Many experts had Chavez tabbed for Rookie of the Year honors before he took a major league swing, but living up to all the hype proved too difficult for the 23-year old third baseman. The lefty with the sweet swing believed the positive press, and didn't work hard enough the first half of the 1999 season, batting only .167 through the All-Star break. Frustrated with his performance, Chavez buckled down, took extra batting practice, and had a strong second half, finishing the season with a .247 batting average and 13 home runs. His improved performance as a hitter earned him the everyday job at the hot corner for the A's where he batted .277 with 26 homers in 2000.
There is another theory of how Chavez turned his season around. During his initial slump as a rookie, announcers referred to him as Eric CHA-vez. In an interview with A's broadcaster Ray Fosse, Chavez explained that he wanted his name pronounced SHA-vez. The adjustment did wonders for him at the plate – he batted over .300 for the month of August.
Chavez made a name for himself during the 2000 ALDS versus the New York Yankees, though not with his stellar play. Before the decisive Game Five in Oakland, Chavez told a reporter, "I mean, they've won enough times. It's time for some other people to have some glory here…they had a great run." Referring to the world champs in the past tense would be injudicious at any time, but the entire stadium got an earful when Chavez's interview was shown on the scoreboard during the Yankees' batting practice. Motivated by his remarks, the Yanks went on to a 7-5 victory. (EPW)
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FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»June 21, 2000: The A's defeat the Orioles, 10-3, as Eric Chavez becomes the first Oakland player to hit for the cycle at home since the team moved to Oakland in 1968.
»August 30, 2001:
Led by Eric Chavez, who drives home a eight runs, the A's defeat the Orioles, 15–0. He'll knock in three more tomorrow in the A's 9–5 win over Tampa Bay.
»September 22, 2001:
The Mariners lose their 3rd straight game for the 1st time all season, falling to the A's, 11–2. It also marks the first series the Mariners have lost on the road this year, ending their major-league record streak of 29 consecutive road series without a loss. Erik Hiljus (4-0) is the winner. Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez hits solo home runs in the 7th as both reach the 100 RBI mark.
»October 2, 2002:
The Athletics pummel the Twins, 9–1, to even their division series at one game each. Cristian Guzman homers for Minnesota's run while Eric Chavez hits a round–tripper for Oakland. Mark Mulder gets the win with six strong innings for the A's.