“You never handle your luggage in ‘The Show.’ Somebody else carries your bags. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service . . . ”
Crash Davis — “Bull Durham.’’
It is as if Michael Chavis has been delivered from Central Casting.
Born and bred in Georgia, armed with a golly-gee politeness and 450-foot power, Chavis has helped save the Red Sox season.
Sunday against the Astros, batting leadoff, of all places, Chavis swung at everything he saw (six pitches, four balls in play), cracked a 420-foot homer and a seventh-inning single which represented the winning run in Boston’s 4-3 victory over the best team in baseball. The comeback victory averted a rare Fenway sweep of the Sox and fortified the growing Legend of Michael Chavis.
The big moment in the series finale came in the fifth when he stepped to the plate and heard a five-year-old “guest” PA announcer screech his name from a booth behind home plate. Somewhat startled, Chavis stepped back, acknowledged the little kid upstairs, then hit a Wade Miley cutter halfway to the Hotel Commonwealth. Crossing home plate, Chavis acknowledged the kid again. It was something out of a cornball Babe Ruth flick.
“I didn’t get a warning that it was going to happen,’’ said Chavis, who comports himself like a shorter, smarter Jonathan Papelbon. “I heard a kid’s voice. I was impressed at how confident he was. When I was a little kid I wouldn’t have done it. I was laughing to myself, thinking, ‘Good for that kid.’ So when I got into the box, I thought I should say, ‘Good job.’ I thought it was cool that he did such a good job. [After hitting the homer] I kind of laughed to myself and was thinking, ‘That kid might be good luck. We might need to bring him back.’ ’’
The Sox were 7-13 when Chavis was called to the bigs and now they are 24-22, seemingly bound for the playoff bid we expected from a defending world champion.
And Chavis is a big part of it.
Twenty three years old, not part of the 2019 plan, he has played third, first, and second base. In 25 games he is hitting .290 with eight homers and 22 RBIs. He is one of five Red Sox with 22 or more RBIs in his first 25 major league games. The others are Ted Williams, Fred Lynn, George Scott and the immortal Moose Solters; the Four Horsemen of Prospect Possibility.
We know Chavis isn’t going to be Teddy Ballgame. But we’re hoping he can be more Boomer Scott than Moose Solters. Hub hardball history is peppered with Walt Dropos and Will Middlebrooks. No one can predict where Chavis will land in Sox lore.
But this much we know. He is fun and he hits the ball a ton. Seven of his eight homers have traveled at least 419 feet. The longest was 459.
“You try to hit the ball hard, not far,’’ he said. “If you catch barrel, usually it goes.’’
Coming into this year, Chavis was a career .257 hitter in the minors. At Pawtucket in 2019 he hit .250, with four homers and six RBIs in 12 games. How do we explain a kid getting better in the bigs? Does it have anything to do with the superior big league playing conditions?
“Dude, the first game in Tampa I asked the guys, ‘Are these lights too bright?’,’’ Chavis answered. “I couldn’t even look at them. I’m just so used to different kinds of lights and that’s something that people talk about when they come up from the minors. How different it is. In regards to just general conditions, it’s the big leagues. I’m sure you’ve heard about the minors. It ain’t a diamond. I’m loving it honestly.’’
It is not all charter flights and hotel room service. Chavis has already has a mini-slump and he’s fanned 28 times in 25 games. We could also make things uncomfortable by mentioning that he was suspended by MLB for 80 games when he tested positive for a PED in April 2018. Chavis took to Twitter to apologize and claim, like everyone else, that he never purposely ingested any illegal substance.
It’s too early to wonder how this will impact his Hall of Fame candidacy (that was a joke, people), but Sox Nation is wondering how long the kid can keep this going and where he’ll play when/if wounded regulars (Dustin Pedroia?) return. Alex Cora on Sunday started three players (Jackie Bradley Jr., Steve Pearce, Eduardo Nunez) batting under .200. As long as Chavis keeps hitting prodigious homers, he has to stay in the lineup.
“I feel pretty good, honestly,’’ said the phenom. “Pearce said to me, ‘It’s the same game, just a bigger platform.’ It is. It’s the same game I’ve been playing my whole life. It’s been fun. I think this is the most fun I’ve had playing baseball in five years. It’s incredible. The atmosphere, the vibe in the clubhouse, the fans, and everything about it. It’s a lot easier to be comfortable when you’re having fun.’’
He’s on to Toronto. Where there will be room service.