Red Sox: Will Michael Chavis emulate Boston legend Sam Horn?

LAKELAND, FL - MARCH 02: Michael Chavis #23 of the Boston Red Sox bats during the Spring Training game against the Detroit Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 2, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. The game ended in a 11-11 tie. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FL - MARCH 02: Michael Chavis #23 of the Boston Red Sox bats during the Spring Training game against the Detroit Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 2, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. The game ended in a 11-11 tie. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Michael Chavis has given us a taste of being a prototypical slugger for the Boston Red Sox, with home runs that are memorable just like those of Sam Horn.

The promise of youth in baseball is a wonderous adventure to see if the early projections and promise is ever realized. For the Red SoxMichael Chavis is now in that place where his game is either raised to the next level or remains in an enigma status of what could have been. Chavis is at a crossroads after 2019.

Red Sox history is not unusual as every team has a list of what could have been players. I thought Reid Nichols would be a star and Mike Greenwell a batting champion. Even Glenn Hoffman and Carlos Quintana disappointed, but the top of the list is reserved for Sam Horn. Will Chavis be the next Horn?

In 1987 I attended many a game at Pawtucket (AAA) and that usually resulted in watching the left-hand hitting, Horn. He’d test the mettle of International League pitchers by terrifying them with his swing – especially when he connected.

Horn, like Chavis, was a first-round pick (1982) and was physically a football tight end in appearance. When I saw him in 1987 my wonderment was why he lasted until 16th in the draft? The only issue is occasionally Horn played first base or was it first base played Horn?

Horn may not have sunk to the depths of Dick Stuart on glovework but he was making an effort to match Dr. Strangeglove, but there is always designated hitter.

The Pawtucket numbers were staggering considering Horn played slightly over half a season (94 games). The lefty had already hammered – and I do mean hammered – 30 home runs, accounted for 84 RBI, and was hitting .321.

The Red Sox were fading after the 1986 pennant and youth was on the way. Ellis Burks, Mike Greenwell, and Todd Benzinger had already been called up, Jim Rice was nearing the end, Bill Buckner was sent packing, Don Baylor was just about done as DH, and the Red Sox were in rebuilding mode. Enter Horn.

Horn’s debut was a bitter disappointment with a whiff and a double play, but baseball plays nine innings and you get multiple chances. He was facing a lefty with a runner on and poked one up into the Green Monster territory for his first major league hit and a home run. The next day Horn slammed another and continued to hit while the team took to the road. The legend was born.

As with Chavis the hot start for Horn dissipated and His average dropped to .278 by the end of the season, but the staggering power display with 14 home runs and 34 RBI gave much promise for the future. This kid could hit!

Horn picked up in spring training where he had left off with the usual power display, strikeouts, and shoddy fielding when forced into play first base. The season saw Horn start to sink even further than the tail-end of 1987 – just a pair of home runs and proliferation of strikeouts. Sentenced back to Pawtucket Horn never resurfaced in 1987. At Pawtucket, he’d hit just .233 with ten home runs in half a season and looked bewildered and befuddled by IL pitching.

The 1989 season actually saw Horn deteriorate even further as he took almost a month before getting into the lineup and had just a .148 average with no home runs. Back to Pawtucket where he never found his stroke hitting just .232. As Horn had become a free-swinging easy out and out was the word – finally being released in December and signed by the O’s.

In 1990-91 with Baltimore, Horn experienced somewhat of a renaissance hitting 37 home runs over the two-season span, but the average remained low, and the whiff total high. The defense was no issue as Horn was relegated to the DH role, but no improvement was visible in 1992, and he was on the move elsewhere.

Cleveland was Horn’s next stop. Then came the Yankees organization, Pittsburgh, and finally the Rangers where Horn saw some MLB action hitting .111 for Texas.

Horn had power and a home run swing, but the holes were there and the pitchers – clever little varmints – found them. Later Red Sox history you would see Wily Mo Pena follow a similar but more productive course as teams were mesmerized by the home run potential. The tantalizing chance that you may have the next great slugger only to watch it vaporize.

Chavis has the power that matches and may even exceed Horn’s. The moon shot home runs during the season is a testimony for that, but the similarities exist other than power and an explosive introduction to MLB.

Chavis went down on strikes 127 times in just 347 at-bats – similar to Horn’s inability to maintain consistent contact.  Chavis’ power decreased as he was exposed to more MLB at-bats and his average also decreased. No great shock. Few rookies are Ted Williams. Pitchers adjust and so must hitters. Horn didn’t. Maybe Chavis will join him? Hopefully not.

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Chavis has no defensive liabilities and demonstrated competency as an infielder that Horn lacked, so Chavis can avoid the one position (DH) option that existed for Horn. Chavis’ versatility certainly affords more opportunity than existed for Horn. Still, the history is there for Ice Horse with a low average even in the minors and a high strikeout rate. For Chavis, baseball now has far less of a stigma on the whiff today than when Horn swung away.

The attractive quality of both is the majestic long ball. I saw many Hank Aaron home runs and they were all just ordinary home runs. Aaron despite his career totals I never viewed as a slugger. With Horn and Chavis the clout is memorable. Batting practice is memorable.  Both looked the part if you were casting a movie and wanted a slugger.

Next. History of Fenway Park through the years. dark

Chavis has his future and just what kind of future will it be? If it is a Horn future it’ll be registered as another if only in Red Sox history. If Chavis puts it together you will have a Jim Rice, David Ortiz, and Mo Vaughn type slugger. We are overdue for a break.