Former Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, who is now an adviser with the team, recently moved back to Atlanta from his Texas ranch, which he is selling. I spoke with him about a variety of subjects, including his future, the Braves’ season and what he thinks about the team moving forward.
Q: What prompted you to sell your Texas ranch and move back to Atlanta?
A: I realized living out there that it was probably my second-favorite place to be, except during hunting season when it’s my favorite. (Wife) Taylor’s family is in Atlanta and my parents are getting older. It seemed like a good time to move back, bring my parents and sell the ranch. I sold half of it and the other half I expect to go fairly soon.
Q: How would you describe your duties as an advisor with the Braves?
A: I do different things. Obviously, a lot was amped up before the draft. I looked at a few (potential draft picks). It was kind of a hectic summer, so I wasn’t able to see some of our young kids in the minors like I wanted. I’m going to some games and if somebody’s struggling, I’ll take a look. (General manager John Coppolella) and I talk every couple of weeks. I’m kind of a jack of all trades, master of none.
Q: Is this to some end a career move?
A: Having played so long, living out of a suitcase for 23 years, the big-league lifestyle doesn’t appeal to me that much anymore. I’m finally happy with my home life. I have somebody that I look forward to come home to. I look forward to playing golf with my dad and my buddies two or three times a week. I enjoy going to the game without having to actually be in uniform and having to talk to the media day in and day out. I can go on vacations and do stuff. So if I were to get back into the game, it would be doing exactly what I’m doing, but maybe at a more advanced level. Front office work has a little more appeal to me than getting back in uniform. I’m probably more suited to do the uniform stuff, like hitting coach, but it doesn’t mean I can’t be good at the other stuff.
Q: So you want to be a general manager one day?
A: I don’t know if I want to be the guy out front yet. That’s pretty much being in a different kind of uniform and it’s an all-day, every-day type of endeavor. This is my have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too kind of thing. I’m able to do something with the Braves but I still have my life outside of it.
Q: Did you have higher expectations this year?
A: I thought the club would swing the bats the way they’re swinging them now. I thought they would score more runs and, you would imagine, win more games. Unfortunately the offense sputtered coming out of the gate, the pitching was respectable to very good at times and now it seems the two are reversed. With injuries and inconsistencies, they’re taking losses. I don’t know if I would say disappointed. Frustrated is the word I would use. With young players on a young team, guys have to learn how to win. They haven’t quite grasped how to step on somebody’s neck when they have them down.
Q: In your estimation, have there been mistakes or misjudgments made in personnel moves?
A: There were mistakes made by the previous regime. I give John Hart a ton of credit for coming in and realizing what the deal was and trying to fix it right away and Coppy has followed him. I can’t tell you how exciting it is when you have a proactive general manager who’s not going to sit on his hands and let things fester.
Q: Player development obviously was a problem under former GM Frank Wren. But there was criticism of the Hector Olivera and Andrelton Simmons trades, maybe some others too.
A: The previous regime would never admit to a mistake and would let it fester and did not have the ability to get out of the hole. Coppy has shown and illustrated, ‘You know what? We made a mistake with Olivera.’ He got out of it. And I don’t think Olivera, especially here in the Bible Belt with what happened (domestic violence charges) in Washington, was ever going to play here again. It would have been too big of a PR hit. But to get a capable major league body (Matt Kemp) who can give Freddie Freeman some protection was a major coup. That gives you an ability to forgive him for making a mistake when it comes to Olivera.
Q: Should the Braves be players in free agency?
A: I would hope that after getting out from under some of these contracts that hamstrung them for so long, they’re going to be players in the market again. It might not be a King Felix (Hernandez) or a (Clayton) Kershaw, but get (a pitcher) who can keep you in the game, who can stop losing streaks and continue winning streaks. Get one of those guys who will give (prospects) time to develop and somebody who can show them the ropes.
Q: So you agree the rotation lacks certainty beyond Julio Teheran?
A: How much better has the Braves offense flowed just since Kemp got here? It doesn’t really matter what his production is, he just makes the offense better. Along those lines, if you add a No. 1 pitcher, you make Teheran second. It lengthens the rotation. Now (Mike) Foltynewicz can go against the other team’s third starter and so on.
Q: So who will the manager be?
A: Snit’s (interim Brian Snitker) done a great job and I know the guys love playing for him. He deserved this opportunity. I think a lot depends on who is out there. It’s a tough decision.
Q: Some are now convinced management will go outside and not give the job to Snitker, Terry Pendleton or Eddie Perez. Your thoughts?
A: It’s hard for me to believe the Braves won’t keep anything in-house because everything has been kept so close to the vest. But I can certainly understand if the Braves think it might be time for a different feel of things. I can’t fault them either way.
Q: I’d love to see Pendleton get a shot.
A: Most believe teams take on the personality of their manager and if T.P. were to get the job, you’d see a different Braves team and attitude. You’d see a little more fire, up-in-your-face type of team. Snit is so laid back and that’s what we had for so long, but that’s how I performed the best. If I got all riled up, I played like crap.
Q: Can you understand why a lot of fans haven’t shown up this year?
A: I certainly can. But we all have been a bit spoiled for the last 20 years. Teams around baseball knew if they wanted to go to the playoffs, they would have to go through the Atlanta Braves. But it’s not that way anymore. It’s not as fun as it used to be but the outlook for the future is bright to get back to that point. I loved our draft this year and at the root of everything, that’s really what we got away from.
Q: Would it be too much to expect a postseason contender next year?
A: I’m never going to say never but they would really have to add a couple of really nice pieces. They need a bona fide top-of-the-rotation starter. They need to address the catching situation and they have to address the needs of the bullpen. But Coppy hasn’t shied away from being proactive.
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