By Rich Coutinho
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Covering the Mets for the last 15 years, I have spent a chunk of time talking to Chipper Jones who has been front and center in many of the “not so great” moments in Met history.
He has seen it all: John Rocker. The bases loaded walk to Andruw Jones. Through it all, he has always been cordial and polite. He also understands New York better than most New York athletes do.
“These fans love their Mets and that is the way it should be,” said Jones. “Because I was the enemy, we had a lot of fun through the years and I had a bunch of success but the night I will never forget is the first game after 9/11. That night stays with me forever.”
That is a night we will all remember but Chipper relayed a story recently that I had never heard which long-time Met beat reporter Marty Noble reminded me of last night at Citi Field.
“They did that 21 gun salute and there were empty cartridges in left field after they did it, and I picked them up and kept them. I carried them and gave them to special people I knew would understand what they meant,” Jones remembered.
There is no denying Chipper Jones is a first ballot Hall-of-Famer and his credentials speak for themselves–he certainly does not need me to make the case for him. But he also always understood the moment and always knew what to say even when John Rocker was making enemies with every New Yorker.
Jones was the first Brave to stand up and acknowledge what his teammate said was out of line and indefensible — and that was because he knew Rocker was dead wrong.
I grew up at the very end of Mickey Mantle’s career and aside from Pete Rose, Chipper Jones was the most accomplished switch-hitter I’ve ever seen play the game. And he also did it all with one team which is uncommon these days and makes Met fans stop and think if they will be able to say that about David Wright 10 years from now. Chipper addressed that issue last night.
“I will tell you this”, said Jones. “There is a good reason I never left the Braves. They never let it get that point because I never entered a walk year with an expiring contract. In the off-season before my walk year, we always came to an agreement.”
Food for thought for the New York Mets to consider going into the off-season. Like I said, Chipper always says the right thing at the right time.
Mets fans — how will you remember the career of Chipper Jones? Sound off below.