There was a raging debate on Twitter as to whether the Mets should give a farewell to the retiring Chipper Jones when the Braves come into Citi Field for the final time this September.
Some say no. Some say yes.
I can understand those that feel the Mets shouldn’t be honoring an opposing player, but apart from that the arguments against it don’t hold much water.
The number of players that would warrant an opposing team acknowledging his career-long performance and who openly announce that they’re retiring before or during that season are relatively few. Former basketball star Julius Erving did it and essentially had a tour that went on for an entire season.
In baseball, I can’t think of any player who’s said he’s retiring and been feted by opponents in an overt fashion mostly because players on that level don’t admit they’re retiring until they retire. Perhaps it’s because they haven’t decided yet.
Mariano Rivera has intimated that he’s going to hang it up after 2012, but the main reason he hasn’t openly said it yet is because, I believe, he wants to leave himself room to continue playing.
With Jones and the Mets, it’s not as if they’re retiring his uniform number or giving him a car as they would a player who’d been a star for the Mets. If they do anything, it’ll be a 10-15 minute goodbye to give grudging credit to a great player whose biggest moments always seemed to be against the Mets and whose departure will make the rivalry far less interesting. My guess is that they’ll give him a memento from Shea Stadium. The fans will applaud for Jones not because they liked what he did to the Mets, but because of the way he did it with class, consistency and professionalism.
There was never a hatred between Jones and Mets’ fans. When they chanted his given name of “Larry”, it wasn’t vicious and he laughed it off. He was respected in a competitive fashion without the vitriol that accompanies the palpable and mutual loathing between Pedro Martinez against the Yankees.
Jones named one of his children “Shea” after the Mets’ former park where he had those huge moments. If it’s possible for an opposing player to embrace New York, Jones managed it.
There are players whose dignity earn them that type of honor. Rivera, Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey Jr.—their behaviors accorded them a certain stature that would make it more of a “we’re fans of baseball and thank you for playing the game correctly” rather than cheering for a despised opponent.
Chipper Jones is among their number and deserves that moment between himself, the Mets and Mets’ fans.