Chipper Jones’ massive spring struggle

It really sucks seeing a franchise icon’s demise.

But my fear is that Braves fans will watch that firsthand this season with third baseman Chipper Jones. It hasn’t been a good Spring Training start for the oft-injured future Hall of Famer, and the reports out of Braves camp are that he “looks terrible.”

How terrible? So far, Chipper is 0-for-8 in 11 at-bats this spring (through Tuesday night), and he’s missed several games already due to fatigue.

“I don’t know if I can make it through this year,” Jones told the AJC.

Of course, the next day, Jones issued a retraction on his comments, assuring the free world that he’d never quit on his team mid-season, no matter how much he was hurting. However, there’s nothing he can do about it if Father Time interjects himself into the situation.

That’s exactly what I think is happening here. And if Chipper can’t make it through a March, I don’t see any way he’ll make it through an April, May, June, July, August and September.

He’s always been one of the fiercest competitors on the squad during his time in Atlanta, and competitors are very stubborn. They think their presence on the field, whether they’re healthy or injured, is what’s best for the team. Of course, I’m going to disagree when it comes to Chipper’s case.

Martin Prado is what’s best for the Braves at third base, and the quicker the Braves realize that, the better chance they have of making the playoffs this year.

Atlanta will need everyone on board for the long haul if they’re going to win the National League East this year, or even if they’re going to compete. So they can’t be keeping up with the saga of Chipper Jones’ ailing body if they want to keep up with the Phillies.

If I were Fredi Gonzalez, manager of the 1-10-1 Braves (that’s their record in the preseason so far, but take an exhibition record for what it’s worth), I would find a way to use Chipper as rarely as possible to keep him fresh. If that means playing Prado at third in six out of seven games, all year, I say go for it.

Chipper has always said he supports whatever is in the best interest of the team. Well, now it’s time to practice what he preaches.

I believe these Braves can get to the playoffs in 2012, but only if Chipper stays healthy. And that means resting a whole lot more than he plays.

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