The Average Baseball Player of the Week: Charlie Hayes

Posted: January 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

Careers in baseball don’t get much more interesting than that of Charlie Hayes. The longtime MLB third baseman, once considered one of the brightest young prospects in the game, kicks off our new series, The Average Baseball Player of the Week. You see, there are a lot of athletes in charlie-hayes-new-york-yankees-last-out-autographed-photograph-3390639the major leagues. Many of them are stars whose light shines brighter than the sun. But, for most, baseball is merely a passion that follows them from the time they first lace up the spikes to their final at bat in the International League at the age of 38. For some, baseball is a talent. For others, it is life. This is a tribute to that massive majority. This is The Average Baseball Player of the Week.

Charlie Hayes was never the best of hitters. Upon breaking into the bigs in 1988 with the San Francisco Giants, Hayes would not hit above .257 until 1993. In fact, the former fourth round pick’s career looked to be just about over after his first stint with the Philadelphia Phillies ended in 1991. Following that season, in which he hit .230-12-53, Hayes was shipped to the Yankees as a player to be named later in a previous deal the Phillies made for Darrin Chaplin. Hayes played in 142 games for a lowly 76 win Yankees team. But, it was the playing time that he got that season that truly changed Hayes’ career for the better.

After hitting .257 with the Yankees in 1992, the third baseman was selected with the third pick in the 1993 MLB Expansion Draft by the Colorado Rockies. As most know, the thin air in Denver provides hitters an impressive advantage when playing at home. Hayes was no exception, as 1993 saw the veteran establish career highs in average (.305), home runs (25), runs batted in (98), and nearly every other offensive category. Hayes even led the National League in doubles that season with 45 after never hitting more than 23 prior to that campaign. Thanks to this upswing in production, Hayes cashed in during arbitration, earning $3.075 million in 1994 with the Rockies, his final season in purple.

As expected, he didn’t enjoy as prolific a sophomore campaign in the Rocky Mountains. Still, Hayes’ .288-10-50 line in 113 games with Colorado during the strike-shortened 1994 season was enough to get Lee Thomas and the Phillies calling in 1995. The former Phillie returned to The City of Brotherly Love on a one year contract to start at third base with Dave Hollins moving to first after the departure of John Kruk for Chicago. As predicted, the departure from Colorado greatly affected his play both in the batter’s box and on the field. Hayes was a butcher at third that season, committing 14 errors to go along with a mediocre .963 fielding percentage. These numbers weren’t good enough to compliment a declining offense, as the 30-year old hit just .276-11-85 in the middle of Philadelphia’s order. A year later, Hayes departed Veterans Stadium yet again, this time as a free agent. That offseason, he signed a one year deal with the Keystone State’s other team, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

With a couple of poor seasons in his rear view mirror and on the wrong side of 30, the bright spots of Hayes’ career appeared to be over. However, a midseason trade back to one of his previous destinations would prove fruitful for the veteran and provide him with the storybook moment that his fledgling career desperately needed. On August 30th, just days prior to the expiration of the waiver trade deadline and with Pittsburgh well below .500, Hayes was dealt back to the Yankees for a minor leaguer. The Yankees viewed him as a valuable bench bat and a potential defensive replacement for aging star Wade Boggs. Hayes would go on to play just 20 games in September for the Yankees and hit just .188 in the World Series that year. But, it was this average ballplayer who made the series’ most memorable play. With two outs and John Wetteland on the mound looking to cement a championship for the Yankees, Hayes was brought in to play third by Joe Torre against the Atlanta Braves. Moments later, the veterans’ series clinching grab on a popup in foul ground beyond the third base line sent Yankees Stadium into a frenzy, as the Empire won their first championship in nearly two decades. That moment will forever be etched in the memories of Yankees’ Nation, and helped to usher in an era of dominance and dynasty for the Bronx Bombers.

Hayes would go on to play through the 2001 season, finishing his career with stops in San Francisco, Milwaukee, and Houston. But, nothing would ever come close to surpassing that crisp October night in 1996, when Charlie Hayes, forever the portrait of baseball mediocrity, was on top of the world for just one pitch.

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