They will boo him, of course.
Because they always did and because, in a way, that is the best goodbye New York Mets fans can offer Chipper Jones.
It is a jeer, to be sure, but also a salute to the man who killed their team throughout his illustrious career, which will end this season.
This weekend will mark the last stop for Jones in Citi Field, and certainly the fans will offer their usual sarcastic “Larrrry” serenade, tweaking the Braves third baseman by calling him by his given name.
But along with the usual derision will likely be a sadness of sorts, saying goodbye to a player who earned respect with his results, as painful as they might have been for the Mets. Jones hit .313 with 19 homers and 55 RBI at Shea Stadium, starting in his rookie year when his ninth-inning home run won a game for Atlanta. He was so productive at the Mets’ old home that he famously — or infamously — named one of his children “Shea.”
There will likely be no brother or sister named “Citi” — Jones has hit just .208 there with three homers and 14 RBI. But the lasting memory is of Jones as a Mets-killer.
With his exit comes the frustration and disappointment that the Mets cannot repay him one more time on the field in a big game for both teams. The Mets don’t play big games this time of year anymore. They are far from their heyday in the teams’ rivalry, back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, when the Braves turned the NL East into their personal plaything but the Mets managed to squeeze into the World Series in 2000.
Through it all, it has nearly been a constant that Jones would punish the Mets in New York. That will surely lead to some mixed emotions in another lost year for Mets fans.
“Trust me, if I was a New York fan, I don’t know how I’d feel,” Jones told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “There would be a certain part of me that would appreciate the realm of the career. But, man, that’s a lot of heartache.”
Perhaps the only consolation is that while Mets fans are forced to nod to Jones for his work despite the venom they threw his way, the feeling is apparently mutual.
Aside from the rare truce when Jones gave one of the Mets a big hug in the first game at Shea after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, an emotional scene, the sides have remained bitter rivals.
But Jones said that while Mets fans only recently have begun to show him a grudging respect in social media and street encounters, the whole New York atmosphere has been something he’s savored.
“There’s something about playing on that stage that appeals to me,” Jones told the Journal Constitution. “I think if you can walk onto that stage and be able to tune out what you have to tune out on a nightly basis, playing those teams that were so good — whether the Mets or the Yankees — and be successful, you can be successful on any stage.”
Perhaps in his final trip, Jones can offer Mets fans one small nod of consolation.
He enters the series with 2,714 career hits, leaving him one shy of a tie for 60th place on the all-time major league list. That would bring up a name remembered much more fondly in Flushing.
If Jones gets the hit this weekend, he will tie a former Boston Red Sox first baseman named Bill Buckner.