From Comcast SportsNetATLANTA (AP) -- Chipper Jones didn't want to go out this way.The Atlanta Braves third baseman made a crucial throwing error and never hit a ball out of the infield Friday, his brilliant career ending with a 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in a wild-card game that turned messy when fans littered the field after a disputed call by the umpires.Don't blame the umps, Jones said."I'm the one to blame."In the fourth inning, with the Braves leading 2-0 on David Ross' homer, Carlos Beltran blooped a single to right for the first hit of the game off Kris Medlen. But the Braves got what they needed from Matt Holliday, a hard-hit grounder to third base that Jones fielded with a nifty backhanded grab."A tailor-made double play" he called it.Only one problem. Jones' throw to second base sailed over the head of Dan Uggla, rolling out into right field. The Cardinals wound up scoring three runs and led the rest of the way.Turns out, that was only ball Jones got out of the infield all night. He went 1 for 5 at the plate, getting a generous call from the official scorer on his final at-bat -- a grounder to second baseman Daniel Descalso, whose leaping throw to first pulled Allen Craig off the bag. He couldn't get hit foot on the bag ahead of the 40-year-old Jones, hustling until the end.He lumbered around to third on Freddie Freeman's ground-rule double, but that was where his career ended.Uggla grounded out to end the Braves' season -- and a big league career that started in 1993. Jones spent it all with the Braves, wining a World Series title in '95, an MVP award in '99, and an NL batting crown four years ago. He'll go down as one of the greatest-switch hitters in baseball history, finishing with 468 homers and a .303 average.Jones was just crossing home plate as the Cardinals began their celebration. He kept right on running toward the dugout.It was over."I wanted to come out here and play well," Jones said. "My heart is broken not for me. My heard is broken for my teammates and my coaching staff, and all these fans that have been so great to us this year."Jones drove to Turner Field for the final time as a player with his mother, father and two of his young sons.He was amazed how calm he felt."I turned around and told my dad, This is why I know I'm ready to go. I'm not even nervous,'" Jones said before the game, with 8-year-old Shea and 7-year-old Tristan standing nearby, both wearing red Braves jerseys.But Jones sure looked shaky on that throw, which ruined what should have been another scoreless inning for Medlen.Jones, who announced his retirement in spring training, had envisioned plenty of ways his career might end."This is not one of them, I can assure you that," he said. "It's just one of those things that happens from time to time. You have a game defensively where you don't make plays that you should. You give good teams extra outs and it ends up biting you."The Braves made two more throwing errors in the seventh, handing the Cardinals three runs and a 6-2 lead without getting a ball out of the infield.Atlanta attempted to rally in the eighth, putting two runners aboard with one out. Andrelton Simmons appeared to load the bases when his pop fly to short left field dropped on a mix-up between two fielders, but the umpires called him out on the infield fly rule. That enraged the crowd of 52,631, which littered the field with debris and caused a 19-minute delay.Jones watched the ugly display from the safety of the Braves dugout."Momma didn't raise no fool," he quipped. "You never want to see something get violent like that. I know one thing for sure -- you won't be able to say that Braves fans don't care."Batting cleanup, Jones had a forgettable night at the plate. He struck out in the first. He grounded out with a runner aboard to end the third. He led off the sixth with a popup. He grounded out with runners at second and third to end the seventh, squandering a chance to pull the Braves within a run.Finally, he came up in the ninth with two outs and no one aboard.Before stepping into the box, Jones pulled off his helmet and used it to salute the crowd, most of whom hung around to see his last swing."Chipper! Chipper! Chipper!" they roared.When it was done, a small batch of fans remained behind the Braves dugout, keeping up the chant in hopes Jones might come out for one last curtain call.He never did.It was over."I'll be OK," Jones said. "When you walk out of here knowing that you brought it every day, it makes walking away on the final day a little bit easier."
Another playoff disappointment—as well as a host of expiring player contracts—has left the Capitals with a ton of questions to answer this offseason. Over the next month, Jill Sorenson, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir will take a close look at the 20 biggest issues facing the team as the business of hockey kicks into high gear.
