Chipper Jones allowed himself to be emotional during the final regular season game. The support fans displayed during the final regular season-games of his career was for lack of a better word…overwhelming. Nonetheless, as the Braves prepared to play today’s Wild Card playoff against the Cardinals at Turner Field, Jones did not seem the least bit phased as he could conceivably be playing the final game of his storied career.
“I was riding in with my mom and dad today, and I turned around and told my dad, ‘This is why I know I’m ready to go,’” Jones said to MLB.com. “I’m not even nervous. I don’t know whether that is being prepared, you know, and being confident. But usually, first game of the playoffs, I’m nervous before the workout the day before.”
As Jones prepared for the 93rd postseason game of his career, he focused on experiencing a new challenge that he does not support from a competitive standpoint. This matchup between the Braves and Cards serves as the first one-game Wild Card game. This is the result of Major League Baseball’s decision to add an additional Wild Card team to each league this year. This would have benefited Atlanta last year, when St. Louis leapfrogged the Braves on the regular season’s final night to gain the only available Wild Card entry.
The new arrangement however could produce a sour and abrupt end to Jones’ career. After collecting 94 wins in the regular season, the Braves have been presented with this winner-take-all matchup against the 88-win Cardinals. The winner advances to the National League Division Series against the Nationals, and the loser begins the offseason.
As the bottom of the 8th inning came around, Atlanta found itself down by three and in the middle of a pretty crazy play. The infield fly rule was called. Andrelton Simmons‘s pop-fly to short left field split a disoriented Pete Kozma, who’d called for it, and a loping Matt Holliday. If you watched the play, it looked like an obvious bases-loading hit on Kozma’s mental error. However, the left field umpire called the infield fly rule. Here’s the problem. It was called both very late and outside the infield, leaving Simmons out and the Turner Field crowd in a frenzy.
Players had to dodge trash on their way into their respective dugouts. This is probably not how Chipper envisioned his possible last game. It was a bad call, but unlike most bad calls it stopped the game dead in its tracks. The delay stretched 18 minutes while stadium staff tried to clear the field and quiet the erupting crowd. The Braves put the game under protest.
The television audience was left wondering if they were about to witness, “Disco Night Part 2” as a game-tying at-bat—bottom of the eighth, two outs, two on, the score still 6-3 was left in limbo. The Braves ended the inning with runners on base.
On a night overshadowed by the kind of officiating controversy reserved for NFL replacement referees, I wonder if Chipper is rethinking his position. No one wants to go out on a game like this.