Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A’s Favorites – Eric Chavez

Next in line in the “A’s Favorites” series brings us into the 21st century and another great third basemen for the franchise, Eric Chavez.   Again, as a quick reminder, the genesis of this series is from a thread on Athletics Nation regarding who were some of each poster’s favorite players from the past.  My responses within that thread were grouped together by era:

80’s and early 90’s – Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, and Carney Lansford
Late 90’s and early 2000’s – Tim Hudson and Eric Chavez
Recent departures – Kurt Suzuki

Career Summary

Eric Chavez was taken in the first round (10th overall) of the 1996 draft by the Athletics and quickly made his way through their farm system.  He was called up in the fall of 1998 to begin his major league career.  At the age of 20, he hit .311 in his 16 games of the 1998 season.  He became the A’s third baseman the following year and by 2000, he was becoming known as one of the best all-around third basemen in the game.  Working with then Assistant Coach Ron Washington extensively, Chavez became the premier defensive third baseman in baseball, winning the gold glove award six straight seasons from 2001-2006.

From 2000-2006, Chavez was a key cog in the A’s (somewhat limited) success.  Aside from his glove, he provided a consistent bat in the middle of the lineup - .273 BA, 199 HR’s, 660 RBI’s, 1,041 hits and 467 walks during this time span.  Times were good, particularly when the A’s resigned Chavez in 2004 to a 6 year, $66 million contract.  Fans were certainly not used to seeing the club resigning core members of the squad for big money. 

However, those good vibes didn’t last too long.  While it started to rear its head in 2006, the 2007 season was where things started to deteriorate for Chavez’s health.  In 2007, Eric played in 90 games for the A’s and then seemed to hit a wall when he turned 30 years of age.  In his final three years in Oakland from 2008-2010, Chavez only played in a total of 64 games (out of 486 regular season games available).  Back pain was the major culprit for Eric, but he also suffered from problems with his shoulder. 

The A’s declined Chavez’s option after the 2010 season and he went on to sign with the Yankees.  The injuries continued for Chavez during the 2011 season, including a broken bone in his foot while rounding the bases.  (I actually remember this happening and just putting my head down and shaking it in disbelief.)

The Yankees resigned Eric for the 2012 season and he put up very respectable numbers, replacing Alex Rodriguez as the regular third baseman for the team.  In 113 games played last season, Eric hit .281 with 16 HR’s and 37 RBI’s.  This isn’t necessarily lighting the world on fire, but it was a nice comeback from the veteran. 

While not a highlight in his career summary, Eric’s numbers in the playoffs display a noticeable drop-off vs. his career averages.  The two good series that he had (vs. the Yankees in 2000 and vs. the Twins in 2002) were both losses for the team.  The cynic in you could point out that the “it” factor wasn’t necessarily there come October.  

What drew me to … Eric Chavez

Chavez was a very popular figure in the A’s clubhouse and became a very, very good player.  There are a few things that really drew me to Chavez, some baseball-related, some not so much: 
  1. Chavez fit in perfectly with the loose clubhouse the A’s had at the time.  His persona on camera was one that was calm, cool, and collected. 
  2. Resigning with the A’s for the $66 million vs. grabbing every last nickel really impressed me.  
  3. The amount of work that he seemingly put in at third base to become a premier defensive player. 
  4. There were rumors floating around that Eric would wear a white mink coat when he “hit the town” (speaking in code) and for some reason I thought / still think this is awesome.  (If anyone can confirm this with a picture, I would be forever indebted to you.)
Where is Eric Chavez now?

We may see Chavez in an Arizona Diamondbacks uniform this coming season, as he agreed to a one year contract with the team pending a physical.  The National League version of the Oakland Athletics added another piece of the A’s past.  Best of luck to Eric this upcoming spring / season!

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