Since this was essentially just a Grapefruit League game. I have decided to take a different direction with the recap.
This moment has been building for the last few months, and we didn’t know how we would handle it. We have had a long journey together, that has finally reached the end. Knowing Ben Sheets just toed the mound for his last game… Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
In the late spring of 1990 the Atlanta Braves had a difficult choice to make. They controlled the number one overall pick in the draft. They were debating on selecting a young promising high school pitcher from Texas or going with a Florida high school switch hitting shortstop.
While they were trying to decide, the pitching prospect let his desires be known. He did not want to play for the Braves and would not sign. I guess being the number one pick wasn’t good enough for him. He wanted to win, and if he had to, he would enroll at the University of Texas that fall.
As many of us remember, the Atlanta Braves were one of the worst professional sports franchises in the mid to late 1980’s. They had a crazy gazillionaire owner who was arguing with free agents in the press and trying to be the actual team manager. Their best player was starting to fade. They had to play in a stadium that smelled like urine and had a field that resembled an Iraqi highway.
The Braves ended up passing on Todd Van Poppel, who was selected by the Oakland A’s with the 14th pick of the 1990 draft. Ultimately, he played for seven different major league teams, retiring in 2005 with a career ERA of 5.58. Never playing in a World Series. Never sniffing a Cy Young award. Never winning more than seven games in a season.
Thankfully, none of those wins came with the Braves.
In Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones’s first full season in the organization, the Braves started their ascent to becoming one of the most successful sports franchises over the last twenty years. In that time period, they won 14 consecutive division titles, five National League pennants, two Wild Card births and the 1995 World Series.
Chipper just wrapped up his 19th and final season. No number one pick has ever produced more for the team that selected them. I could go down all of the numbers, but you all already know them. The 1999 MVP is a sure fire first ballot Hall-of-Famer and a top five (if not top three) third baseman of all time. No word on if Van Poppel will be selling Cokes at
2017 2018 induction ceremony.
Today may have been the last regular season game for Chipper, but it isn’t over yet. There is still at least one more game. But the way Chipper has played this season, and his flair for the dramatic, I have a feeling that Braves are more than just “one and done.”
Anything Chipper does at this point is just gravy. He is a once in a generation player that has done everything possible to help the Braves win. He played left field for a while, because he thought it would help the club. He has played through injuries. He even restructured his contract to sign/ keep players.
Thanks Chipper. Now put the team on your shoulders one last time and see how far you can take us. Todd Van Poppel should have your gutters cleaned by Halloween.
SEC Picks (home teams to the right)
Arkansas 17 Auburn 18
LSU 24 Florida 17
Georgia 21 South Carolina 17
Texas A&M 24 Ole Miss 10
Vanderbilt 17 Missouri 21
Mississippi State 28 Kentucky 3