Tag Archive: Occupy the Game


Tiger Woods Wins 75

This weekend something really awesome happened. Tiger Woods won his 75th golf tournament. There was a time when a Tiger tournament win would have been par for the course(excuse the pun) and the number 75 would have been just another chip shot on the course to greatness. But that feels like a life time ago. It’s been three years since we’ve seen that dominant Tiger we all knew back then. Now its a rarer thing to see him win. In fact its a rare thing to seem him even competitive. Just his last tournament he missed the cut. Rory McIlroy is now golf’s little darling. Most importantly golfers aren’t afraid anymore. And I think that’s a good thing.

My grandmother didn’t like Tiger Woods. She didn’t like anyone who won all the time.(On her list of unlikables was Duke men’s basketball team, The Lady Vols, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong and Michael Jordan) I on the other hand was a huge Tiger fan and I still am. Setting aside the right and wrong of his actions and any conversations about sex addiction I’ve been a bit saddened by his fall from golfing grace. Tiger was a symbol of hard work paying off. He was the ultimate domination of a sport. I fed off hard work guys who crushed the competition. I wanted so much to be like them. Then again back then I was a fan of  Superman too. As I grew older however the idea of a perfect specimen with no flaws grew kind of boring. So I began to dislike superman and he really became the butt of a lot of my jokes. I grew to love Greek tragedies, flawed heroes, and stories of redemption. So when all the dust settled from Woods personal life I latched on to the story of a man’s fall from grace and his attempt to rise again.

I remember a point last year watching a tournament and thinking to myself that I hadn’t seen Woods that happy in a long time. He really does seem a bit happier to me. He’s not dominant but he at times is competitive. He has a new young rival with whom the old him is often compared. He’s human again. In a lot of ways its been great for golf. Everyone is waiting to see when the “old Tiger” will come back. Every shot, every lead, and every win makes for more drama as does missed fair ways, blown leads, and missed cuts. Throughout it all though Woods seems… okay. He has less tirades and less explosions than i remember. He’s quick with a joke about his play and always has an eye on the future. He may not be a better golfer but in a lot of ways he seems to be a better man. Closer to the man we dreamed he was.

I like Tiger’s win. I hope its the sign of greater things in the future. I still think he’s one of the best in the world. Woods himself was quick to squash any conversation about “The Old Tiger” explaining that he’s just a different guy with a different game. I totally agree we’ll never see the old tiger again. But all things considered I’m ok with that. For now I just love that Tiger one his 75th and did it with a smile on his face.

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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.

I have made a decision I will change the trade settings after the first season. It never really occurred to me to do such a thing. I don’t know how that is but somehow in my head the thought never even crossed my mind. I suppose maybe it was the eagerness to get started or perhaps I just haven’t used the system as much as I should. Either way the Mike Trout trade has me a bit perturbed. That being said in some ways I really feel the Angels made me work for this deal. It was yet another trade where I gave up a lot in number of players and even a bit more in talent than I did in the Harper trade which is not surprising seeing as Trout is a more ready player.

Royals send:
Bruce Chen, SP, 34,  1.5*/1.5*
Michael Antonio,  SS, 20, .5*/1.5*
Elier Hernandez, CF, 17, .5*/1.5*
Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, 19, 1*/4*
Alejandro Viloria, SP, 16, .5*/4*

Angels send:
Mike Trout, CF 2.5*/5*

I’m so happy to have rid myself of Bruce Chen’s contract. I love Bruce Chen. He was with the Braves way back when and even though he wasn’t great I still liked him. Seeing as Kansas City is my second favorite club and I love getting the chance to watch him even if he isn’t doing well. That being said his $4 mil+ contract wasn’t doing it for me. I felt I could improve our pitching and get younger. My next trades worked on that but that is the next post.  I wanted to drop some cash and this is the beginning of that.

Now if my scout is to be believed I gave up two 4* potential prospects in this deal. If I had to pick one of these players to haunt me a bit in the future it’d be Cheslor Cuthbert.

