Joel Sherman of the New York Post just tweeted that, while there’s nothing official yet, he’s hearing that Yankees utilityman Eric Chavez is “leaning heavily” toward retirement.
Chavez had more plate appearances this year than he had had since 2007 — a whole 175 of them — but the magic is long gone. He hit .263/.320/.356 with two homers in a utility role that, thanks to yet more injuries, was more limited than it otherwise would have been given A-Rod’s injuries. It’s hard to conclude anything other than “it’s time.”
There was a time several years ago, however, when it looked like Chavez was a Hall of Famer in the making. From 2000-2006 he hit .273/.352/.495 with 199 homers while winning six gold gloves. Believing that he was the future of the franchise, the A’s gave him a six-year, $66 million contract in 2005. Sadly, injuries started to plague him a year later and he never played in 100 games after 2006.
If this is the end, it represents the end of one of the more notable “what if” careers in recent baseball history. And reminds us that durability, however unsexy it may be, is perhaps the most underrated trait for an elite baseball player.
Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times has an outstanding profile of former Rays prospect Brandon Martin, who is currently in jail for allegedly murdering three men nearly two years ago.
Fenno describes Martin’s erratic personality as he became a highly-touted baseball prospect who then descends into drug use. Friends described Martin has having completely changed into an unrecognizable person. Martin had repeated conflicts with friends and family such that police reports became common and he was placed in a psychiatric facility. Sadly, the facility only held him for less than 48 hours. He would allegedly murder three people upon returning home: his father, his brother-in-law, and a home security system contractor. Martin fled from police, who eventually caught up to him and subdued him with the help of a police dog.
Fenno’s profile is really worth a read, so click here to check it out.
Martin, 23, was selected by the Rays in the first round (38th overall) of the 2011 draft. He spent three years in the Rays’ system, reaching as high as Single-A Bowling Green.
On Sunday, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes was ejected for throwing at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado‘s head. It was revenge for a slide of Machado’s which ended up injuring Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Barnes was suspended four games.
Hall of Famer and former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez said that if he were in Barnes’ shoes, he would have also thrown at Machado, although not necessarily at his head. Via ESPN’s Scott Lauber:
If I was pitching, I was going to drill Machado, as much as I love him. The only thing I would’ve done differently is probably bring the ball a little bit lower.
Martinez added that Machado “did not intend to hurt Pedroia. And I know that because I know Machado.” And he doesn’t think Barnes meant to throw at Machado’s head.
Martinez, of course, was certainly a pitcher who wasn’t afraid to pitch inside to batters and even hit a few of them when he felt he or his teammates had been wronged. This is an unfortunate part of baseball’s culture and the fact that it continues means that it will eventually result in someone being seriously hurt. It’s disappointing that Martinez isn’t willing to be a better role model now that his playing days are over. Martinez could have set an example for today’s pitchers by saying what Barnes did crossed a line. Getting a Hall of Famer’s seal of approval will only embolden players now when they feel they must defend their teammates’ honor.
The “tradition” of beaning batters to defend one’s teammates is anachronistic in today’s game, especially when Major League Baseball has made strides in so many other ways recently to protect players’ safety.