Fredi Gonzalez said he doesn’t want to think of the day when he isn’t able to write Chipper Jones’ name on his daily lineup sheet.
If the Braves make it to the postseason this October — as they should — at least Gonzalez will have Jones around for a little longer.
Jones, 40, has said this will be his final season. On Wednesday, in his last game in Miami, the Marlins celebrated Jones’ 19-year career with a pregame ceremony in which he was presented by Jose Reyes a fly-fishing kit, which included a rod and reel as well as assorted flies and a special hat that lights up for night fishing.
Jones has been similarly feted by every team the Braves have faced this season, with many offering up cool going away gifts.
For instance, the Red Sox gave him a “1” and a “0” from the manually operated scoreboard at Fenway to honor his number; the Padres gave him a surfboard and the Astros a 10-gallon hat. The Brewers hooked Jones up with a gas grill and a year’s supply of bratwurst.
Jones doesn’t look ready for the rocking chair, as he made a highlight-reel play at third on Tuesday and came into Wednesday’s game hitting .297.
“I think he’s just had enough. He’s told me he’s missed enough time with the kids,” said Gonzalez, now in his second season on the Braves bench after being fired by the Marlins in 2010. “Believe me, you guys see his numbers, but there are some days you can just tell his knees are bothering him, his body is bothering him. Sometimes it’s difficult for him. But he’s having a hell of a going-away year. … It’s time. He knows it’s time.”
Jones and the Marlins have been linked since 1993, as both came into the league that year. Jones, who only played in eight games that first year, didn’t make his debut against the Marlins until 1995. Jones went 2 for 3 with a run scored in Atlanta’s 7-1 win over the Marlins at Joe Robbie Stadium on May 2, 1995.
Going into Wednesday, he had 257 hits in 860 at-bats (.299) with 40 homers and 165 RBI against the Marlins over his career — easily the most by any opponent against the Florida/Miami franchise.
The 244 games against the Marlins is the second-most he’s played against one team (Montreal/Washington) and he has driven in more runs against the Marlins than any other team.
Jones’ most memorable series against the Marlins came when Florida beat Atlanta in the 1997 National League Championship Series.
In Florida’s pivotal 2-1 win in Game 5, Jones struck out twice as Livan Hernandez racked up 15 strikeouts (with the aid of home plate umpire Eric Gregg’s strike zone). The Marlins won that series in six and went on to win the franchise’s first World Series title.
“I think Chipper was very underrated during his career,” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I don’t know why he wants to quit playing. I asked him that. For me, get out of here. He plays very well against the Marlins. The Braves are going to miss him. Will baseball? No. He beats up on everyone.”
‘Part of the Game’
Closer Steve Cishek has struggled at times this month, and Tuesday was rough as he was charged with all three runs Atlanta scored in the ninth as the Braves rallied from a 3-0 deficit. Cishek was pulled with two on and one out after Dan Uggla’s single made it a 3-1 game.
Miami eventually won 4-3 in the 10th, after Heath Bell pitched a 1-2-3 inning and Reyes dropped in a two-out single.
“[Cishek] has never been in this spot, and I’m not going to blame him for a blown save,” manager Ozzie Guillen said after the game. “He’s been one of the best things going for us all year long. You can blow saves. It’s part of the game. He’s going to compete the right way.”
• Reyes’ game-winning hit was his first since April 13, 2005 — a span of 1,066 games. That streak was the second-longest among active players; Eric Hinske has gone 1,245 games between game-winning RBI.
• Thursday: Off day.
• Friday: New York Mets LHP Jonathon Niese (11-9, 3.46 ERA) vs. Marlins RHP Jacob Turner (1-2, 3.75), 7:10 p.m., Citi Field.
• Scouting report: The Mets were expected to be bad — and could still end up behind the surprisingly last-place Marlins in the NL East cellar. “You just don’t want to finish in last place,” said Reyes, a former Met. “I don’t care who you have to beat, you need to do it.”