Jones' farewell tour is better than any you'll see in the music industry. This season, he's not only been every bit of the future Hall of Famer he's been for 19 years, but he has the Braves primed to make a postseason push. Yet, despite the success, the third baseman is sticking to his guns, insisting that this season will be his last no matter what.
The steadfast loyalty to his decision is a refreshing change of pace in an age when so many athletes either hang on as their skills deteriorate until they can no longer find work or walk away only to return one, two, 17 times before their career is finally officially over.
Now, I must admit that I subscribe to the theory that when a player decides to call it quits is his business, and we aren't in any position to tell someone when he should or shouldn't retire. So if Jones ends up having a change of heart, all the power to him, as it would be a personal decision that baseball fans must respect. That doesn't mean a player's decision doesn't have the power to disappoint, though.
This isn't to say Jones suddenly changing course would be a total disappointment. It's not as if he's some guy most fans want out of the game, and a return would actually give us the pleasure of watching one of the best switch-hitters in baseball history for one more season. However, returning in 2013 would be a bit of a letdown because of how special, how unique, how awesome and how fitting Jones' farewell tour has been.
In many ways, Jones walking away after this season represents how many athletes would probably like to go out, especially those who just eventually fade away despite enjoying careers worthy of a Jones-like sendoff.
Jones entered Thursday's game hitting .343 since June 19, and then proceeded to smack two home runs as Atlanta cruised to a 6-0 win. He now has 12 home runs, 53 RBIs, a .315 average, and his on-base percentage sits at an impressive .391 in 76 games. Those numbers are impressive for anybody, but they're even more so for a 40-year-old veteran in the midst of riding off into the sunset.
Understandably, the calls for a return are louder than ever. Perhaps we jumped the gun in writing Jones off following a few seasons that could be considered "down years" by his standards. Perhaps we didn't fully realize what we had in Jones until it was announced that it would soon be taken away. Or perhaps it's just that it might be a while before someone with the same mix of skill, class, charm and likeability comes along. We're talking about a guy who seems to represent all that is good in baseball, a game that has suffered its fair share of black eyes in recent years, so hanging on to what we have seems pretty logical at first glance.
But despite all of the good qualities Jones still provides, we should probably just sit back and enjoy the ride, as we have all season, rather than suddenly clamoring for him to come back. Why waste energy on something that isn't going to happen when that energy could be spent appreciating what is currently before us?
Jones' decision to retire is his and only his, but his career has been shared by all. Now it's time to share the peace with which he made his decision, and soak up what continues to be a phenomenal last hurrah.