Cheslor iis a nice 4* potential guy at 3B. He’s 19 and I always feel like teenage prospects could go either way. I like but not love his projected batting rating and he is a solid fielder. In my last couple of dynasties I saw really good third base prospects in the draft so I might be able to deal with the loss here. The thing that mad it easiest to make this deal though was the presence of Mike Moustakas. I feel he has a lot of room to improve. Even though he is only a 3* potential. I will be hunting third base prospects however.

Viloria is interesting. He has a 4* rating and ok stuff at the moment with great projections, and his pitches are already good and will continue to improve. His control and movement though will never be more than serviceable. I hate pitches like that. at to that his 44% ground ball rating and I’m skeptical of his development. He is another teenage prospect but I don’t see him being one I regret letting go. I always stock pile pitching and this franchise is no different.

Anyone else feel like Trout’s offensive numbers are a bit conservative even before this amazing season? That complaint aside I still like trout. He’s really fast and I steal a lot. Also he’s ready to play today. I kind of want to see him back in the minor leagues to work on hitting but my fans need something to root for. Trout is a good fielder and I suspect that his eye and contact projects will have him batting pretty solidly during his career. With Bryce Harper already on the club. I have a solid outfield base to build my future around if I so choose. Hopefully we can win some and have management open up its pockets to allow me to lock these guys up.

This trade was all was a definite win in my opinion.  And if the Angels are lucky it will be a win-win. OOTP doesn’t see names but it does feel weird to get Harper and Trout. That being said I am tasked with the job building a better ball club. Next piece will cover how I completely reworked pitching with three trades.

So I have decided to do an OOTP 13 play through with the Kansas City Royals. I suppose I should explain why I picked the Royals. I’ll start by pointing out there were only four teams really in the running for this particular play through. Those teams were the Atlanta Braves, Boston Redsox, Kansas City Royals, and the New York Yankees. I grew up a huge fan of the Braves, Yankees, and Royals. I currently live in Boston and get a little fonder of the Redsox with each day that goes by. The reason I picked the Royals over the others is simple. I want to build back up their history. During my lifetime I have seen plenty of success for the other three teams. No one ever questions it when I say I love those teams. The royals how ever come with a myriad of questions and skepticism. So even if it’s for my own benefit I every year play as the Royals to start a tradition of my own.

So It’s the first season. I suppose I should set some goals for what I want. Here are my top 5 goals in not particular order:

1. Get more prospects. I don’t feel like the roster is quite there yet. I want us to be a machine when it does get there. Pumping out young talent after young talent. I don’t necessarily love the way OOTP has some of our young prospects rated so I may trade them away in pursuit of others. For example I love Bubba starling and I think in real life he’s going to be amazing. He never works out in OOTP therefore I will probably move him.

2. Acquire young major league ready talent. This one is going to be tricky. I for see myself having to give up some talent I like to get talent I want. One player I am specifically targeting is Jason Heyward. Part of this decision is personal and part of it is he plays and develops really well. Mike Trout and/or Bryce Harper are also on my shopping list. this may mean Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and some good prospect see their way out of our organization.

3. Shed some payroll. The Royals have a tiny budget starting out. I already plan to lift the player development budget so it will get a bit tighter in the first season. There are players I feel such as Jeff Francour that are signed to poor contracts. To be perfectly honest with the state of the team I’m not thrilling with Butler’s contract either.  I feel this maybe the easiest goal to achieve.

4. Add a veteran front-line pitcher. I think I already no where I might go with this one. I think I will pursue Zach Grienke.  My only problem with this is I don’t want to give up a lot to get him. I also want to be able to resign which ever pitcher I go with. I will look for other options but if at all possible I want the pitcher to be under 30 and with at the very least a five-star potential. I won’t make a desperation move though. I’m not giving up my future to make this move.

5. Play .500 ball. This may not be realistic with all the changes I plan to make but we’ll see. I hope I find a way to work it out. I will be personally managing each game. I’m pretty bad at that but I want to improve as my team improves. It could be a really tough year but I plan on sticking it out.

Anyway those are my goals going into the season. At the end of each month in the season we’ll see how I’m doing at each.

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.