Next year, Chipper Jones should be the last of the 1990s Braves to join baseball’s Hall of Fame. Tempus fugit.
His last-ever game – the 2012 wild-card loss to St. Louis in which he went 1-for-5 and committed a devastating error – was a nightmare. Everything before that was pretty good.
Everything since then has been as unsettled as Ben Affleck’s Facebook status at the corner of the field Jones homesteaded for 18 years. The Braves after Jones have gone through third baseman like they were sunflower seeds.
Why, this season third base has not been a position so much as it has been a laboratory, the site of various mad experimentation. Just slap a tomahawk on a lab coat – that should be the new uniform of the Braves’ third baseman.
Granted, the results have been interesting. We learned that Freddie Freeman is far more nimble than anyone suspected. Most athletes of his stature have to go on “Dancing With the Stars” to prove that point. All he had to do was to find a smaller glove and stroll across the diamond. So, consider his dalliance with third base informative if not terribly useful.
And we learned that Brandon Phillips is capable of swallowing hard and moving several steps to his right without his world collapsing. Adding to the resume is never a bad idea for a ballplayer of a certain age and contract status. Consider his shift from second to third the rarest kind of workplace training – it’s actually beneficial.
Phillips is one of six Braves who this season has appeared at third for at least 10 games. The roll call of those who have popped up at that corner for 10 games or more since 2013 stretches 17 names long.
Chris Johnson. Juan Francisco. Ramiro Pena. Paul Janish. Juan Uribe. Hector Olivera.
This is the result of the Great Hector Olivera Gambit so spectacularly blowing up in a firework of failure. He was the answer, obtained at great cost. Then he was the problem. Thus, third became a wound requiring many Band-Aids.
Alberto Callaspo. Adonis Garcia. Pedro Ciriaco. Kelly Johnson. Chase d’Arnaud. Gordon Beckham. Johan Camargo.
OK, you lose one third baseman, briefly it’s hoped, after he hurts himself hopping onto the field before the first pitch. Camargo’s injury this season hints that in addition to the Olivera hangover there may be some kind of gypsy curse spinning the revolving door at third.
Rio Ruiz. Freddie Freeman. Jace Peterson. Brandon Phillips.
It has been rather amazing to witness, this transformation of what was the Braves’ most stable position under Jones’ long tenure to what is now their most volatile one. Seeing how difficult Jones has been to replace should only bolster his Hall of Fame argument.
It would be nice, though, if the Braves could find a degree of constancy there sometime between Jones’ enshrinement and the day he files for Medicare.