From earlier today on BP Wrigleyville.
I like to think, because I give myself undue credit whenever possible, that I’ve been as patient with Jason Heyward as anyone out there. There were knives out for him as early as May last year, even when it wasn’t all that hard to predict a player would struggle in his first year under a huge free agent contract. Heyward obviously would not have been the first to do so, far from it. The pressure, the new surroundings, these are things that are much harder to deal with than it appears to us on the outside. And I never blame a player for what they’re making. No one makes a GM offer a player a contract (unless you’re the Blackhawks but that’s not for here).
Heyward’s lost season got lost in the gloss of a World Series championship, along with his teammates and organization pushing, what you might perceive as just a bit too hard, at his Rockne-esque speech during the rain delay in Game 7. It makes for a wonderful narrative, and it sure would be comforting to Heyward that all his teammates have his back so passionately. To boot, that his voice still carried such weight after the season that he had.
But let’s be real here. If Heyward doesn’t say anything during that delay, are Schwarber’s and Zobrist’s hits two inches closer to the fielders who just barely missed putting a glove on them? Is Miggy’s? Does Bryant’s throw go errant because of his foot slipping if he doesn’t hear Heyward’s words? Again, it makes for an excellent spicing of storyline on top of one of sports’ best stories of all time, but you can’t prove any of it one way or the other.
Anyway, we wanted to believe in Heyward’s revival early in the season when he popped a few more pitches than he had last season. But those memories have faded, and much like last year, the Cubs are going to have to ask themselves in the season’s last month if Heyward’s defense-only game is worth having a black hole in the lineup.