Endy DeJesus Chávez
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 0", Weight 165 lb.
- High School Liceo Batalia Carabobo
- Debut May 29, 2001
- Final Game September 27, 2014
- Born February 7, 1978 in Valencia, Carabobo, Venezuela
Though Endy Chávez played much of his career as a center fielder, his most memorable moment as a big leaguer came in left field, when he made one of the most awe-inspiring grabs in postseason history. "The Catch", as it is known in New York Mets lore, may be the most celebrated play by a team that ultimately succumbed to defeat in a winner-take-all game, Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.
Minor League Career... A Debut In Kansas City
Endy signed his first professional contract with the New York Mets and got his first taste of organized ball in the Dominican Summer League in 1996. After sporting a glittering .354 average in 48 games, he was promoted to the United States in 1997. He kept up the solid hitting in the minors, but with little power and few runs batted in. In 2000, he scored 84 runs for the Class A St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League, thanks to 129 hits and 47 walks; he also stole 38 bases in 111 games but, since the Mets failed to add his name to their Major League roster, he was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 2000 Rule V Draft.
Chávez failed to earn a spot with the Royals at their 2001 spring training, but he showed enough promise for the Royals to offer minor league outfielder Michael Curry to the Mets in order to keep him. Starting the season with the AA Wichita Wranglers, he hit .298 in 43 games to earn a promotion to the American League. He made his debut on May 29th, but only hit .208 in 29 games, scoring 4 runs. That sent him back to the AAA Omaha Royals for the rest of the year, where he hit an excellent .337 in 23 games. The Royals placed him on waivers in December to open a spot on their major league roster and he was claimed by the Detroit Tigers on December 20th. He barely made it to the opening of spring training before being put on waivers a second time on February 22nd, 2002. The Montreal Expos, who up to that point had been prevented by the threat of contraction from adding players to their minor league roster, picked up Chávez to beef up their AAA lineup. Newly-appointed Expos General Manager Omar Minaya knew Chavez well from his days as assistant GM of the Mets and may well have asked the Tigers to make him available.
Moving with the Expos was the break Chávez had been waiting for. After only three weeks with the AAA Ottawa Lynx, he was called up to Montreal to replace the struggling Peter Bergeron as the team's regular center fielder. Inserted into the lineup on May 7, 2002, he had a horrendous National League debut, going 0 for 5 while committing a key error that cost his team the game against the Colorado Rockies. He quickly found his way to the bench and returned to Ottawa by the end of the month, having hit only .194 in the bigs. He did not pout upon returning to Ottawa, instead thoroughly outplaying the much ballyhooed Bergeron when the two were in the Lynx lineup together. Endy ended up hitting .340, winning the International League batting title and being named the Expos' Minor League Player of the Year.
He was called back to Montreal on September 3rd and, after a slow start, began to get hot. He had a four-hit game, including his first major league home run off Pedro Astacio, against the Mets on September 21st, the game coming in the middle of 16-game hitting streak. He ended the season hitting .296 for the Expos, along with a surprisingly solid .464 slugging percentage and 7 assists in only 35 games in the outfield. Endy easily beat Bergeron for the Expos' center field job in spring training 2003 and began the year as the team's lead-off hitter. He started the season red hot, including twice earning doubles by bouncing a bunt over the opposing third baseman's head. His bat cooled off quickly though, and by mid-June, he bottomed out in the .240s with a terrible on-base percentage of .279. He failed to improve by much over the rest of the season, ending the year with a .251/.294/.354 line. Expos' manager Frank Robinson was at first reluctant to remove him from the lead-off spot, but eventually had no choice, putting Brad Wilkerson in his place, and sliding Chávez down to the seventh or eighth slot, where he drove in 47 runs and stole 18 bases.
The Expos acquired two outfielders after the season, Carl Everett and Juan Rivera, putting Chavez's future in doubt. He failed to make the team in spring training 2004, losing out to Bergeron, who had a great spring after spending all of 2003 in AAA. But Bergeron failed to hit big league pitching and injured himself, opening the door for Chávez to return in time for the last Montreal home opener on April 23rd. He had hit .344 for the Edmonton Trappers while biding his time in AAA. He hit very well for the Expos on his return. In six days, between May 19th and May 24th, he had two four-hit games. He no longer was competing with Bergeron, who was dealt upon his return to health. With no distractions anymore, Chávez hit .277 in 138 games, raising his on-base percentage to .318 - better than in 2003, but still not enough for a lead-off hitter - and stealing a team-high 32 bases. On October 3rd in New York's Shea Stadium, he was the starting center fielder for the Expos' last game ever, grounding out to second baseman Jeff Keppinger with two outs in the 9th inning to constitute the last-ever Expos batter.
With the Expos' move to Washington in the offseason, Chávez seemed to be in the club's plans. Then, in spring training 2005, he was criticized by manager Robinson for his unwillingness to change his approach at the plate in order to improve his OBP. He began the year in AAA for the second consecutive year, and was called up a short time later, but only played 7 games for the Nationals before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Marlon Byrd on May 14th. He was used mainly as a defensive substitute by the Phillies, playing 91 games but only coming to bat 107 times, with a lowly .215 batting average and only 2 stolen bases.
