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A Curious Case of Chipper Jones

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So here’s a weird one, and I’ll start it with this: When I covered the Majors for Sports Illustrated, I always liked Chipper Jones.

To be clear, I didn’t know Jones personally. But in group interviews, in the occasional postgame one on ones, I always found him personable, engaging, honest, likable, intelligent, analytical. From his era, he was a journalist’s gem, and I have absolutely no beef with the man. None at all. In my book he’s an easy Cooperstown inductee.

That being said …

Two nights ago I was walking around LAX, waiting to pick up my nephew after his flight from New York. It was about 11 pm, and I was bored. So, with nothing to do, I entered the terminal bookstore and checked out the new releases. One that caught my eye was “Ballplayer,” Jones’ autobiography. I stood there for a while, engaged and entertained. Then I reached a page that detailed Jones’ experiences with John Rocker. And I saw this:

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Now, I was not mad and I am not mad. It’s Chipper Jones’ autobiography, I was bored in an airport … who cares? But what Jones wrote (“I have no doubt that the reporter who wrote the Sports Illustrated story exploited Rock”) is simply not true. I’ve discussed this several times before, but the piece that ran on Rocker in the final issue of the year wasn’t even the original story filed. The first John Rocker piece, submitted during the 1999 NLCS between the Braves and Mets, painted the picture of a misunderstood reliever who, behind the scenes, was a pretty good guy. But then Atlanta was swept by the Yankees in the World Series, and the article never ran, and my editor sent me back down to Georgia to hang with Rocker and freshen things up and learn more about the man (the original story was a bit rushed). That’s when—minutes into our drive—Rocker (unsolicited) started ridiculing Asian women, and off he went …

Anyhow, after reading the passage I Tweeted this …

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… and we had the ensuing exchange …

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Argh.

Now this was frustrating. First, I don’t have Chipper Jones’ phone number, and when I said he could follow me so we could DM, he ignored me. Second, “This is hardly the place to discuss it” … but a book is? Third, I really don’t even care. We have a crazy orange man in the White House, the planet is melting, my dog just ate a bunch of chocolate chips and my knee hurts. I was in the airport bookstore, bored and skimming a Chipper Jones autobiography. That was all. Then I Tweeted. But now I’m increasingly agitated. And then this …

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Argh. Argh.

And I’m even more annoyed, because friggin’ Chipper Jones—who I have no beef with—is ripping me for not letting John Rocker read the story I wrote about him when he (Chipper) accused me of something in his book … and didn’t let me read it first. Which makes no sense whatsoever.

Equally irksome is Chipper’s claim that he would read profiles before they ran; that publications would permit such a thing. I worked at SI—never allowed. I worked for ESPN.com—never allowed. I write for Bleacher Report—never allowed. I wrote for a Gannett newspaper—never allowed. I wrote for Newsday—never allowed. Some of my best friends in the business write for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution—not allowed. You never, ever, ever, ever, ever let a subject proofread an article before it runs. It compromises about 832 different journalistic bylaws, and only happens with fan and team publications. And not even always in those circumstances.

So either Chipper is full of crap (on this point) or he engaged with some really shitbag journalists.

Either way, I’m going to bed.

PS: And I never say this stuff. Ever. But to the people on Twitter tonight writing stuff along the lines of, “Asshole, you’re a jock sniffer who hasn’t done anything since Rocker”—visit a bookstore. It’s Pearlman with a ‘P’.

8 replies on “A Curious Case of Chipper Jones”

Jeff, I have been an official scorer for minor-league baseballl for most of the past 20 years. In my first season doing that, with the 1997 Jacksonville Suns, in a game against Greenville, there was a grounder with Rocker on the hill that could have been a hit or an error to the third baseball. The Jacksonville batter had a consecutive-hit streak going, approaching the Southern League record, so I tentatively called it a hit while waiting to see what the guy would do his next time at-bat. Four or five runs scored that inning that are either earned or unearned depending on whether it is a hit or an error. The batter made an out the next time up, and after the game when Greenville’s pitching coach called me in the booth, I was explaining to him that I was changing my call to an error. As I hung up the phone, I heard a voice from behind me, and turned around to see Rocker had come upstairs to dispute my call. Before he could say anything, I told him only managers and coaches were allowed to discuss decisions by scorers, and that I was changing the call, but if he said one word, I would it as a hit. That was the ONLY time a player ever tried to argue a scoring decision with me.

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Wow. I was an official scorer in the minors for two years and there were some “incidents” but I never had a player say a word to me and I’m quite sure the organization wouldn’t have stood for that. That’s amazing.

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By rule, players are not allowed to complain to or lobby official scorers about decisions, but rules don’t matter to people like Rocker.

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What I would like to see is MLB or MiLB make official scorers pass a test, or at least issue some guidelines for scorers to achieve some level of consistency among them.

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I have something to say, Jeff, but do you want to edit it first? Having edited you in the past, you might want to get even.

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