Sunday, January 17, 2010
A's of the Decade: Third Base – Eric Chavez
Years: 1998 – 2009
Other Candidates: Jack Hannahan (2008); Adam Kennedy (2009)
Summary: The most (unfairly) maligned – including by me, at times – A's player in at least the previous three decades and quite possibly in team history. From 2000 – 2004, he hit .280/.357/.513 and won six Gold Gloves during the 2000s. He signed a six-year, $66 million extension just before the 2004 season and hit only .250/.326/.441 from 2005 – 2009, missing about half of the '07 season and virtually all of 2008-09.
Three things turned the fans against him, but only one had real merit: (1) The contract – A's fans whine that ownership won't retain homegrown talent, so when the A's pony up, A's fans whine that ownership retained the wrong guy. (2) No emotion – Chavez never played with Darin Erstad's eternal scowl or Eric Byrnes' false hustle, so fans perceived him as aloof and disinterested despite being better at his peak than guys like Erstad and Byrnes. (3) The media coddling – Make no mistake: Chavez deserved some blame. He never adjusted to LHP (career .699 OPS) and his retroactive excuses for his poor play seemed straight from a Serena Williams press conference. But, the Bay Area media never, ever, ever took the guy to task. For anything. And, for the past few seasons, they've bought Chavez's annual bunk about "feeling great" and being "in the best shape of his career" only to have to eat their words as soon as Chavez took the field.
Favorite A's Moment: On August 31, 2002, with the A's and Twins tied at 3, Minnesota left-handed reliever JC Romero – who entered the game with a 1.51 ERA – intentionally walked A's SS Miguel Tejada to load the bases with two outs for Chavez. As usual in these clutch situations, Chavez swung at the first pitch. But instead of fouling out or rolling over the top of an off-speed pitch, Chavez cued a broken-bat single that drove in two. It was the deciding hit in the A's 17th straight win.
Runner-Up: Adam Kennedy, I guess. As long as we ignore his stats from July 1 thru August 31 (.655 OPS) or his atrocious glove at the hot corner.
Worst of the Decade: Jack Hannahan