Philadelphia, PA – A perfect script would see Chipper Jones stroll off into the sunset, capping his Hall of Fame career with a World Series title before quietly settling into a retired life full of fishing, crossword puzzles and old television show reruns.
But for the 40-year-old Jones, walking off the field one last time may be more difficult than winning an actual championship.
Jones announced in late March that this 18th full season in the majors would in fact be his last, not a huge shocker given his age and the reality that he has had surgery on both of his knees in the previous two seasons. In fact, the switch-hitter began the season on the disabled list as he recovered from a procedure to repair a torn meniscus around his left knee, missing the first four games.
Inflammation and other issues with the knee also have caused him to miss four other games this season and it goes without saying that manager Fredi Gonzalez will be giving Jones plenty of days off. Even still, it will be tough to imagine the seven-time All-Star doing jumping jacks off the field in his final game.
Jones' final season, though, could very well stretch into the postseason. The Braves have perhaps the best young pitching staff in the National League and adding Michael Bourn's speed to the lineup for a full season has left plenty of RBI opportunities for Jones, Jason Heyward, Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman.
And Jones has shown an ability to come through in big moments as he embarks on his farewell tour. He homered in his season debut on April 10 in Houston and then went deep again in his first home game of 2012 after his knee forced him to sit out the opening two contests of Atlanta's first home series.
The Braves won both games that Jones homered in and made it a perfect 3-for-3 when the third baseman and 1999 NL MVP connected on a solo homer Tuesday that helped spark his club to a 4-3 win against the host Los Angeles Dodgers.
What made that home run so special? Only that it came on Jones' 40th birthday.
"He stands up to those occasions. Every at-bat he squared up on the ball, he really did," Gonzalez said. "He got robbed a couple of times. It seems like every time we give him a couple of days to get his knee ready, he answers the call and gives us a good performance."
Jones had sat out the series' opener on Monday, but there was no way he was going to miss playing on April 24. The top pick of the 1990 draft will wrap his career having hit .429 (21-for-49) with five homers, 11 RBIs and 12 runs scored on his birthday.
Don't think Jones isn't relishing his final moments as a major leaguer as he was very reflective when asked what was going through his mind as he rounded the bases.
"How all three of my homers that I've hit this year have been really cool," he said after becoming the fifth player in major league history to homer on his 40th birthday. "I hit one in my first start in Houston with my parents in the stands. My second one was my home opener and then that one was on my birthday.
"You always want to do something special on your birthday and it doesn't get more special than that."
Jones in the Hall of Fame is as certain as a Meryl Streep Oscar nomination. He is on pace to end his playing days as the only switch-hitter in MLB history to own a .300 career batting average and hit at least 300 homers. His 457 career home runs rank behind only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray for the most by a switch-hitter and only Murray has driven in more runs from both sides of the plate than Jones' 1,570.
It's been a long and accolade-filled career for Jones, who admitted he didn't really imagine he would still be hitting home runs at this late in his life.
"I'm just glad to have the opportunity to go out there and play baseball at the age of 40," he said. "It's been a fun ride and a good way to have my last birthday in the big leagues turn out the right way."
Unless the Braves can convince him to sign a one-day contract next April 24.