NL Wild Card Game: Why Chipper Jones and Braves Will Live to Play Another Game

Ryan DavenportContributor IOctober 5, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 03:  Chipper Jones #10 of the Atlanta Braves salutes the fans before leaving the field after his last regular season game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on October 3, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Win and move on, or lose and retire. 

That's the situation that Chipper Jones finds himself in heading into tonight's National League Wild Card Game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since Jones announced his plans to retire earlier this season, there have been a number of Braves games that have been labeled as "special," because they represented occasions that the baseball world would never have the pleasure of seeing again.

From Chipper's walk-off homer against the Phillies in September to his final regular season game in Atlanta, the longtime face of the franchise has enjoyed a number of memorable moments during his ongoing farewell tour in 2012.

What seems to be overlooked, though, is that the guy can still play, and he's been an under-appreciated clutch player for the better part of two decades.

That's why he'll add to his legacy tonight and help the Braves stave off elimination by defeating the reigning World Series champions at Turner Field, the ballpark that Jones has called home since its opening in 1997.

With Kris Medlen on the mound, the Braves have been literally unbeatable for over a year, as the last time they lost when Medlen started was all the way back in May of 2010. 

It won't be easy—the Cardinals are a proven postseason winner. But without Albert Pujols at the heart of the lineup, they aren't the intimidating offensive juggernaut that they once were.

That, and a team can't really ask for much better motivation than getting a win to allow the most legendary player in the clubhouse to continue his career for another game.

Jones may or may not be the difference-maker in the box score on Friday night, but one has to think that his presence alone is an inspiration to his teammates and that they'll want to thank him by letting him continue to play the game he's been such a big part of for just a little bit longer.

It's the least they could do.