Although the Chicago Cubs were off on Monday, the team, or elements of it, managed to create some headlines. Most notably, manager David Ross shared his thoughts on Jason Heyward in an interview with #TheBigs Media. In the interview, Ross addressed Heyward’s playing time, admitting there is a “loyalty factor” within his lineup decisions.
As indicated, the full interview can be found on YouTube. However, this clip is the one that is creating a buzz on Cubs Twitter. Naturally, the response has already been overwhelmingly negative from fans (not surprising), but let’s analyze both sides of the situation.
As Ross indicated in the one-minute clip, Jason Heyward brings a lot to the table for any ballclub. Yes, the bat is bad (and we mean really bad), but Heyward’s leadership, defensive prowess, and ability to mentor youth serve a purpose on a transitioning and rebuilding Cubs roster.
Every team needs veterans. Even the young Cubs teams from the early 2010s possessed veterans who were able to mentor the young players on the roster. It’s needed on every team and J-Hey checks that box for Chicago.
However, if this roster and farm system were in a different position, Heyward’s role would likely be more accepted by the Cubs’ fan base. Given the fact patterns that currently exist, there is a legitimate reason for the outcry.
Helping the Growth
Every game that Jason Heyward plays is another game that Jackson (formerly Clint) Frazier and Nelson Velazquez don’t. Yes, that’s a simple statement. However, it is an indication that players who can help in the future aren’t receiving the opportunity to do so. Instead, they’re either getting DFA’d to make room for Chris Martin or serving as a bench bat and platoon against left-handed pitching.
While easing young players in and allowing them to learn from a savvy vet such as Heyward is fine and dandy, taking away meaningful playing time isn’t the way to do it. If Velazquez is going to remain on the MLB roster, then he either needs to play more than Heyward — not just against lefties — or be sent down to receive those everyday at-bats.
Unfortunately, the direction is unclear given the Cubs’ lineup construction.
Ah yes, loyalty. Loyalty is something that can make or break a team in sports. In the Chicago Cubs’ case, it certainly explains how often Heyward is playing.
That said, it is easy for a fan to disassociate with the people that play for their favorite team. They’re a piece, an item, just a player rather than a person. In Ross’ case, Heyward is not only a player he watched grow up, but he is a guy that Ross respects and is close to.
Sure, their relationship is unique, as not all managers have played with guys on their current roster. However, it is still a moving piece in the saga that is the 2022 campaign for the Cubs. Put yourself in their shoes. Players and coaches can have a good relationship. It’s not criminal.
The Reality of the Situation
In the end, David Ross is going to structure the lineup the way he wants. He is working with the roster that the front office presented to him. In theory, if Heyward was cut or traded this past offseason, then this wouldn’t be a topic of discussion amongst Cubs fans. However, as long as Heyward is on the roster, he is going to have a role.
One positive is Heyward’s professionalism. Ross indicated in the clip (watch the whole thing if you haven’t) that Heyward understands his new role and accepts it. If any player on this team can accept a role that is less than ideal for what they may want, Jason Heyward is that player. In this scenario, he is the best person to have in this transitioning role as a veteran.
Another note Ross mentioned is the length of the season, which is not even halfway through yet. There is a lot of baseball to be played. Ideally, a lot will change between now and the end of the season. But just like any other campaign, we need to ride the rollercoaster until the end.
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