Chipper, Smoltz iron out differences
Teammates had appeared to be trading barbs through media
ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones found himself as the only one issuing a public apology. As for the Braves, they are just sorry that the verbal spat he shared with John Smoltz became public.
When many of the Braves arrived for Sunday night's series finale against the Tigers, they playfully made punching motions in reference to the public disagreement Jones and Smoltz shared on Saturday.
But for Braves general manager John Schuerholz and manager Bobby Cox, this wasn't a laughing matter. Thus, when they got to Turner Field on Sunday afternoon, Smoltz and Jones were summoned to meet with Cox and iron out their differences, which they now both blame on misinterpretation.
"Obviously, there was a misunderstanding," Jones said. "I apologized to [Smoltz] for my comments in yesterday's interviews. He assured me that he wasn't singling me out."
Because he felt Smoltz was questioning the severity of his groin injury, Jones reacted during Saturday's postgame media session. Earlier in the afternoon, he'd returned to the lineup and delivered a solo homer that ended the Braves' drought of 31 consecutive scoreless innings.
But Jones' loudest shot of the day came when he said, "I'm going to play in the rest of the games this year, and somebody I know better not miss a start."
Without any doubt whatsoever, that comment was directly pointed toward the 40-year-old Smoltz, who at least publicly accepted the apology that Jones delivered on Sunday.
"It was a total miscommunication," Smoltz said. "It's over with and it won't be a problem the rest of the time that we're teammates."
After issuing this short statement in front of his locker, Smoltz vanished into the back of the home clubhouse. Seldom at a loss for words, this was all the 40-year-old veteran had to say about the matter. But it was what he said after Friday night's loss to the Tigers that served as the catalyst for this war of words, that has now essentially been swept under the carpet.
With Jones out of Friday's lineup because of discomfort in his right groin region, the recent woes of the Braves' offense were realized with a third consecutive shutout loss. Given that he was the starter who was burdened with this lack of offense, it was understandable for Smoltz to be feeling great frustration.
A couple of Smoltz's postgame comments that seemingly were directed toward Jones' absence were: "This team has faced a lot of adversity before, and the guys who go out there and put it on the line, usually come through;" and "I certainly appreciate the effort of the guys who are on the field busting it, because I'm on the mound busting it just as hard as I can. We all could wish we were feeling better. But that's just the way it is."
Smoltz contends he was saying things hadn't been going well with or without Jones, and whether or not he was in the lineup, the team had to quickly turn things around. But like many others, Jones didn't exactly decipher this same message.
"Even if I did think it was directed at me, and yesterday obviously I did, I still shouldn't have discussed that with [the media]," Jones said. "It wasn't a good example set by either one of us."
In hindsight, Jones wishes he had swallowed his pride and simply approached Smoltz with his frustrations. The two have played together since the 1993 season, longer than any other current Major League duo, and for the most part, they have been civil co-workers.
It wouldn't exactly be appropriate to call these legendary Atlanta athletic figures as being best friends. They'll share occasional rounds of golf together during Spring Training. But at the same time, their only other true bond comes from the fact that they've spent more than a decade together doing everything they can to carry on the Braves' winning tradition.
"This is a non-issue between John and I," Jones said. "We're going to work together to lead this team back to prominence." Jones, who has been on the disabled list once this year, and four times since the start of the 2006 season, admits Smoltz's comments, whether intentional or not, definitely struck a nerve.
"If somebody questions whether or not somebody is hurt, you're questioning their heart, integrity and dignity," Jones said. "Most people don't react [well] to having their heart questioned. I can assure you at no point in my career have I missed a game where I feel I can go out and do a better job than anybody else at third base."
Even though he heard Smoltz's comments during his drive home on Friday, Jones said the message wasn't what motivated him to return to Saturday's lineup. He simply was feeling much better than he had the day before.
Schuerholz wouldn't comment when asked whether he could see how Jones could have felt Smoltz was pointing a finger at him. But the veteran general manager wasn't surprised something like this happened. He was just disappointed that it became one of the hottest topics in the sports world on Sunday.
"Whether it's at the professional level or the collegiate level, when people are together, these things happen," Schuerholz said. "Whatever those things are, whether they are misunderstandings or whatever, they happen. Usually players handle it themselves, and that's going on here."
Cox seemed satisfied with the resolution and even more excited about the possibility that he may never again have to address this issue.
"It's good, and if it wasn't, I wouldn't tell you anyways," Cox said, looking to drive home his belief that there are simply things the public doesn't need to know about his team.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.