Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones was nice enough to give me a few minutes of his time last weekend to talk about his first half performance and what he's looking forward to in the second half.
Martin Gandy (MG): Chipper, how would you rate your performance in the first half?
Chipper Jones (CJ): Streaky. I got off to a slow start. I've come on the last couple of weeks before the break. Defensively it's been a little streaky as well. You go through streaks offensively and defensively where you get caught in between hops and stuff like that, just some tough plays. You got to swallow hard at third base because you're going to get some tough errors, but I give it about a "B."
MG: What do you look to improve on in the second half?
CJ: Just maintainin' what I've done offensively the last couple weeks. Try to go out and play my position flawlessly.
MG: Do you feel you don't play full speed because of the injuries you've had?
CJ: No, if you go out there and try to protect it, you're going to get hurt again. So, I'm just going to go out there and play the game the way I know how, and if I get hurt again I get hurt again. My motto in life is to not worry about things I can't control. I'm not going to go out there and play half-heartedly or half speed just to protect myself.
MG: What do you like most about this Braves team, and what do you like the least?
CJ: We've got a good bunch of guys here, we've got a good camaraderie. It's been fun to come to the clubhouse everyday no matter whether we're winning or losing. I can't really say that I dislike anything. There are some areas of the ball club that haven't performed up to par and everybody's expectations, but the guys are going out there and trying as hard as they can. And that's all you can ask for; sometimes it just doesn't happen for you.
Here is some bonus coverage from questions that were asked of Chipper by reporters after Sunday's win over the Reds.
Reporter: [How do you explain this recent streak of extra-base hits?]
CJ: Thinking about base-hits to right, of driving the ball to the gaps and not a ton of homers. It sounds stupid to say it because I've got so many homers [in my career], but I've never considered myself a big homerun guy. I'm going to hit my 25 or 30, but I'm more concerned with being a tough out and hitting .300 plus; and getting my walks and get my on-base percentage over .400. Being that tough out that other teams don't want to face in the clutch situations.
Reporter: From 3-20 to 0-10 [record] straight to this?
CJ: Yep, and it all starts with the pitching staff. This offense is going to score runs; we may have a little off day here and there.
Jeff Francoeur (interrupting as he says goodbye): See ya Larry.
CJ: Yeah you too, f#$k-face. [laughter] [pause] I'm sorry, ask the question again.
Reporter: I don't remember what it was, he threw me off. Oh, "it starts with the pitching staff."
CJ: If the starters hold them to a minimum and the bullpen has seemed to steady itself for the most part the last couple of weeks. And that's what it's all about. If you don't pitch, you're not going to win in this league. If you pitch a little bit, you got a chance.
Reporter: Even though you weren't mathematically eliminated a couple of weeks ago, is it a lot more realistic feeling now considering how you've played, that you might actually have a chance to get back into the mix?
CJ: Yeah. I mean, this was a big series for us, this four game series. We couldn't afford to go two and two; we needed to win at least three. And at the time when Cincinnati came in they were the wild card leader, but the bottom line is we're a little bit closer. And if we play the same type of baseball through the rest of the season that we have the last ten days, we're going to be fine, we'll be right in the thick of things.