There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of “you either die a hero or live long enough to become a villain.” It’s crap, really, but it makes me think about Chipper Jones. Ole Chopper has pretty much experienced the complete opposite phenomenon in 2012. After announcing this season would be his last, Chipper has taken a highly successful victory lap around the Major Leagues. While only playing in 81 games this season, Chipper is doing exactly what Chipper has always done: posting a .300/.400/.500 line (.310/.390/.514 to be exact) and hitting home runs when it matters — including two on his own bobblehead night!

While the stat line is the same, the story is much different. Instead of being the irascible redneck killing the Mets and making enemies at every National League spot. Blame twitter if you like (either the twitterverse at large of Jones’ alarmingly entertaining personal feed) but suddenly an air of good will surrounds the long-time Barves third baseman, as baseball fans begrudgingly acknowledge a great player in his final season.

Unlike the nostalgia-tinged good byes of players like Cal Ripken or Craig Biggio, Chipper Jones has been legitimately great in his final year. According to Baseball Reference, if this is indeed the final season of his career, it will go down as one of the best final seasons of all time.

This list features players in their age 40 season or older, only. And Chipper ranks second with another 100+ potential plate appearances to come. Of all players to end their career on their own terms, Chipper might be putting together one of the finest swan songs we’ve ever seen.

Which will, naturally, lead to speculation that the old dog might shelve his brush-clearing projects for the summer, returning for ANOTHER victory lap in 2013. Judging by some recent comments, Chipper will stick to his guns and walk away after this year. If it is a decision he came to with his family, a decision he can live with, here’s hoping he does stay away.

The surprising good will Chipper built up over the last few years might just allow him to Favre in and out of our lives for the next few Marches, but nobody actually wants that. Let Chipper walk away into the sunset, perhaps with a final playoff go for his Braves. Congrats, Larry. You had a hell of a career.

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