tampa Bay could close strong. If Evan Longoria Comes back and plays well I think that they can steal the second wildcard spot which is sure to come out of the loaded AL East. More importantly I think David Price Might when the Cy Young Award.

Worst Case Scenario: Worst Case scenario in this case has nothing to do with standings. I think if injuries keep nagging Longoria and he doesn’t play to his usual standards this could be a huge red flag on this guy moviing forward on a guy they have built there organization around. Infact I’d let almost every guy on this team walk away before Longoria. Then top on that they probably won’t make the Play-offs, and David Price Fails to win the Cy Young and all is lost.

Record: 46-41

Standings: 2nd in the AL East. Back by 8 games. 2nd wild card sport up by half a game.

My favorite team nickname: The Fighting Showalters after their manager Buck Showalter.

Top Pitcher First Half: Jim Johnson 26 saves in 27 tries and a 1.41 ERA.

Top Batter First Half: Adam Jones .290 BA, 20 HR, 45 rbi’s

The Orioles are in a weird spot. They are second in their division and holding a wild card spot right now but by all regards no one would say they’re sitting pretty. The Yankees lead the division by 8 games at the moment and don’t look like they have any intentions of giving that up anytime soon. The Tampa Bay Rays are just a bit behind in the wild card, have a much better line-up, and arguably better pitching than the O’s. That being said the Orioles have made it this far so don’t sleep on them. The key to the second half for them will be getting better on offense. They picked up Jim Thome from the Phillies going into the second half and he should provide some power. Adam jones also needs to stay hot if they are going to continue this run. I honestly don’t think its the Orioles year this year. Time will tell if I am proved wrong.

Thing to Improve: They rank pretty near the bottom of the league in batting average(26th) and runs(19th). They might consider looking to the open market for help. I might call the Houston for help and see what it would take to get Jed Lowrie for the stretch. Not a great hitter but better than J.J. Hardy right now and you wouldn’t lose anything on defense. What I really like about this deal is Gonzalez is not the type of player you’d have to sell the farm to acquire. So even if things don’t work out it was worth a shot.

Best Case Scenario: I don’t see the Orioles winning the division. The Yankees are too far ahead and the Orioles to weak a team offensively to make a real push upwards in the division. They could very well snatch a wild card though.  If they can add a bat to go with Thome and Jones I think they can hold on and make the playoffs for the first season since 1997.

Worst Case Scenario: The O’s fall apart in the second half like most people predict. Which wouldn’t be all bad. They by all means even in the bleakest of predictions are predicted to finish with the best record they have had in years and have shown themselves to have good pieces to move forward with.

Record:54-33

Standings: 1st in the AL East 8 games up in the division

Top Pitcher first half: C.C. Sabathia 9-3, 2.45 ERA, and 105 strikeouts.

Top Batter first Half: Robison Cano .315 BA, 21 HR, and 54 RBIs

Coming into the second half the Yankees are sitting in the catbird seat. They are 8 games ahead of the second place Baltimore Orioles and by all measures have a much better team than the Orioles so there is not much fear that the Orioles will catch up. Add to that no one in the AL East came in to the break playing inspiring baseball they have to feel good about where they are. The real key for the Yankees is not getting complacent and entering the post-season rolling.

Things to work on: Russell Martin is by far the weak link in their line-up. Unfortunately he plays catcher and there is very little chance they can pick up a decent catcher in the trading market. That means if they are going to get better there Martin is going to have to step it up a lot. He’s batting a paltry .181 which is 80 points lower than his career marks. Word on the street is Manager Joe Girardi has already talked to the catcher and made him aware they are going to try for a fresh start ing the second half.

Some Telling Stats: The Yankees in my opinion could be scoring more runs. They are 6th in the Major League in runs(418) after having racking up the 3rd best on base percentage( .336} and the best slugging percentage(.461) Unfortunately for them, they rank eighth in batting average meaning with a little more contact from there hitters they might be driving in even more runs. They already have the second highest run differential in the American League.

Best Case Scenario: I see no circumstance Where the Yankees don’t make the play-offs. The best case scenario for them is going into the play-offs with home field advantage and staying healthy in the second half.

