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Oakland A's Eric Chavez Should Retire

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 05:  Eric Chavez #3 of the Oakland Athletics bats against the Seattle Mariners on Opening Day at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on April 5, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Tom DubberkeCorrespondent IMay 24, 2010

As you probably know, Eric Chavez is back on the disabled list with what an MRI shows to be a bulging disk in his neck. Chavez admits that the new injury may be career threatening, but he is unwilling to make any decisions about retirement at this time.

Chavez should seriously consider wrapping up his career. Adding neck issues to his many past back problems suggests that he’s going to have life long problems with his spinal cord, even if Chavez never plays baseball again.

He isn’t helping the A’s, either. And as a designated hitter that can’t hit, he’s taking up a valuable roster spot. 

The A’s have shown a lot of loyalty to Chavez, which probably has more to do with his remaining (and untradable) contract obligations than compassion. But it’s time to swallow what remains of his last year under contract, and move on.

Chavez has to be one of the biggest disappointments of the last ten years. If not the biggest. 

He had tremendous talent and potential. I still think the A’s made the right decision (at least at the time they made it) by giving Chavez a long-term contract.

The contract has turned into a big mistake. But the move seemed justified at the time, based on Chavez’s age and past performance. 

Teams like the A’s need to take calculated risks to be successful, given their meager revenue streams. At the time, the Chavez contract was a risk worth taking.

That being said, nothing is certain in this world. Sometimes players suddenly break down and never come back.

I can’t help but wonder whether steroids played a part in Chavez’s untimely demise. It’s somewhat unfair to accuse Chavez of steroid use, particularly when there have never been any allegations surrounding him.

Chavez deserves the benefit of the doubt. It's likely that he never used steroids.  However, I also think that it’s at least a possibility, given the rampant use of steroids by A’s players (Canseco, McGwire, Miguel Tejada, the Giambi brothers) during the relevant period. And Chavez’s sudden physical breakdown started at 28, at the same time steroids testing started in force.

There is substantial evidence that steroids are hard on an athlete’s joints, and joint injuries (shoulder, back and now neck) have ruined Chavez’s career.

This is all circumstantial evidence, of course. Plenty of players have looked like all-time greats, only to have their bodies break down in their late 20′s. Most of these players were through by their early 30′s.

As I wrote last year, when there was a tempest in a teapot over a blogger’s post that suggested Raul Ibanez’s hot 2009 may have had something to do with PED use, all players from the 1986-2005 era will have to live with suspicions of steroid use.

Steroids were rampant in the game. The players’ association could have done more to clean up the sport. But they didn’t take action until a gun was pointed at their collective heads by Congress. 

As such, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the “innocent” players who never actually used steroids, but are tarred by the brush of the many who did.

For about five years there, Eric Chavez was a truly great player. Especially when you take his defense and his home park (the Oakland Coliseum is a terrible place to hit — too much foul territory and the ball doesn’t carry well there) into account. 

Hopefully, in ten years’ time, A’s fans will remember the great years Eric Chavez had in the green and yellow, and not the disappointing, premature end to his career.

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