Eric Chavez – The Man Who Played Too Little
This topic probably deserves about 800-1,000 more words than I’m going to give it tonight, if only because I’m an Oakland A’s fan. But I’m going to do what the A’s haven’t been able to do with Eric Chavez these past couple of years; I’m going to cut the cord, quick and painless.
Well, as painlessly as I can.
Chavy was supposed to be great. The one that wouldn’t and didn’t get away. The problem was, he should have. The problem is, he didn’t.
Whether GM Billy Beane passed on keeping two admitted or suspected steroid users around (Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada) to pursue and pay Chavez $66-million over six years doesn’t much matter now. Beane inked him to the deal and the A’s have been paying for it ever since.
It’s awfully hard to win the division when your supposed superstar can’t stay on the field. With the back surgery he is slated to have, Chavez will have made his way under the knife five times since 2007. He has played in only 107 games since the start of that season. You can’t be productive if you aren’t on the field.
Which leads us to my main point. Yes, Chavy’s career has taken a depressing turn, seamlessly going from a young budding defensive wizard, with some offensive upside to boot (sounds a lot like Dwight Howard, whom we just watched in the NBA Finals), to a run-down, worn-out, made of glass, shell of a player overnight. But the problem was in the projection.
Realistically, Chavy just wasn’t that good. Sure he had a great glove and a pretty good arm to go with it, but he was never going to be the .290, 40 home run guy we all wanted him to be – and tricked ourselves into believing he would some day turn into.
He was an impatient hitter with decent pop, who couldn’t lay off anything on the outer half, up or down. It’s what he was. He hit over 30 home runs only twice and above .277 just once in a full season. His career OBP stands at .351, not terrible, but nothing worth bragging about, or All-Star worthy either.
Chavez never made a mid-season classic. Not once, even in an age where every team must have a representative. And the A’s have had quite a few stinkers since 2002. Think about it, Justin Duchscherer even made an appearance one year. Duke is no slouch, but an All-Star? Chavez was a notoriously slow starter, who often didn’t get it going until July.
Many of Chavez’s high profile teammates from the frat house days, have either been outed, or suspected performance enhancers, and surely the wolves will cry foul on Chavy and his brittle body since a certain burly first baseman went East. They will say when on it (whatever “it” is), Chavy was healthy and off it he wasn’t. I certainly won’t think it’s fair if writers accuse him, lack of facts be darned, but then again, I won’t blame them. I can’t blame anyone who asks the million dollar (66 million in the case of Chavez) and assumes it true, unless proven otherwise. That’s how baseball is these days.
But I don’t think it’s true. I don’t think Chavy used.
I just think this is an unfortunate case of a player with expectations much grander than he could ever fulfill. The kid never had a chance. It didn’t help that he couldn’t stay on the field.
Chavez was never the superstar we so badly yearned for him to be, but at least he won six gold gloves. A pretty good run, when you think about it.