Originally created 07/09/02

Chipper wonders if fame is worth price



ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones is on pace to drive in at least 100 runs for the seventh straight season, and the Atlanta Braves have the best record in the major leagues. He also makes $15 million a year.

But sometimes he wishes he was in another line of work.

"If I had known when I was 7 or 8 years old what I know now, I would have done something else," Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Being famous is not all it's cracked up to be. You have to make a lot of concessions. You have to spend a lot of time away from home. You have to miss a lot of firsts - first steps, first words."

Despite his current 4-for-37 slump, Jones enters the All-Star break with an average of .307 with 51 RBIs. But he's hit only nine home runs - on pace for the lowest total of his career - and he's missing the All-Star game for just the third time.

Jones has grown increasingly frustrated with the price of fame, whether it be jeering from the hometown fans or the inability to leave his hotel room on the road.

"When you're younger, it's cool," he said. "It's new to you. It's like eating chocolate chip cookies. I've been in pro ball for 12 years, four in the minors, that's 12 years of eating chocolate chip cookies. I'm a little sick of it.

"I'm not complaining, because the pros definitely outweigh the cons. The perks are outstanding. But I really hate it when people put me on a pedestal and expect me to act differently because of who I am."

Jones' move from third base to left field has forced him to make more adjustments. On the field, he appears more comfortable, but he hasn't gotten used to hearing the insults from the cheap seats.

At third, he was insulated somewhat from the fans, but in left field, they're right on top of him. He said about 90 percent of what he hears is positive.

"It's like a culture shock," said teammate Gary Sheffield, who moved from third to the outfield with the Florida Marlins in 1994.

"You're not aware of a lot of things that happen when you're concentrating on every pitch as an infielder," Sheffield said. "People aren't as vicious behind the dugout as they are in the bleachers."

Jones hears about strikeouts and errors, but also has not lived down an affair with a Hooters waitress early in his career, which led to the end of his first marriage and brought him his first son.

"It's like no matter what I do, a lot of people will only think about the bad stuff," Jones said. "That happened five years ago. Let it go. When is enough enough?"

If he's in a good mood, he shrugs off the insults. If not, he takes a different approach.

"I'll challenge them," said Jones. "If you have that much hatred, climb right over the wall and get you some.

"A lot of them shut up. I've yet to have one come over the wall. Once they come over the wall, they're fair game."

It's all enough to make Jones think about retirement.

"There are certain things about this game that I don't like, that may influence me to bow out earlier than some people think," he said. "But I'm not to that point yet.

"I'm happiest when you take all the sounds out of the game. If you could play baseball with a mute button, it would be great."