As exciting as the off-season has been, particularly for Cubs fans, it has not been without its drama. Starting with the John Lackey signing, hackles seem to have risen in the Cardinals front office and spread to their players. It probably doesn’t help that, at least in theory, players are coming to the Cubs for less money than they are being offered by their old team.
Jason Heyward, who signed a very lucrative deal to play for the Cubs, did his best to be open and honest in a very bright spotlight when he was introduced by his new team… He began his comments by praising the St. Louis Cardinals organization and explaining that he had absolutely nothing negative to say about them. Class act all the way.
Then, when asked about his reasons for choosing the Cubs, he said that he was excited by the young, core group of rising stars in the Cubs lineup – guys with many years before free-agency who would be there as a unit for the foreseeable future to grow together. He wanted to be a part of that. After all, baseball is a team sport.
Somehow Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny got the impression that Heyward was saying that the core group on the Cardinals didn’t stack up. Huh? They have won 90-plus games how many times in a row? Then, stoking the flames, Matheny also suggested that the comments would not go over well in the St. Louis clubhouse. Well, heck – that’s kind of like him nodding at a pitcher to toss a bean ball isn’t it? Predictably, at least one teammate came out after Matheny’s warning with comments of his own. Heyward, of course, said no such thing. It’s obvious that there are members of that Cardinals core who won’t be around a few years from now. They are more diverse in age – the likelihood is that there are fewer years for them without major personnel changes. Nothing difficult to understand about Heyward’s comments.
Cardinals ace, Adam Wainwright, has now chimed in, saying that he guesses Heyward didn’t want the pressure of being “the one.” He also insinuated that Heyward had sort of copped out, going on to be just another cog in the wheel with the Cubs, where in St. Louis he could have been that one guy the organization was built around. A team built on one guy is one injury away from failure – this is about the silliest accusation and argument presented so far. It might be true, in part, for an ace pitcher, but the team is a unit, and I’m guessing Jason would rather be one of a team of players who put on a championship ring, or fails to do so together, than that one guy who almost got his team there, or tries to take credit for success. Also, isn’t Wainwright’s statement a dig at his own team? He insinuates that without Heyward they don’t’ have “that guy”. These negative comments have the scent of sour grapes all over them.
It’s rough when two of your star players leave the fold and move on – even harder when they slide directly over to your number one rival, but to try and turn that move into a personal issue is beneath the Cardinals as a team. Sure, the shots they took were sidelong and easy to dismiss on the surface– but it’s less easy to do so over time. The Cardinals are a great organization, and they have a winning franchise that has dominated the division for years. It’s time to let this one go. Trades happen, free-agency is a thing, and there’s no room in the game for taking pot-shots at guys you so recently called teammate, particularly if there’s any sincerity in your claims of respect. Seems Heyward made the right choice for at least one reason no one saw coming.