On Wednesday, the Oakland Athletics announced that designated hitter Eric Chavez had been moved from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list. In some cases, it's not a good sign for the player to attempt a successful comeback in that same season. Chavez has been out since May 22 with neck spasms; he would be eligible to return on July 20 but reports are saying a September return is more likely.
It was reported last week that Chavez was expected to resume baseball-related activities for rehab some time after the All Star break. It's hard to foresee how Chavez's body is healed up and if he would be able to come back to be an effective player.
This is a sad turn for the 32-year-old Chavez. The six-time Gold Glove winner hasn't played more than 100 games in a season since 2006. Since then, his power numbers have diminished and his mobility has disappeared. Early in spring training, the A's even pondered about having Chavez play at first base this season — an idea that just did not make sense due to his recent health issues. Throughout this entire season, Chavez just wasn't the type of hitter that the A's could afford in their lineup. Especially not as a designated hitter.
Chavez is the last player from the Moneyball era (2000-2003) in which the A's used strong pitching, at-bats with walks and home runs, and a load of statistics to make the playoffs each of those four seasons. Every year it seemed like the team was destined to make it to the World Series. Unfortunately, the A's were eliminated in the first round each of those four seasons.
During that time when Chavez was playing every day, he would dazzle me with his defense. When he first came up to The Show, people questioned his defense and said that his swing might be his best skill. In a couple seasons, he showed how his glove became the staple of his baseball career.
After the 2003 season, the A's had a decision to make. They had to decide on whether to keep free agent shortstop Miguel Tejada or secure Chavez to a long-term deal. The A's stayed with Chavez, hoping that his potential to be the face of the organization would blossom for the young A's team. But only after three seasons into his six-year, $66 million extension, the disabled list became Chavez's new home.
It's sad to see the end to a promising career so soon. For me, Chavez was one of the players that helped me get into the A's when I was a young teenager. He was a raw talent that had so much potential with the team. He even graced the cover of a video game after belting 29 home runs the previous season.
One of my fondest memories of being a young A's fan was when I was the Coliseum to witness Chavez go for the Cycle back in 2000. I even told my friend at the game that Chavez needed to hit a homer to complete the cycle. Immediately after I said that, Chavez went deep to center. I have kept the ticket to that game.
And there are other things about Chavez that I still hold dear to me. I had never put up any Oakland A's posters in my room until 2005. That first poster was of Eric Chavez. And when I was looking through my collections of autographed balls, I still remember when I first got Chavez's signature. I also still have my Chavez bobblehead I received as part of a stadium giveaway. He was, to me, the biggest star on the team.
Even this season, Chavez helped the team get out of a funk. Earlier this year, Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes had a no-hitter against the A's until Chavez's infield single broke it up late in the game. I was fortunate enough to record it and put it on YouTube. That may probably be the last time I would see Chavez live at a game.
He has been a good person within the organization. He never once complained about anything that caused trouble in the clubhouse and never became a problem with the media. He knew that his health was declining and understood that if he couldn't make it back, that he wouldn't try to stick around. There was so much optimism before this season began. But at the same time, a lot of people prepared themselves for another DL stint.
It's hard to try to put in perspective Chavez's career with the Athletics. On one hand, his defense was tremendous and just blew my mind away every time he'd make a barehanded throw. But because of his health, he never could develop into that consistent power hitter. He didn't have a Hall of Fame career and he didn't provide any spectacular moments in the playoffs. He didn't lead the A's to a championship. He was a good player; just not great.
All he was to the organization was a consistent hard worker who unfortunately had a body that couldn't give what the team needed. I will forever respect Chavez and what he did with the organization. It's an occurrence that happens in sports: where constant injuries lead to an end of a career. I hope this isn't the end for him, but it looks like he might have no other choice. We'll just see on July 20th if he is physically able to return.
He is still loved by fans around Oakland and when he eventually announces his retirement, I'll giving him a standing ovation and ask for a final curtain call. He deserves it.
Chavez has done a lot for me and my love for the game of baseball. And whatever happens to him from now on, I just hope that he continues to live with the same optimism he has had his entire career with the A's. Like some of his memorable walk-off hits, that's going to send me home happy.