What do you do if you can’t find playoff success? You sign a player who has won three Stanley Cups, one Conn Smythe Trophy and is 7-0 in Game 7s. Washington signed Mr. Game 7 himself, Justin Williams in the summer of 2015 for his veteran leadership, but he also brought a lot of production to the team as well with 52 and 48 points respectively in his two seasons with the Caps. Unfortunately even he could not lead Washington past the second round as he lost in Game 7 for the first time in his career this season. Now his contract is up and the Caps have a tough decision ahead of them.
Today’s question: Should the Caps re-sign Justin Williams?
Sorenson: Ugh, I hate this question. Justin Williams has been such an important part of the Capitals’ growth and success the past two years, I hate to admit the fact that Washington may have to let him go. However, he will be 36 this fall, and while in his next contract, he may not earn his $3.5 million salary he did the past two years, there is probably a team who could afford to pay him somewhere in that neighborhood. He has put up 52 and 48 points respectively in his last two years here, which are higher than his previous three years in LA, despite playing fewer minutes per game, on average. If for some reason Williams still believed his best chance to win a fourth Stanley Cup was here with the Washington Capitals, and he is not ready to hang up his skates, maybe he would be willing to take a large pay cut to stay. That is a decision Williams has earned the right to make.
Regan: If you are a team that cannot get over the hump in the postseason, Justin Williams is exactly the type of player you need. Yes, Washington was still unable to get past the second round for the past two seasons with Williams in tow, but his is still a voice you want in the locker room come the postseason. The problem with bringing him back, however, is money. The Caps just don’t have much of it and probably not enough to sign a player who will turn 36 in October. If I am Brian MacLellan, after I settle all my RFAs my first call is to T.J. Oshie. If he re-signs, then there is zero money left for Williams. If he doesn’t, then MacLellan’s second call should be to Williams to see just how low he would be willing to go. A veteran leader like him will undoubtedly be able to get more on the open market than in Washington, but he turned down a bigger offer from Montreal to sign with the Caps originally. Would he be willing to do it again? If not, you have to let him walk.
El-Bashir: A phrase I heard often during my four years covering the NFL was, “You can’t keep everybody.” And my gut tells me that phrase could end up applying to Williams, who has accumulated an even 100 points (46 goals, 54 assists) in two years as a member of the Caps. To me, this is GM Brian MacLellan's second toughest decision after sorting out T.J. Oshie’s future in Washington. Let’s consider the pros: Williams is still a productive player and he’s savvy enough to make adjustments that compensate for what Father Time has taken from him. Experience matters, too. Look no further than Chris Kunitz, the Penguins’ Game 7 hero. The 37-year-old alternate captain’s numbers have declined, but he earned every bit of his $3.85 million salary on Thursday night by being the Penguins’ best player in their biggest game of the season. Williams has risen to the occasion in the past and his DNA suggests he’ll do it again. The cons: Williams will be 36 in October and the Caps need to get younger and faster. MacLellan also must consider the need to create full-time openings for prospects like Jakub Vrana, a winger who’s itching to take the next step and costs significantly less. In the end, I suspect the cap-strapped Caps will make a play to keep No. 14, who earned $3.25 million each of the past two years. And then Williams, who has said he’d like to stay but may well attract longer, more lucrative offers elsewhere, will have a business decision to make. My take: both sides will ultimately decide it’s best to move on.
This week it was revealed that Lonzo Ball, one of the top prospects in the 2017 NBA Draft, has rejected an offer to work out for the Boston Celtics, who own the No. 1 overall pick. That further established the fact he wants to play for his hometown Lakers.
Ball may, however, be at least somewhat interested in another team. According to a report by ESPN, Ball is mulling a workout offer by Philly.
Here is what Chris Haynes wrote:
"A final decision will be made once Ball's agent, Harrison Gaines, and Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo have had an extensive conversation centered on the identity of the team, sources told ESPN."
It's understandable why Ball, 19, would be interested in playing for the Sixers who finally appear to have some hope for their future with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric on their roster. But who in their right mind would rather play for the Sixers right now than the Celtics?
Boston was just in the conference finals. They represent a chance to win now and clearly their front office knows what they are doing. The same can't be said for the Lakers or Sixers until they actually win something.
Whether it's his dad pulling the strings on this or not, it seems like a curious decision by Ball to turn down the good team and then show interest in the bad ones.
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