News - The $90 million man
'Golden Boy' gets a case of the Lead-Ass
John Rocker gave up a three-run homer to National League batting champion Todd Helton in the top of the ninth Sunday to blow the last game of the season and home-field advantage in this week's Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. But Helton was at the plate only because Chipper Jones committed his 25th error of the year on a ground ball that should have been a routine out to end the game.
Chipper Jones is set to be paid $15 million a year, every year, for the next six years. That comes out to $22,603.98 per at-bat. Or $5,884.66 for every pitch he sees.
He is getting this money because he batted .455 against the Mets this season. Because he has a career batting average of .400 against Randy Johnson, the most overpowering left-handed pitcher in the National League. Because he is just the second third baseman in the history of Major League Baseball to post five straight 100-RBI seasons. The other was the Pirates' Pie Traynor, from 1927-1931.
He also batted .239 in August with an on-base percentage of .289, his worst month since June, 1998. He batted .185 with runners in scoring position from Aug. 1 through Labor Day. As the season came to an end, he was batting .083 with the bases loaded.
And with two outs in the final game of the season — the game was won and the Braves were practically in the shower — he didn't execute a fundamental fielding play.
I'd be delighted to pass along to you his reaction. His agony. His disappointment. His anger. His indifference. For all I know, he may have thought it was funny. But I don't know. And neither, by extension, do you because the man who is set to be paid $90 million over the next six years ducked the press after Sunday's game. Sat in the off-limits players' lounge watching football on television and made it known that he would stay put until the clubhouse was clear.
Every player has batting slumps. That's part of the game. But there is no excuse for 25 errors from the player GM John Schuerholz called "a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come" on the day he signed Jones to baseball's richest contract for a position player.
Jones called the money "embarrassing."
Maybe that's it. Maybe he wouldn't get his butt off the couch and face the music because he was too embarrassed to stand up and admit that the richest player in the game also has the most errors on the team. More, even, than rookie Rafael Furcal.
His last one cost the Braves the home field in this round of the playoffs, at least. And maybe the next. If the Braves get that far.
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