There is a giant hole in the Atlanta Braves infield this season in the shape of a legend. Chipper Jones’ retirement after an incredible 20-year career was well-deserved, and he definitely went out on top.
I couldn’t be happier for him. He was great – certainly one of the best Braves players ever, and even Hank Aaron has made that point. Still, his well-timed and well-deserved retirement creates a void at third base in Atlanta that will not easily be filled.
First things first: no one can replace Chipper. The impact he had is unmatchable by any one person. While the front office has built a great-looking team that might indeed go a long way towards replacing the numbers, the man and his presence on the infield will be missed severely.
The candidates for Chipper’s old position are Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson. They are basically trading off days so far this spring and right now, there is no clear front-runner.
Both have been good on defense, with Johnson starting a few more double plays, but carrying the only error of the spring so far as well. Offensively, they are both strong in different ways. Johnson is a better all-around contact hitter right now, while Francisco definitely has more power potential.
The problem with a dead heat is that Fredi Gonzalez might just view it as a tie and go with a platoon. While that might indeed be the best idea for numbers and considering the lefty vs. righty match-up, I really hope someone jumps out front. The idea of a platoon starting this year means it will take it that many more years to end, and it might be several years before we really see a successor for Chipper.
I would be willing to give a few average points away from either lefties or righties if it meant being able to say that one guy got the job.
If Johnson were to get the job out of spring camp like some think he might, great. If by some chance he stinks it up over there, you always have the option of Francisco, who would be great power bat off of the bench if Johnson got the nod.
It’s a lose/lose for Gonzalez, since no one will be who Chipper was. I’m glad it’s not my choice to make. If it were though, I’d give it to Johnson.