It occurs to me as I sit here on the morning after one of the greatest single-game comebacks in professional sports history that while the Rangers' outfield has been an injury-plagued and offense-bereft mess, a not-so-insignificant portion of that can be traced back to opportunities squandered by the very players who were tasked with stepping up and answering the bell ... and then didn't.
Case in point: Josh Hamilton maims himself on a head-first slide, so David Murphy stumbles into an extended chance to prove that he really is more than just a fourth outfielder, and then proceeds to hit a punchless .232/.307/.304 during Hamilton's six-week convalescence. With no Hamilton around to siphon away his playing time, Julio Borbon goes out and hits so little that he loses time in center field anyway to a player who doesn't have much business playing in center field in the first place. And once Borbon himself succumbs to injury, Craig Gentry answers the call from Triple-A Round Rock and drops a .205/.326/.256 over his first 17 games -- not the worst showing imaginable, but not very useful either.
So when an outfielder not carrying the surname Hamilton or Cruz performs at a level greater than expected, I feel compelled to turn my attention in their direction, and now, improbably, I shift my gaze towards Endy Chavez. With Thursday night's 4-for-4, one-steal showing, Chavez now finds his triple-slash line resting on .415/.455/.683 (.508 wOBA) over 45 plate appearances, and is almost forcing the Rangers' hand in the sense that they will understandably be quite reluctant to part ways with an outfield reserve that has actually surpassed (hell, obliterated) all expectations to this point; for Texas, demoting an optionless Chavez upon Borbon's return from the disabled list would entail running him through waivers and hoping for the best.
It seems a tad silly on the surface for anyone to get worked up about a player like Chavez that no doubt strikes many as the prototypical fifth outfielder -- light-hitting on the whole without enough contact-hitting ability or plate patience to be anything more than a marginal asset, even after accounting for his defensive virtues. I do, however, wonder if that's selling him a little short -- since his 3.1-win(s above replacement) campaign with the Mets in 2006, Chavez has amassed 690 major league plate appearances (or about a full season's worth) over parts of four different seasons, all of which equates to a somewhat flooring 3.8 wins.
Most of that is tied up in his defensive value, which is notoriously fickle on an individual level from year to year, and this paints him as a better offensive player than he really is because he had the platoon advantage in some 83-84 percent of those 690 plate appearances, but there's a bit more to like here than most would be inclined to think at first blush.
The problem with keeping Chavez around and shipping out Gentry once Borbon returns is that you're left with four left-handed outfielders, which I doubt would earn the endorsement of Ron Washington and company ... and thus, the plot thickens. It may be that the Rangers believe they're better served by rolling with a two-headed Chavez/Gentry platoon in center field, and with Borbon indefinitely patrolling center field at the Dell Diamond, but going that route doesn't confer any benefits to whatever trade value Borbon might actually possess. Or the Rangers may be on board with the notion of giving Borbon one last extended look in the majors before deciding what to do with him, in which case Chavez's presence on the roster would be redundant.
I'm not quite sure which way I see this thing going yet, myself, and I'm not quite sure how the presence of Leonys Martin, the heir apparent to the title of "franchise center fielder," is going to impact the Rangers' thought process, and I'm not actually convinced that Chavez can hit enough over the long haul to work here even as an intermediate-term solution -- but for as long as he remains white-hot with the lumber, make sure you carve out a little time to enjoy it, because after two months of watching Borbon, Murphy, and Gentry at the plate, I think you deserve it.