Worst Case Scenario: Like I said I see no way the Yanks don’t make the play-offs so the really the worst case scenario in my head is they get complacent and the Blue Jays slip past them by a game or so and they come into the play-offs weak.

Yesterday it was announced that Chipper Jones(3B, Atlanta Braves) will be replacing Matt Kemp(OF, L.A. Dodgers) on the National League All Star roster for Major League Baseball. Now it would be easy for me to write a post all about how this is the big bit of politicking and how it’s just a creative way to ensure Bryce Harper(OF, Washington Nationals) makes it into the All Star game. Lord knows that Major League Baseball wants him involved anyway possible and I’m fairly sure he’ll win MLB’s final vote with Jones gone but that’s not the story I want to tell here. The story I want to tell has a bit more heart.

A lot has changed since Chipper Jones broke into the league back in 1993. The Braves no longer are unfathomably a western division team, Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz are all retired, Bobby Cox has bid farewell to baseball, there is no longer a team in Montreal and once again a team in the nation’s capitol, social media has made the game much more accessible and, Fulton County Stadium no longer exists. Even Chipper himself has gone through a myriad of changes. He no longer plays shortstop, he’s not nearly as nimble as he used to be, and he takes more days off than he ever has before and yet… he’s still here.

He is now in his 20th season as a major league ball player and before spring training he announced it would be his last. In an old school way that befits him, it has allowed him to have a farewell tour of sorts and given the whole league(fans, players, and managers alike) a chance to celebrate the career of an amazing individual. In my mind he’s a sure-fire hall of famer and I’ll get into that argument and his numbers in another post but all that aside he’s been a joy to watch.

One of the things I’ve always liked about Chipper is how much fun he has. Whether you’re watching him in the batting cage or you’re watching make plays on the field he looks like he’s having so much fun. So many times over the years. I’ve seen the camera cut to him smiling and laughing with teams, cheering them on, and ribbing opponents after a hit. This man tormented Mets’ fans so much that they taunted him by his birth name(Larry) at the plate. In response he decimated their team every chance he got, and then named his kid Shea(I was so sad to see that stadium torn down) after their stadium which is sure to serve as a life long reminder that it was always him who got the last laugh. It was hard to watch him later in his career as injuries started to over take him and he sat out many games as he watched his team lose dominance. Probably wondering all the while if they might be doing better had he been healthy. But this year all that seems to not matter when you look at him.

He’s by all indications enjoying his last year. He’s resting a couple of times a week now to prevent injury and even though he has had some injuries he’s doing well when he plays. He has a .313 batting average and is coming up with clutch plays, some timely rbi’s. and is providing a ton of leadership to a young Braves team that needs it if the team is to reach their potential. Just last night he had 5 hits and 4 rbi’s proving he’s still got it in him. The Braves aren’t quite where he’d like them to be I’m sure but coming into the break they are right in the thick of things. With a few adjustments they could very well take a wild card spot and maybe even win the division for the first time in years.

As he’s gone from stadium to stadium fans and teams have done a lot to show them how much they appreciate his career and to Chipper’s credit he’s accepted their praise and occasional gifts humbly. He’s seemed very content and happy with his role this year and his pending retirement. He’s smiling and joking all the way through the season. He’s playing the role of elder statesmen perfectly. Telling stories about former Braves pitcher Greg Maddux cussing him out, helping the hitting coaches adjust the hitters swings as necessary, giving scouting reports to hitters coming to the plate, and proving he’s got enough left in the tank to justify this last year of play.

Two things about Chipper hasn’t changed in his twenty years. First he still plays for the Braves. As a fan it is so nice to see this. In an age where personalities, circumstance, and promises of riches in free agency rarely see a player in any sport finish his career playing for only one team it is refreshing to see a player like Chipper make a home in Atlanta and stay. Chipper has had to watch many things conspire to see lots of players who started with the Braves go many places. This year and last he’s played without the only manager he had ever known in the majors with retirement of Bobby Cox. Yet he’s still here and anyone should be able to appreciate that. The second thing is something a bit simpler. I’m just glad he’s still smiling and loving the game. He’s still in so many ways the kid drafted first overall in 1990, the shortstop that got hurt after his call-up, the World Series winner from the 95 team, the MVP from the 1999 season, and the batting champ from the 2008 season. In other words, he’s still Chipper after all these years.