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Praise Be for Eric Chavez, Deity of Fielding
2006-08-08 09:33
by Ken Arneson

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?

Holy Toledo!

Thanks, Bill.

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.

Mouth agape.

What can you say after a play like that? Only two words come to mind.

2006-08-08 10:00:06
1.   Cliff Corcoran
Alex Rodriguez, who blows very hot and cold at third base, made a play like that in the July 1, 2004 exta-inning game against the Red Sox at home that remains one of the best in recent Yankee history.

Game tied in the eleventh, Ortiz and Ramirez lead off with singles against Rivera and move up to second and third when the throw in from Ramirez's single skips past Rodriguez at third. Torre has Mo walk Varitek, so it's bases loaded, none out, tie game eleventh inning. Kevin Millar hits a hot-shot would-be double up the third base line, but Rodriguez smothers it, tags the bag to force Ramirez coming from second (5 unassisted), then, from his knees, fires home to get pinch-runner Gabe Kapler. Double play.

Mo got the last out of the eleventh, Jeter made his dive into the stands in the twelfth overshadowing Rodriguez's more valuable play, the Red Sox scored one in the top of the 13th, and the Yankees scored two to win in the bottom of the 13th.

One fun side note to Rodriguez's play. After Alex threw home to get Kapler, Posada threw back to third and Rodriguez tagged Ramirez. He and half the stadium thought he had just turned a triple play, but the umpires politely reminded him, as we all figured it out on our own, that Ramirez had already been forced out to start the play. Yes "we," I had seats in the front of the upper deck behind home for that game. Sweet.

2006-08-08 13:17:55
2.   Schteeve
Cliff, you are my here sometimes.
2006-08-09 07:38:35
3.   clearingskies
If the A's win the AL West, I think it will be with defense.
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Best of luck battling for the AL West title the rest of the way,
Walter Roark (editor)

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