Bill King's ghost has just returned from Canton, Ohio, where he spent the weekend providing the play-by-play to all of John Madden's Hall of Fame highlight videos. Just in time, because right now, I desperately need a really good Holy Toledo. Can I please have a Holy Toledo?
This incantation was conjured up by Eric Chavez, who is simply having the most astounding season of fielding I have ever had the pleasure to witness. Great fielding seasons don't get the kind of attention that having a bunch of walkoff hits like David Ortiz gets, but after last night's game, it's obvious to me the Chavez is having a season for the history books. This is defense of Ozzie Smith-Brooks Robinson-Bill Mazeroski's ilk, the kind of defense that deserves to be remembered for generations.
Chavez won his fifth straight gold glove last year, but he won it more on reputation than on merit. His throwing shoulder was hurt, and he was unable at times to make the long throw across the diamond, resulting in a lot more errors than he usually makes. He is injured again in 2006, this time in his forearms, but this injury only affects his batting, not his fielding.
He'll win his sixth gold glove this year. This time, it will be fully deserved. Perhaps some of the defensive metrics will disagree with me, but Eric Chavez is having the greatest fielding season in Oakland A's history.
He only has three errors so far this year, his last one coming on Saturday in Seattle when a bad hop skipped off his glove, ending an A's record 65-game errorless streak. I sometimes think errors are judged by the emotion they generate: are you surprised he didn't make that play? If yes, call it an error. Chavez didn't make the great play to snag that high hop. We're surprised. With a lesser third baseman, it might have been called a hit.
Chavez is making every single play he should make, and adding some jaw-droppers in between. As much as Milton Bradley's walkoff homer might have stunned the Blue Jays into a pennant-hopes-killing funk, and turned the A's fortunes in the other direction, it was Eric Chavez's defense that was the key to that series. Toronto hit rocket after rocket at him, and Chavez kept turning doubles into double plays all weekend long.
The latest jaw-dropper took place last night. With one out, runners on second and third, and Texas one run down, Chavez took a chopper near the bag, and quickly tagged out Mark DeRosa trying to return to third base. Now, I can't ever remember seeing a 5-unassisted at third base like that before, but Chavez didn't stop there. After tagging out DeRosa, he jumped over him into foul territory, planted his feet, and fired across the diamond to throw out the batter, Ian Kinsler. Double play, inning over.
What can you say after a play like that? Only two words come to mind.