The Braves epically collapsed last September, had essentially no money to spend in the offseason to acquire an impact bat for their lineup, and now comes news that 40-year-old All-Star third baseman Chipper Jones may not physically be able to play the entire 2012 season. The news comes with the team currently 1-10 in Spring Training and the offense looking weaker by the day.
"I've said it a million times, it's hell getting old," said Jones, who'll be 40 next month and sounds as if he's leaning increasingly toward retirement after this season.
His balky right knee is hurting even more than he thought it would. He went 0-for-3 on Monday and is 0-for-8 with three walks in four games this spring, having missed five games with leg soreness after playing the Grapefruit League opener.
"Tomorrow might be my last day," he said "I don't know. I don't really focus on it that much. The body is starting to tell me every morning when I wake up that it's getting close. I'm signed through the end of this year. If I play in a certain amount of games, I got an option for next year. I don't know what next year entails."
And for just how much longer Jones can stand to tolerate the pain on a daily basis:
"I don't know if I can make it through this year."
It made a lot of sense for Chipper to return this season. Not only does he still love the game, but the $14 million dollars that awaited him and his family sure enticed the veteran to make a return once again. For all that he has done for the organization over the years, Jones has earned himself the right to miss a few games here and there whenever an ache or pain appears.
This being said, the news of Chipper's uncertain future could not have come at a worse time.
The club has no immediate options for third base in the Minor Leagues and has very little money to spend to find a replacement. Should a guy like Martin Prado shift to third base on a full-time basis, there are no legitimate options to man left field. If you go with an in-house guy like Jack Wilson, an average lineup will get even worse throughout the season. And if Jones had been thinking he may not be able to give it a go this year, the extra cash would have been awfully nice to have months ago while Frank Wren was trying to improve his team.
We can only hope that old No. 10 can battle through one more season and then be able to enjoy retirement starting next winter. If his body cannot handle it any longer it would be understandable for Chipper to call it quits, but I don't think that's what anyone wants at this point, Jones included.
"The big reason for me coming back was my teammates wanted me to come back," he said. "I still feel like I can be a productive major leaguer. We'll give it this year and see how it feels."