NEW YORK -- Encouraged by the way his bothersome left knee had improved overnight, Chipper Jones informed Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez that he could put him in the lineup for Sunday afternoon's game against the Mets at Citi Field.
But looking at the big picture, Gonzalez opted to take the cautious route. Thus Jones was out of the starting lineup in his last regular-season game in New York and in front of the Mets fans with which he has developed a love-hate relationship over the past two decades. He walked as a pinch-hitter in the ninth and was then removed for pinch-runner Reed Johnson in the Braves' 3-2 victory.
"It's obviously kind of bittersweet," Jones said. "It's the last time I'll be coming here as a player unless we face the Yankees in the World Series. I wish things would have worked out so I could have played today. I really wanted to get out there today. But as I've said so many times, sometimes the body doesn't allow you to do so."
This was certainly not the first time Jones was forced to take the cautious route by resting his left knee after playing a few days in a row. But given the history he has had with Mets fans, this was certainly a unique situation.
After Jones hit four home runs in a three-game series that allowed the Braves to beat the Mets for the National League East crown in 1999, he became a marked man among Mets fans, who have loved to mockingly chant his given first name, "Lah-REE," over the years.
"I've had a gradual changing of my perception of the fans the last five or six years," Jones said. "It's certainly a lot more cordial. I'm getting a lot of hits from Mets fans on Twitter saying that they still hate me, but still respect [my] career. I think they're more frustrated with the Mets than they are with me. But still, it's nice to interact. I never thought I'd look at social media as being a good thing. It turns out, it is because it's given me a chance to interact not just with Braves fans."
Most of Jones' success in New York was achieved before the Mets moved to Citi Field before the start of the 2009 season. He batted .313 with 19 home runs and a .964 OPS in 88 games at Shea Stadium. The Mets recognized him on Friday by presenting him with a 3D picture that commemorated some of this success at Shea.
"It's been awesome to come out here and play on this stage," Jones said. "I'm grateful that I had the opportunity and I'm grateful to the Mets organization for all of their generosity and hospitality this weekend. The fans have been receptive. I've heard a lot of cheers when I've walked up to the plate, some chants [Saturday] night, late. I'm not used to hearing that particular chant. It's usually 'Larry.' Last night, it was 'Chipper.' So that was cool."