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Eric Chavez is a sneeze away from retirement

Another setback may be the end for Chavez


Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Eric Chavez's latest injury has put his career in serious jeopardy:

The next time Eric Chavez's back goes out, it will be the end of his career. ... Chavez is rehabbing his most recent back problem in Arizona in the hopes of rejoining the A's on their next homestand. Doctors, however, have told him that a herniated disk in his back could go at any time, even if he sneezes.

If that happens, Chavez will need to have his previously repaired vertebra, the L4-L5, fused with the vertebra that is currently herniated, which is the L3-L4. ... Spinal fusions don't allow for the type of physical activity performed by pro athletes.

Or as Chavez put it: "Pretty much game, set, and match."

The sad part is that significant shoulder problems and various other injuries have left Chavez without much of a career to save anyway. Once a Gold Glove-caliber defender at third base who averaged 30 homers and 100 RBIs from the age of 22 to 27, Chavez has missed 238 of a possible 359 games since the start of 2007, may no longer be capable of making throws from third base, and no longer hits enough to be an asset elsewhere.

Ranked by Baseball America as the No. 3 prospect of 1999 behind only J.D. Drew and Rick Ankiel, Chavez looked headed for superstardom after hitting .277/.355/.495 with 26 homers as a 22-year-old in 2000. However, he never really got any better, essentially hitting .275 or so with 25-30 homers in each of the next five seasons while struggling mightily in the playoffs.

And then the injuries began to mount. With one season remaining on a six-year, $66 million contract extension signed in the spring of 2004, Chavez has given the A's just 543 games of .256/.343/.455 hitting for their money and spoke yesterday about disappointing friend and general manager Billy Beane:

I wanted Billy to know how bad I felt about how everything has unfolded. Not as a player to a GM, but because I value how much he's supported me. I wanted Billy to know how disappointed I am, because they made a huge commitment to me and I haven't fulfilled my end. The whole length of the contract, it's been one thing after another. It's been a disaster, and I know what kind of predicament I've put Billy in. Now, with the back thing, it's like, "You've got to be kidding me." There's nothing that can be said that I haven't thought myself.

Chavez is currently rehabbing in Arizona in the hopes of strengthening his back enough to rejoin the team later this month, but as A's fans have come to accept there's unfortunately little reason to expect a healthy, productive return.

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