Chris Johnson Has The BAbip Virus
Chris Johnson, third baseman of the Braves, is having a statistically fine year. He’s batting .330, has 10 home runs and 63 RBI – highly respectable numbers that were treated with great import two decades ago. Now, though, Johnson is batting .330 based on a ridiculously lucky BAbip (batting average on balls in play) of .406. He’s also little more than an adequate defensive third baseman who was a throw-in in a massive trade the Braves made with the Diamondbacks to get Justin Upton.
Because Chipper Jones had retired and their other third base option Martin Prado was going to the Diamondbacks in the trade, they needed Johnson to fill the role. That occasionally works out great for the team as is happening with Johnson and happened with the Red Sox being forced to take Mike Lowell after the 2005 season when they wanted Josh Beckett. Lowell went on to win the MVP of the 2007 World Series. No one expected it.
Mentioning Jones is important when discussing why Johnson is such a hot topic of conversation this week and it goes back to the Breaking Bad quote. Johnson needs to understand that just because he’s standing where Jones once did, it doesn’t make him Jones. It doesn’t put him in the position of a future Hall of Famer who played the game the right way and has the right to tell other players – including the opposition – how to play the game correctly. Johnson is not the arbiter of propriety in the game of baseball. That’s why his behavior in the confrontation with Marlins rookie pitcher Jose Fernandez was so silly. Johnson is a player in fourth full big league season. He’s basically still a young player himself on a club with enough veterans like Brian McCann, Dan Uggla, Tim Hudson and Freddy Garcia that it’s not his place to be getting into the faces of opponents when they do something that irks him.
Fernandez hit a home run against the Braves and stood there admiring it like Reggie Jackson. The difference between Reggie’s day and now is that back then, the pitcher wouldn’t have screamed at Reggie and the infielders or catcher wouldn’t have openly challenged and scolded him. The next time he came to the plate, he would’ve gotten knocked on his posterior by a strategically placed fastball. Then, knowing Reggie, he’d have hit another home run. It was the way the game was played. If there was a fight, there would have been a fight.