I have to begin with this: Johnny Cueto is my new least favorite player. Brandon Phillips would be #2. I don’t think the Reds have won the Central Division since I was a freshman in college, so it’s really hard to get all worked up about this “rivalry” between Cincinnati and St. Louis. In fact, Phillips’ ridiculous comments seemed to do the trick — the Cards’ three game sweep beatdown of the hapless Reds was likely fueled by Phillips’ bush league comments. I’m sure the Reds will stay in the hunt for a few more weeks; Reds GM Walt Jocketty has assembled a core of veterans, many of whom are ex-Cardinals (Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Miguel Cairo, Russ Springer, Jason Isringhausen). Too bad most of them are past their prime. Personally, I can’t wait until Cueto has to step in the box next time Carpenter is on the mound. Retribution time, baby.
Anyway, on to other matters. Braves 3B / franchise player Chipper Jones tore his ACL this week, effectively ending his 2010 season and quite possibly his career. Jones has been mum on his future plans, but industry sources all seem to think he’ll hang up his spikes as soon as the season is over. If that’s true, it’s unfortunate that a great player has to go out like this. Few can exit the stage as Teddy Ballgame did (HR in his final at-bat), but you’d like to see a player of Jones’ caliber at least be able to play out the string. [Sidebar: George Brett was once asked how he’d like to go out. He said, short of homering in his final at-bat a la Williams, he’d like to come to the plate with a runner on second and nobody out, work the count by fouling off several pitches, and then hit a ground ball to second to advance the runner, bust it down the line and get thrown out by half a step. I think that’s beautiful. Sidebar finished.]
I had a friend ask me yesterday if I thought Chipper was a Hall of Famer and, if so, whether he was a first ballot HoFer. Without question, Chipper is one of the best 3B to ever play the game. The only players I’d rank ahead of him at the position are Mike Schmidt, George Brett, and Eddie Matthews. Throw in Jones and Wade Boggs and most people my age have been privileged to see 4 of the top 5 3B of all time during their primes. Chipper was a dominant offensive force, an MVP, and the catalyst for one of the most successful divisional dynasties in modern sports. It’ll be a travesty if he’s not inducted on the first ballot.
Ideally, Chipper and Bobby Cox would be inducted into Cooperstown on the same date. It’s unfortunate that many casual fans consider Cox a less-than-great manager because he managed the Braves to ONLY one championship (1995). I don’t care what you say: it takes a real gift to manage a team to 14 straight division titles. Each baseball season consists of 162 games of chess and to win more than you lose over that period of time is impressive. Again, it’s unfortunate that Cox’s farewell tour will have to continue without Chipper’s presence in the middle of that lineup. I wonder just how many times Cox has scribbled his name into the #3 hole on his lineup card over the years. Farewell, Bobby and Chipper. I’ll be rooting for you, at least till playoff time. It’d only be fitting for y’all to grab one more division title on your way out the door.