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.
Back during the 2015 playoffs the sorts of New York media types who love to find reasons to criticize players for petty reasons decided to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for playing golf the day of a playoff game. The Mets won the series with the Cubs during which the controversy, such as it was, occurred and it was soon dropped.
It was picked back up again in 2016 when Cespedes, while on the disabled list with a strained quad, was seen playing golf. Despite the fact that everyone involved said that golf did not contribute to his injury and that golf would have no impact on his injured quad, it was deemed “a bad look” by a columnist looking to get some mileage out of bashing Cespedes for having a hobby that probably half of all ballplayers share. They did it when he showed off his fancy cars too, by the way, even though just about every ballplayer has a fancy car or three. When you’re a superstar in New York — especially when you’re one with whom the media is not particularly close for various reasons — you’re going to catch hell for seemingly nothing.
Now there’s a new twist to the Cespedes golf saga. Yoenis himself says that his poor start — he’s hitting .195/.258/.354 and leads the league in strikeouts — is due to . . . not enough golf! From the New York Times:
He gave a possible reason for the poor start this weekend: not playing enough golf, a hobby beloved by many baseball players. And, yes, he is serious.
“In previous seasons, one of the things I did when I wasn’t going well was to play golf,” he said after a game on Friday in which he struck out four times but still drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning. “This year, I’m not playing golf.”
The story says Cespedes quit golf last summer because he worried that it was contributing to hamstring problems. He’s thinking about going back to it soon, as he thinks it’ll help his swing. Given that he’ll catch hell either way, he may as well do what he wants.