Endy was released by the Phillies after the season and signed with the Mets for 2006, where old pal Omar Minaya had become the GM. He played for Venezuela in the 2006 World Baseball Classic during spring training, then made the Mets as a backup outfielder. Because of injuries to Cliff Floyd and Xavier Nady, he managed to find playing time in the Mets outfield and seemed to have recaptured his batting stroke. He ended up playing in 133 games that year, in all three outfield positions, and hit a solid .306/.348/.431 with 22 doubles. He hit .375 in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers but was limited to 5 for 27 as the Mets lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. It was not his bat that did the talking in the NLCS, obviously. It was time for Endy's "One Shining Moment". Cue the Luther Vandross...
Playing left field in Game 7 of the set against the Cardinals and with the always unpredictable Oliver Perez on the mound, Scott Rolen stepped to the plate in the top of the 6th inning. Jim Edmonds was on first base with one out in a 1-1 game. Rolen clobbered an Ollie offering that appeared to be headed well out of Shea Stadium. But Endy had something to say about that. In a catch that still seems completely improbable, Endy raced to the track, leapt at the 8-foot-high wall and brought the ball back to Earth on the tippy top of his glove. As the crowd became unglued, Endy somehow had the presence of mind to calmly fire a strike to cut-off man José Valentín, who threw to first baseman Carlos Delgado to end the inning. Though the Mets would lose on a late Yadier Molina home run, Endy will forever hold a place in Mets fans hearts for that grab. The following season, a special bobblehead day was held to commemorate the grab. The left field entrance at Citi Field, opened in 2009, features a silhouette of a grab similar to Endy's. Additionally, a plaque honoring the grab resides outside the ballpark.
Now a cult hero in Queens, Chávez was injured for part of the 2007 season, limited to 71 games and 150 at-bats, in which he put up a line of .287/.325/.380. He played more in 2008, with 270 at bats in 133 games, but saw his batting line fall to .267/.308/.330. With the Mets trying not to blow another postseason spot on the final day of the season in consecutive years, Endy made another Herculean effort, robbing Jorge Cantú of extra bases with Cameron Maybin in scoring position in a tie ballgame with the Florida Marlins. Once again, Endy's heroics were for naught, as Scott Schoeneweis and Luis Ayala allowed two runs to score in the ensuing inning, the Mets bowing out of a postseason berth with a 4-2 loss.
After the 2008 season, Endy was traded to the Seattle Mariners, along with Aaron Heilman, in a trade that brough J.J. Putz and Jeremy Reed to New York. He played again for Venezuela in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, splitting time in center field with Gregor Blanco. During the 2009 season, he played 54 games for the Mariners, hitting .273 with a pair of homers. His season ended on June 19th when he suffered a torn ligament in his right knee in a collision with teammate Yuniesky Betancourt in a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. After the season, Chavez signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers but missed all of 2010 because of injuries. It took him a while to get back into playing shape following the previous season's injury. When he had been promoted to the AAA Oklahoma City 89ers on July 8th, he suffered a right knee strain that ended his season.
He made a strong comeback with the Rangers in 2011. He hit .301 in 83 games and displaced Julio Borbon in the role of defensive center fielder for Texas. He returned to the postseason, but was used strictly in a backup role, going 0 for 4 in the ALCS and 0 for 1 in 3 games as the Rangers lost the 2011 World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games. Inexplicably, after pinch-hitting in the top of the 9th of Game 6 with Texas nursing a 2-run lead and a chance to clinch their first title in history, Endy (or any outfielder on the bench for that matter) was not put into right field for the defensively challenged Nelson Cruz. Moments later, Cruz turned an easy play for a good defensive outfielder into a David Freese triple, and the Cardinals rallied to take the game, and then Game 7 a night later.
Texas was loaded with outfielders who could play center field, between Josh Hamilton, Borbon, Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin, so Chávez did not fit into longer term plans in spite of his good play. On December 18th, he signed a contract with the Baltimore Orioles, where he was to be used as Adam Jones' back-up in center field in 2012, hitting only .203 in 64 games. He moved back to the Seattle Mariners in 2013 and bounced back, with a .267 batting average (but an OBP of only .290) in 97 games and 266 at-bats, his highest totals in both categories since 2008. He played one final season for the Mariners in 2014, when he hit .276 in 80 games. He spent a few seasons in independent ball and Mexico, retiring following a season with the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League in 2018.
Endy seemed to embody the ideal lead-off hitter, but was actually more suited to other roles. He tended to be loathed by sabermetricians because his low on-base percentage made him a much less useful player than his tools would suggest. He was an excellent hitter for average in the minor leagues, and a better-than-average defensive outfielder with a good arm and excellent speed. When his managers were able to resist the temptation to place him in the lead-off spot, he was a decent line-drive hitter who could also pinch hit, run and defend. Over his career, he hit left-handers better than right-handers, something which increased his value as a pinch hitter.
Chávez became a coach for the Brooklyn Cyclones in 2019. He was scheduled to be bench coach for the St. Lucie Mets in 2020 before the season was cancelled due to Covid-19. Chavez became a manager with the FCL Mets in 2022.