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MLB.com Columnist

Terence Moore

Will Chipper trade his golf clubs for a bat?

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MLB.com Columnist

Terence Moore

You can't blame New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman for trying to make Chipper Jones do the ridiculous. I mean, there is no way the future Hall of Fame third baseman should switch from 19 seasons wearing a tomahawk across his chest to several days, weeks or months walking around in pinstripes.

So much for logic.

In case you haven't noticed, logic is no match for adrenaline or even money when it comes to an eternal truth in sports: Athletes wish to play forever, especially if they were slightly better than good.

Retirement? Well, to most of these folks, "retirement" is just a silly little word waiting to be replaced by "comeback."

Exhibit A: Tony Gonzalez, the future Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end for the Atlanta Falcons. He announced his retirement before last season. Then, after his team finished just 10 yards shy of winning the Super Bowl, he delivered a tearful goodbye in the locker room.

Gonzalez basically said on Tuesday, "Never mind."

What took him so long? If you're a retired athlete, and if you can breath and lift a couple of fingers, you're always seconds away from convincing yourself to resurrect your old glory.

Which brings us back to Cashman and Jones.

The Yankees GM delivered an SOS through reporters earlier this week to Jones and to others in search of help for his team's injury-depleted roster on a short-term basis. The Yankees mostly are desperate for a third baseman or a first baseman since they've lost Alex Rodriguez (hip) and Mark Teixeira (wrist) to injuries.

Enter Jones, 40, who has spent his last few years with the Braves needing a slew of things stronger than Elmer's Glue each day to keep his feet, knees, ankles and toes from falling apart.

Still, Cashman spent this week with Georgia on his mind. He kept recalling how Jones used his nearly peerless switch-hitting skills to make the Braves one of the most consistent threats in the Major Leagues through the 1990s and beyond.

Jones eventually responded to Cashman with a tweet: "Enough with the rumors! While I am flattered about the speculation of being enticed out of retirement, I'm happy with life as a bad golfer!"

Later, Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "I'm flattered, but no. My knees can no longer take playing baseball at its highest level. Plus I can't imagine donning any uniform other than a Braves uni! I'm looking forward to being more of a father to my boys and a better hack on the golf course!"

Even though Jones declined the Yankees' offer without the hint of backtracking, he only did so for the moment. Which means you couldn't fault Cashman for trying again in the future.

It ain't over 'till its over.

Just couldn't resist that reference to the great Yogi Berra, who really did retire without returning.

Come to think of it, Berra also came back.

He tried to stay away, though. After 18 years as the Yankees' catcher through 1963, Berra retired to manage the Yankees to the 1964 American League pennant. He was fired after they lost the World Series, and then bolted to become a coach for the New York Mets.

Before long, Berra felt that playing itch again, and it was scratched after he was activated by the Mets near the end of April 1965 as a pinch-hitter. He played in four games overall for the Mets, and started two of them, but Berra was released after hitting .222.

Nobody ever said comebacks were pretty.

Not that such a thing matters to those returning. Their nagging pull to leave retirement starts with that adrenaline, which ranks among the most addictive forces on earth.

The examples are plentiful, and they span the sports world. While tennis standout Kim Clijsters prospered after her comeback, Michael Jordan, Brett Favre and the majority of those returning boxers of yore produced mixed results or worse.

Andy Pettitte joined Clijsters as an exception.

The gifted left-hander retired from baseball after the 2010 season despite three trips to the All-Star Game, five World Series rings and lots of zip left in his pitching arm. He stayed away from the Major Leagues during the 2011 season, but Pettitte joined the Yankees in the spring of 2012 as a pitching instructor.

Soon, Pettitte was back in the Yankees' starting rotation, where he remains effective and vibrant today.

Could Jones become the Yankees' latest Pettitte? Not only does Cashman suggest as much, but so does Jones' 2012 season.

In only 112 games, Jones hit .287 with 14 home runs and 62 RBIs. Plus, all of those numbers were clutch enough from the middle of the Braves' batting order to have Hall of Famer Barry Larkin praising Jones over the phone near the end of last season.

Larkin noted that, since Jones had lost zero bat speed in his estimation, Jones still had enough left to play a couple of more years as a designated hitter in the AL -- you know, at worst.

At best, well, you know what Cashman thinks.

The question is: What does Jones think? The answer is: It likely depends on what that adrenaline is telling him at the moment.

Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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