Hall of Famer Chipper Jones joining ESPN broadcast booth: ‘I always wanted to be on TV’

MESA, Ariz. — Chipper Jones has never been afraid to speak his mind and that's exactly what ESPN is counting on, signing him to a contract that will be announced Monday afternoon.

Jones, 47, enters the ESPN broadcast booth as an analyst for the network's Wednesday night and holiday games, with an eye of becoming part of the Sunday night crew in the future. 

The game is reeling in the aftermath of the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal and attendance has gone down four consecutive years. 

Baseball, now than ever, could use an influx of personality.

“I understand where everyone is emotionally towards the game right now,’’ Jones told USA TODAY Sports. “Scandal after scandal. Black eye after black eye. We’re all kind of frustrated with it. If I didn’t have allegiance to the Atlanta Braves, and the relationship with guys, I probably wouldn’t watch much of the game, either."

Jones, an eight-time All-Star with Atlanta, believes he can offer viewers a fresh perspective. He hopes that he and John Sciambi, who broadcast Atlanta’s games for three years when Jones played, can regale viewers with their colorful banter when the game gets dull.

But it's left to be seen whether Jones' more traditional perspective resonates with viewers as Major League Baseball tries to market itself towards a younger audience. Don't expect him to tout MLB's "let the kids play" campaign or do a deep-dive into advanced statistics.

“I’m old-school,’’ Jones said. "The 'let the kids play' thing rubs me the wrong way. I’m from the Bobby Cox school of things. The flair, the amount of mustard and ketchup, it’s hard to watch."

And analytics?

“We used data and information as much as anyone when I played," Jones says. "But now that a lot of smart people are saying it, it kind of turns off the old-school guys."

Chipper Jones was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018. (Photo: Brett Davis, USA TODAY Sports)

When it comes to the Astros scandal, Jones is upset Houston resorted to cheating considering how talented the team was.

Yet, he also has sympathy towards the players, particularly the rookies and young players in 2017, who may have known it was morally wrong, but felt powerless to stand up and say so.

“I do understand how that fraternity-type pecking order goes in MLB clubhouses," Jones said. “If you have coaches and players with a lot of cache behind them, they do what they do, and other players are going to follow. So I kind of get it.

“It will be interesting to see how teams handle it. The players always police the game. I could see retribution throughout the year."

Despite the anger towards commissioner Rob Manfred for not disciplining the Astros players involved in the sign-stealing, Jones refuses to join. If the players were not granted immunity, he believes that no one would have ever found out the truth.

“I know a lot of people are upset with MLB, but I think they had to do it that way," Jones said. "If not, we may never have known what happened. It would have been, 'No comment' or, 'hey, it wasn’t me.’’’

And, if not for former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers blowing the whistle, perhaps the Astros don’t go down, either. There is no known whistle-blower in the Red Sox investigation, which has impeded honest testimony.

Jones still isn’t sure how he feels about Fiers going public.

“I probably would have handled it differently than he did," Jones said. “I probably would have gone to my superiors in the organization and let them go to MLB. And once subpoenaed by MLB, I would have told my story. But I can’t fault him if organizations are going to this length to cheat. It needs to stop.

“That’s what’s so shocking about this is the brashness, how cavalier it was. Rosters get turned over, and the word gets out eventually. But this was a concerted effort. This wasn’t a guy bringing his VHS camera from home. This took funding from an organization to set this up. This is cavalier A-1 shenanigans.’’

Still, Jones is convinced the game will overcome this. It just takes time. And some luck.

“I’m not worried about it, the game has a way of bouncing back," Jones said. “In my career, we survived the strike. We survived steroid issues. Now, we have to deal with a different scandal. But time heals all wounds.

“Hopefully, some of the game’s superstars take this opportunity to lift the game up, and get everyone invigorated and captivated.

“I’m hoping I can help, too. Really, I always wanted to be on TV.

“Now, I guess I get to see if I’m any good at it."

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