Outgoing Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward met with the media at Wrigley Field for the first time since the organization announced in August that he would not be returning to play for them this season, or in 2023, the final year of his contract.
The situation has been handled as well as possible, all things considered, and Heyward, himself, said he appreciated the Cubs’ transparency one what was happening, and what would be happening.
“I’ll say that I appreciate they’re real,” Heyward said during the 35-minute media session Thursday, per NBC Sports Chicago. “I appreciate being able to have that. It’s tough when you don’t have those things, showing up for any job or living life. If people were kind of blowing smoke and not keeping it real with you, it’s tougher to get up every day and go to work or tougher to treat other people how you want to be treated. So, it was nice to have that in a sense.”
Among the other topics of conversation …
Heyward’s Playing Plans for 2023
The Cubs will officially release Heyward this offseason to allow him to seek out a contract for 2023, though with his decline in production and his time away with the knee injury this year, it’s hard to see him finding a guaranteed big league deal.
He suggested that he might consider a minor league deal if it were the right team in the right situation, but he’s not hanging ’em up yet.
“I know I have a lot to offer still for a winning baseball team,” Heyward said, per Cubs.com.
A Future in Baseball
Although Heyward is only 33, it’s probably not too early for him to be thinking about a possible future in baseball beyond his playing days, given how well he connects with fellow players.
That, in fact, speaks specifically to what he might see for himself in the future. From The Athletic:
“I don’t know what capacity or what role — maybe it’s on the partial ownership side — but I want to bridge that gap,” Heyward said. “There are a lot of things lost in translation from clubhouse to front office. I wouldn’t say there’s things lost in translation from ownership, but it’s having more perspectives like mine up above this, to be able to look down and say, ‘What can I really give to this group of guys?’ Even if it’s keeping it real with them and letting them know, ‘This is what it’s like here. This is what it’s like at the next spot. Be grateful for it.’ I think I can bridge that gap as far as helping everyone be on the same page.”
Jason Heyward as a minority owner of the Chicago Cubs? Hey, why not? It would seem a good idea to have a former player like him in that kind of conduit/connection role.
Heyward’s “Bad” Contract
You don’t need me to re-hash why Jason Heyward’s eight-year, $184 million contract did not work out the way anyone had hoped, from an on-field production perspective.
For his part, Heyward has some thoughts on why “it’s been an honor to wear that contract.”
From his comments on the subject, per NBC Sports Chicago:
“Well, I feel like I’m a very fortunate person to be in a select group of players that earn bad contracts, because there’s a lot of bad contracts out there, if that’s how we’re looking at it, right?
“But to be able to show the value of myself as a person in probably one of the toughest times I’ve had on the the field and off the field in 2016, to still show I’m here for the team, to still play defense the way I play defense, run the bases and just to step in and step up at multiple times when I was needed to be who I am, to be Jason Heyward …
“We still got a ring, and it took every bit of that from me. It took that group. There was no other group that was going to get that done. So that’s fine. I understand why people say ‘bad contract’ and this and that. But I know I also had my hand in a lot of winning baseball here on the North Side of Chicago.”
I’m not sure how else he’s supposed to think about it, so I think that’s all fair. Again, we know the story here. It was disappointing. There were some moments of tremendous value – and a lot of winning – but it’s all in the past now, and you kinda just have to let it go. At least that’s how I try to think about it.
The Speech and the World Series Win
This was the most I’ve heard Heyward say, specifically, on the famous rain delay speech in the clubhouse during Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.
“I felt like that was probably the first time I have seen everyone just not really having much to say, everyone kind of being dumbfounded a little bit, being down,” Heyward said of the game being tied late, per Marquee. “And rightfully so. Because all of the weight of the curse, because it’s Game 7, because we’re not at Wrigley, because they have a lot of momentum. A lot of things did not go our way at one time. And it would have been very easy to just say, ‘all right, we gave it a hell of a run. Now let’s go see what happens.’ …
“To me, we had a moment. I didn’t know how long it was gonna be, but I saw it was raining. I was like, man, I gotta say something. I gotta remind these dudes like of how I see them because they’re amazing. They’re gladiators. And through every up and down in that season, it didn’t matter. We always had an answer. It was to laugh at it, have fun with it … see who will come out on top. And then praise the people that came through in that game that night, praise the guy that came through in the game the next night. It was someone different every night, every series for us. So we just needed a reminder.”
Grand speeches aren’t always Marc Antony in front of the citizens of Rome. Sometimes less is more, and I think the aura around Heyward’s speech has always been more about the importance of the moment, itself, rather than the contents of what he said. At bottom, it was simple: a reminder of just how good the team had been, would be, and is.