Atlanta is in a tough position to start 2014. Kris Medlen's going to miss the entire season and Brandon Beachy's now out for the year too. The Braves' staple has always been pitching. While their bullpen has probably taken most of the accolades in recent years, they still have pretty solid starting pitching, and the fact that they have three starters on the shelf is worrisome. You still have the same questions you do at the end of last year as to whether Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton are going to bounce back. It's going to be a battle. Certainly, they're capable.
The Braves won 96 games last year, so they know how to get it done. You just wonder how much adversity at one time they can take. That's the only thing that worries me about this year.
It's important for Atlanta to get off to a good start and serve notice that last year was not a fluke, and that's especially important due to some of the improvements the Nationals made. Obviously, getting Doug Fister from the Tigers was quite a pickup for those guys. Not to mention getting a guy to manage who I respect very much in Matt Williams. Having talked to some of the guys I'm friends with on that club, they like him a lot. And there's no doubt that Stephen Strasburg is the most valuable guy on the Nationals' roster. If he goes out and gets his 35 starts and does what he's capable of, he's the runaway Cy Young winner. He has the best stuff I've ever seen. If Strasburg ever gets to a point where he doesn't make mistakes, watch out. You could be talking about an all-time season.
If Washington gets off to a good start it will be tough to catch. But I thought last year the Nats would win the division easily, and the Braves proved me wrong. They're not going to panic if they get off to a slow start, because they're just going to get healthier and hopefully finish strong.
It can be tough playing with those expectations, but I never looked at high expectations as pressure. I looked at it as exciting. I wanted everyone to expect us to win, because that meant we had a good team, and I was excited about that. If people were picking us to finish third or fourth, that's kind of a downer. When everyone thinks you've got a great team and the talent through the 25-man roster to get it done, that's exciting.
I miss the game, but I'm loving retired life. After seven knee surgeries and two ACL replacements, it was time to go. It was starting to get to the point where I'd be on the road and didn't want to be there. I had my time. I played 19 years in the bigs. How many people can say that? I had a lot of success and great memories, but it got to a point where I didn't know every morning if I'd be able to play that day or not, and that's a lot of undue pressure on the manager and team if I won't be able to play. And when it got to the point where it got to me only playing 100 games a year, I felt like I was doing more harm than good.
I have no regrets, no urges to go back. People have asked me about coaching, and I have absolutely zero desire to get back in uniform right now, because the lifestyle is still part of it. I lived out of a suitcase for 23 years as a professional athlete, and I like my life right now. I like being rooted down and not having to pack my suitcase every three days.
Chipper Jones, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 draft, played for the Atlanta Braves from 1993-2012. He won the 1999 National League MVP award, made eight NL All-Star teams and helped the Braves make the postseason 13 times.