Padres 8 – Braves 2; Chip: 2-4
Yet another standing ovation for Chipper Jones today. Yet another opportunity for him to humbly step back from the plate and tip his hat to the cheering fans. He seems to be taking all the adoration in stride. He always speaks very modestly about it, emphasizing how grateful he is. It’s nice to see for me, as a fan, his behavior, because there was a time when, earlier in his career, I thought the arrogance of Chipper knew no bounds.
It was always obvious from the way he carried himself and the things he said to the media that he thought highly of himself. This was a kid, when he didn’t play, would say something like, ‘Of course I like our chances better if I’m in there.’ (My emphasis added.) And while he had a point, as he always brings a certain presence to their lineup, that just sounds cocky when you say it.
I remember at one point during his prolonged, multi-season slump, when fans were suggesting he should be bumped from the three-hole, he just brushed it off, actually saying that – while batting sub .250 –he gave the team the second best at bat in the lineup, behind Jason Heyward. I remember, at the time he said it, Brian McCann was on fire and Martin Prado was actually leading the National League in hitting. But, no, in Chipper’s mind, he was the second best AB in the lineup. When I read that, I was like, ‘Dude, come on. At least say something like, yeah, I know I’m struggling, but I still think I can contribute best in that spot. Don’t just declare you’re the second best when, statistically, you really aren’t.’
And while stuff like that bothers me a little, it also brings up an interesting question. We often shake our heads at athletes when they are so brash and think so highly of themselves, but isn’t that how they got where they are? Isn’t that a big part of it? I mean, athletic defeat can be crippling. And it is for most people. They make a mistake that costs their team the game, and they break down into tears like the Little League pitcher I saw this year that gave up the game winning homerun. True, he’s only 12, but still – he lost it. Hands on his head, tears streaming.
Do you think Chipper Jones ever, in his young life and in view of other people, broke down after messing up in a game? Maybe once, but more than that, I would put money on no. Do you think Michael Jordan cried when he got cut? I know it’s a cliché example, but that’s only because it’s so true. Did he start playing the tuba in the band instead (no offense to tuba players or band members). No, he tried harder.
And that’s what these guys do. They don’t accept defeat. If something doesn’t go their way, they think to themselves that everyone else is wrong about them, and they’re going to prove it. ‘You got a cheap hit off me, so I’m striking you out next time.’ And then inevitably they do, feeding they’re little ego. And we love them for that tenacity because that’s what makes them successful. (Just don’t verbalize it for me, because apparently it’s a turn off…. Sorry, kid, it doesn’t work that way.)
Chipper’s probably been told many times that he won’t be successful. Coming back from his first ACL tear for example, not to mention the other myriad of injuries later in his career, and he’s proven them wrong so many times that he’s stopped listening. He blows it off.
When it comes to baseball, he knows he’s awesome – because he is. And if he didn’t think he was awesome, he’d be the guy who had to get sent down to Triple A to get his confidence back. Chipper might have lost a step, but he’s never lost his confidence. And that’s a big part of why he’s been so successful. Brett Favre was crazy enough to think he can win at 41 in the NFL! If only he was. We blast Favre for coming back and his whole decision making promise, but then we cheer him. He’s still fun to watch play football.
I really am in this argument with just myself because it is I that has a problem here. I will still be turned off by verbal displays of arrogance, but then I’ll just remind myself that’s why they’re so good. And I’ll feel sorry for those players that don’t get it, so I’ll wish them well as they stays out of my team’s lineup.