Commentary: Thank you Jason Heyward
|Tuesday, October 4, 2022, 1:24 PM- -|
Cubs fans were forced to say goodbye to another member of their legendary 2016 World Series Championship team. After battling numerous injuries in 2022, the Cubs announced in September that Jason Heyward was done playing for the Cubs, and will be released at the end of the 2022 season, despite having one more year left on his contract.
The Cubs honored Heyward at Wrigley over the weekend, giving Heyward a chance to say goodbye to a fanbase he has played in front of over the past seven seasons and allowing the fans an opportunity to thank Heyward for his contributions to the curse-breaking squad that finally brought the city the coveted championship that they had waited 108 years for.
The Cubs signed Heyward to an eight-year, 184 million dollar contract before the 2016 season. Heyward won rookie of the year in 2010 with the Braves, and the Cubs got a close look at the then three-time gold glover in 2015 when he put on one of the best years of his career for the St. Louis Cardinals, hitting .293 with 13 homers and 60 RBI. That earned Heyward the largest contract in Cubs history. In the same offseason, they acquired Ben Zobrist and John Lackey — adding three difference makers to a team that had just won 97 games in the regular season and advanced to the NLCS.
During 2016, Heyward won his fourth career gold glove, but offensively was the weak link in a lineup that produced five all-stars and had production all over. But what Heyward is remembered for is the speech he delivered during game seven. As Cubs fans remember all too well, the game went into a rain delay after the Cubs had squandered a lead — and many thought the cursed cubbies were striking again with bad luck. The game may have gone a different way if Heyward hadn’t called the team together and reminded them who they were, sparking the game-winning rally that led to the Cubs' 8-7 win over the Indians (now Guardians) to win the World Series.
After that, Heyward still never appeared to live up to the massive money he was due. According to baseball reference’s OPS+ stat, 100 is the league average. In Heyward’s seven years in Chicago, he only was an above-average player during two of those seasons: 2019, when he hit 21 home runs, and 2020 where he led the Cubs offense with a .848 OPS during the COVID-shortened season. It was rocky for the wildly talented Heyward, but nonetheless, he was a model citizen and teammate throughout his tenure in Chicago.
Heyward won his fifth gold glove in 2017 and also made contributions off the field in Chicago. Heyward made various donations during COVID to local Chicago charities; he donated his game check on Jackie Robinson day, he gave back to the Hand club, started the Jason Heyward baseball academy, and was a very active voice on social, racial, and political issues that arose during his time with the Cubs. Not to mention, Heyward was the Cubs Roberto Clemente award nominee and was frequently signing autographs for fans.
Heyward did more for the franchise and the city off the field — through speeches and charitable efforts — than he did on it, which is a testament to the kind of player and leader he was.
Heyward will look to extend his playing career elsewhere next season, but the Cubs have opened the door to Heyward being involved in the future in some way, shape, or form.
But the bottom line is Jason Heyward, on the greatest day of most of our lives, the 2016 World Series does not happen without you. THANK YOU.