There's no denying that Eric Chavez is nowhere near the player he used to be. When your back has been through more wear and tear than Batman's after he got done getting his shit wrecked by Bane (spoiler alert), that's to be expected. He looked about as washed up as a mid-30s player could in his first season with the Yankees in 2011, and I wasn't exactly jumping for joy at the idea of bringing him back again this season.
I'm very happy to say that I was dead wrong about Chavez and I'm even happier to eat any crow I deserve for my lack of faith. Chavez has been both healthy (212 PA already, almost 40 more than last season) and incredibly productive (.284/.344/.511, .359) for the Yankees this season, and has been a key cog in helping overcome issues with injuries and underperformance around the corner infield spots. And now he's added a new wrinkle to his resurgence in the form of being a clubhouse spokesperson. Earlier in the week, Chavez spoke very candidly about the Yankees' recent struggles and his thoughts on the matter:
“There should be a high level of concern. Anybody who says
that there isn’t is lying. You’ve just got to win ballgames, and we’re not
finding a way to do that, and it should be a concern. It’s that time of the year
when, yeah, it’s a concern. We need to start playing good and winning games.”
And yesterday, after receiving a bit of backlash for his previous comment:
“We’ve been losing. So if anybody’s comfortable with that — I
know I wasn’t. We had a nine-game lead two weeks ago, and that’s gone. I just
want to win. I just want to get back to the postseason, and I’d like to have the
biggest lead we possibly can have to do it.”
While I don't necessarily agree with his comments about A-Rod's absence, I'm totally on board with everything Chavez said there and applaud him for speaking his mind.
The Yankee clubhouse and their dealings with the media are always very PC and professional, almost to the point of being boring. Whether or not players feel a certain way, you're almost never going to get them to admit that and speak freely when the microphones and YES cameras are in their faces. It's how the team chooses to handle its business, and that's fine. But there's only so often I can listen to Joe and Jeter spout their same collection of cliches in the same order during a bad stretch of baseball before I start to roll my eyes and tune them out.
These guys aren't robots, they're human beings. And human beings have feelings and emotions and every now and then it's good to let those emotions show. It was refreshing to read Chavez's comments and explanation for his comments because they were the natural human reaction to what has been going on with this team over the past few weeks. I'm sure every guy in that clubhouse is frustrated to a certain degree and I'm positive every guy in there wants to win. It was nice to see Chavez step up and tell it like it was, and hopefully his honesty and candor can help release some of the tension that may be lingering in the clubhouse right now. That's what good veteran leaders do, and good on Chavez for doing it.
His name may not carry the weight it once did around MLB during his heyday, but his production, dedication, professionalism and reputation should. If nobody else wanted to step up and say what Chavez did, then that's their prerogative. But I, for one, am glad Chavez did. It needed to be said and now the Yankees can move forward.
(Quotes courtesy of Chad Jennings at LoHud)