By Steve Keane at 6 September, 2012, 8:08 am
Chipper Jones makes his last appearance as a major league baseball player in NYC this weekend. The Mets, like other teams around the league, will honor Jones as he sails off into retirement. Most of you will boo and kill the organization for honoring a player who was a thorn in the Mets side for the last 19 years. Your anger towards Jones is ill advised, your anger should be towards the Skill Sets for not heading the lesson that Jones was teaching the Mets whenever they were the Braves opponent, that lesson was “you need me to be a Met”.
Think about it, Jones owned the Mets, not just with his lifetime .314/.410/.553 splits against them or the 49 home runs he hit against them either, what Jones tried to show the Mets was, you need to act and think like a winner as to become one. When Jones would come to NY he played the stage better than any Tony award winning actor. We chanted “LAAAAAARRRRRYYYYYY, LAAAAAAARRRRRYYYYYYY” and he ate it up. He loved the fact that Mets fans had a passion, fire, and desire that matched his. For a guy born in the South, he had a New York mentality and I think a want to play here as well.
Why didn’t the Mets ever make a strong move on Jones when he was a free agent? You would have thought an owner whose team was owned by a superstar player who had that balls to the wall, win at all cost mentality, would say “hell if I can’t beat him then I want to join him”.
As much as Jones loved the Braves, Atlanta and playing in the South, I have to think is the Mets made an offer above and beyond like they did to land Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran, Jones would have had a difficult time turning them down. We know his love for the city and Shea Stadium was so strong he named one of his sons Shea. Back in 2000, Jones signed a 6 yr/$90mil deal with Atlanta but when that deal was up, he re-signed for 3yrs at $40 mil, this was in the days of the Mets swimming in Madoff bucks so the thought that Freddy Skill Sets couldn’t have raised the stakes for Jones is ridiculous. I don’t remember if there was talk of the Mets making a pitch for Jones back in 2000 or even in 2006, I doubt there was but in hind sight there should have been. It could be that the Skill Sets felt that going after Jones and even signing Jones would have led to fans revolting that a despised opponent would join their beloved Mets. Well, I guess we see what happens when you give in to the lunatic fringe of your fan base.
This is why, as much as I loathe the Highlanders and old Boss George, he knew players like Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden and David Cone were the kind of players he needed to win championships. You think he cared that they were former Mets? Hell, he signed Wade Boggs to play 3rd base who played for a team and organization he hated with a passion.
Think about Chipper as a Met. Imagine him with a kid like Jordany Vladespin ? Remember he called out Jason Heywood who came up as one of the hottest prospects in baseball for not playing due to fatigue. Jones went right at Heywood and made the Braves right fielder grow up fast. I can’t say the Mets would have won a World Series championship with Jones on the team but I could guarantee he would have had no problem stepping up and holding his teammates accountable for their play. I’m also sure he would have gone down as one of the greatest Mets players of all time.
So when Chipper Jones comes up to bat for the first time on Friday night, what Mets fans should do is turn towards the owner’s box at Citi Field and give the Skill Sets a rousing standing boo not just for never pursuing Jones when he was a free agent but for not having the smarts to understand the lesson Chipper was teaching.