PHOENIX — Retirement.
Eric Chavez admitted he had been thinking about it for the past three seasons before finally making it official on Wednesday, putting an end to a 17-year Major League career.
“Just the winning, just loved the opportunity to win,” Chavez said, alluding to his seven trips to the postseason, including six division titles, four with the Oakland A’s and two with the New York Yankees.
“Unfortunately the last two years, that’s what I came here for was an opportunity to win. Injuries obviously killed us the last two years, but I think (the front office) did a good job of putting us in a position to succeed and we just weren’t able to deliver on the field.”
A troublesome left knee had limited Chavez to part-time status, playing only 44 games this season and none since June 8 when the Diamondbacks placed on him on the 15-day disabled list, hoping rest would heal it and allow him to return.
“Physically, what the doctors had told me, for me to just keep grinding on my knee it was not going to be the best option for me to do,” he said. “I gave it a couple of months. It really hasn’t gotten that much better—actually, over the last week it’s starting to feel a little bit better where I can actually walk and do it pretty peacefully.”
But playing again, at age 36, that is no longer an option for Chavez.
“You know,” he said during a press conference Thursday, “I see guys with bad knees walking around. I’m like, ‘Oof, I don’t want to be that guy.’ You look at (Kirk Gibson) running around, you’re like, ‘Oh man, he’s pretty beat up.’ My body has been grinding on enough for the last 20-something years. It’s time for me to give it a break.”
Chavez finishes his career with a .268 batting average, 260 home runs and 902 RBI. But he’s most proud of the six Gold Glove Awards he earned at third base.
“Early on in my career they said I was an all-hit, no-glove kind of guy. And that was an actually quote from somebody. I should’ve kept the guy’s name,” he said with a smile.
Chavez’s six Gold Gloves are tied for fourth-most among third basemen, while his career .970 fielding percentage at the position is tied for third-best all-time.
“Incredible career. Gold gloves. What he did in Oakland, part of championship teams. Incredible teammate,” general manager Kevin Towers said. “Going to miss having him around. He’s a pro in every sense of the word.”
Added Gibson, “You respect his decision to decide that it’s time for him to move to a different chapter in his life, actually a bigger game than he’s played his whole life. He doesn’t know it yet but he’s going to find out. I’ve enjoyed competing against him, having him on our team. He was great for us. We’re going to miss him.”
Chavez, though, may not be missed for long.
“I don’t plan on leaving the game forever and that’s why I think I’m at ease with my decision,” he said. “But right now I’m just going to enjoy this for myself and my family; and just kind of see what the future brings. I want to be in the game. There’s no doubt about it. To what capacity, I have no idea yet. I’m just going to see what options (he mentioned coaching) are out there and make that decision when the time comes.”