Cubs stayed the course with Jason Heyward over the years
All anyone remembers about Heyward’s first season with the Cubs is his now-famous locker room speech during the rain delay in Game 7. He rallied the troops and the team emerged from the dugout once the tarp was pulled off and brought home the first World Series title since 1908.
He won a Gold Glove that year – but he fell well short of pretty much every expectation out there with the bat. Heyward hit just .230/.306/.325, well shy of his 293/.359/.439 performance from the year prior with the rival Cardinals. But, at the end of the day, we all looked at the 2016 Cubs with graduation goggles and didn’t pay too much attention to it.
But from 2017 to 2019, Heyward remained a below-average offensive player. His defense obviously adds value in other ways, but for a guy on a $184 million deal, you just expected more. He chipped away year after year, incrementally improving before finally putting it all together under first-year manager David Ross in 2020.
And make no mistake. I mention Ross because he saw what former manager Joe Maddon either didn’t – or simply looked past: Jason Heyward cannot hit left-handed pitching. Knowing that and accepting it completely changed how the outfielder was used (and how he performed) this year.