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Jason Heyward, Stardom and Expectations

Hello from balmy Atlanta where yesterday I attended the Braves Hall of Fame induction of John Smoltz, spent too much money on souvenirs, found out the new steak sandwich at the Ted is overrated and watched the Braves beat the Jays in 10 innings sparked by Jason Heyward’s hitting and Marin Prado’s continuously improving glove work at third base. The Jays made some unforgivable mistakes – I actually felt sorry for young Chad Beck when the balk was called – the fatal one, an inexplicable attempt to throw out Jason Heyward when he was already nearly at third. All that aside I made some comments on Hey ward this morning over on David O’Brien’s blog and when I finished decided I needed to share them here as well.

The Burden of Expectations

Many of you will have read Carlos’ post on Jason Heyward and if you haven’t you should do that. In comment I made a point that in spite of selective sabermetrics being used to prove otherwise, there isn’t a boatload of difference in the play of Jason Heyward and that of Jeff Francoeur in his first three years. Yet some fans consider Heyward a flop if he gets into a slump while others consider him the next Roberto Clemente or Willie Mays when he’s hot. In reading various blogs it occurred to me that no one has said it’s okay not to be the next superstar. In that vein I posted the following (without the title of course, DoB doesn’t allow that  and edited for better grammar here ).

It’s Okay To Just Be Jason

In a DoB Blog Music seems appropriate, so with apologies to Jerry Reed:

When you’re hot you’re hot, when you’re not you’re not . . .

Thus goes Jason Heyward and most young players. Someone needs to say that it’s perfectly acceptable for him to be Jason Heyward whatever that turns out to be and not Roberto Clemente,Willie Mays or any others he’s been compared to. He has his faults as every player does and he will probably ditch some of them as he matures. His swing gets too long and has holes and he’s pull happy. If he had been ready to accept what he was given when he came up with the bases loaded and used his opposite field swing – the one he showed off so much as a rookie – we’d have scored at least two. I was looking from behind Jason and right down the left field line, their left fielder was nearly in left center and it would have gone all the way to the wall. But he was looking for something to drive middle in and passed on what looked to be a very good pitch. It happens.

Popping up in foul territory to the third baseman wasn’t great use of his talent and exposed his swing. He’s done that before or hit into double plays rolling over a pitch instead of driving it. That too happens.

Jason Heyward is young and he will get better but, the unrealistic expectations of super stardom some place on his shoulders need to be dialed back so he has the chance to grow without being expected to carry the team. One day he may, right now he’s a streaky young outfielder who now and then forgets everyone isn’t happy with a single and scared of his arm. He does run some bad routes that his athleticism and speed – and on more than one occasion his wingspan – help him recover from.
Having “expert fans” (an oxymoron to be sure) swinging from “he’s awful” when he’s slumping to “He’s the next Roberto Clement” when he’s hot is ridiculous,and shows a lack of baseball acumen. He’s got great tools, he’s young, healthy now and a great guy. Allow him to be all those things and when you decide he should be Mays, Clemente or whoever instead of Jason, remember what you were doing at 22 years old with less that 3 years in your first big job.

Jason’s career will be what Jason makes of it, not what you, I or some scout thinks it should be. And that’s perfectly okay.

That’s a Wrap

I don’t expect Heyward to be Mays or Clemente nor do I expect him to vanish like Shane Spencer. I’ve been critical of him in the past and will be again when I feel it’s appropriate.  Let me know what you think either in comments here or on Twitter @fredeowens.

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Miscellaneous Stuff

(Okay it’s unwrapped… as I was getting ready to publish this I found some notes worth sharing then my battery died. Herewith a charged battery allows me to publish the post along with those items.)

I just saw that the the Phillies had once again outrighted Pete Orr to AAA. Orr should be considered as a replacement for Jack Wilson. Orr is a better hitter (now that Seattle decided not to give back Wilson’s bat), more versatile, and younger. With Andrelton Simmons established at short we need infield cover that can hit. Orr started in Atlanta and oddly enough is just now first year arbitration eligible.

The Cardinals released Scott Linebrink. Linebrink injured himself in spring training and never pitched for St Louis. Perhaps he can join his buddy Scott Proctor and several others who have recently found a home in South Korean baseball. His days of effective relief work in the majors are over.

The Red Sox designated Marlon Byrd for assignment. I mention this because many wanted the Braves to trade for him; thank goodness we didn’t. Byrd is a mediocre to poor outfielder these days and seems to have lost most of his bat savvy too. For the Sox his line was .273/.288/.333, for the Cubs 070/.149/.070. Against right handers this year he’s .149/.188/.160/.348. He makes Matt Diaz look like a slugger. Maybe the Phillies could use him. . .

Our old friend Kevin Millwood threw six shutout innings last night for Seattle before leaving with an injury. Five other pitchers finished the Mariners’ first shut out in a dogs age. Congrats Kevin, I didn’t know you still had it in you.

Andruw Jones hit the third of  back to back to back homers off Johan Santana last night proving once again he’s still got a good bat and that even when he’s in the American League he loves to beat the Mets. Andruw could talk expectations with Heyward. I wish him well.

Now I’m off to return the wrong sizes and and attempt to get to the Ted in time for a Sid Slid Bobblehead.

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