Chicago Cubs fans need to stop disrespecting Jason HeywardJason Parinion April 28, 2022 at 5:00 pm

When the Chicago Cubs signed outfielder Jason Heyward to an 8-year, $184 million contract ahead of the 2016 season, it was immediately hailed as a huge win for the organization. The importance of Heyward’s arrival came not just from a performance standpoint but also because the Cubs snatched Heyward away from the division rival St. Louis Cardinals.

Heyward was just coming off of a strong 2015 season in which he hit .293/.359/.439 and earned his second consecutive Gold Glove Award. An elite defender in the outfield, J-Hey was a solid hitter whose prowess in the outfield with his speed and strong arm made him one of the most important acquisitions in recent Cubs history.

That excitement has since worn off, as Heyward’s seven years with the Cubs has seen him produce a disappointing .248/.326/.383 slash line with just 281 RBIs in 710 games. His defense has since declined as well, posting a 0.0 defensive WAR since 2020.

All this while earning over $20 million a year. Until the Cubs acquired SP Marcus Stroman prior to the 2022 season, Heyward was the highest paid Cubs player just last year.

His numbers that season were an awful .214/.280/.347.

And yet it’s time for Chicago Cubs fans to show Jason Heyward some respect.

Jason Heyward has done an enormous amount for the Chicago Cubs and the City of Chicago. It’s time for fans to start showing him some more respect.

While it’s absolutely fair to be thoroughly disappointed in his statistics, it’s the intangibles that make Heyward a valuable commodity on the North Side. And yes, that value does not equate to $20+ million a year, but it’s certainly a lot of value.

Heyward continues to be a leader in the clubhouse and has been hailed as such for his entire year. His energy and competitiveness are highly regarded throughout the league.

Not to mention, he’s a fantastic leader to this young Cubs team. His wisdom is crucial in the development of young players like Patrick Wisdom and Nico Hoerner.

It’s also important to note that Heyward’s numbers are noticeably better on the road than at home. In 2020, Heyward hit just .244 at Wrigley Field while batting a respectable .290 on the road.

It’s fair to think that had Heyward remained in St. Louis or gone to another division rival, he may be on a completely different offensive track and tormented the Cubs multiple times a year.

Unfortunately, J-Hey will almost certainly be gone by the time the Cubs’ next playoff appearance as it’s quite possible he’ll be designated for assignment or traded barring any drastic changes in his performance. Any trade would see the Cubs retaining most (or quite possibly) all of his salary in the last year of his contract.

That said, Heyward’s numbers are a bit improved from previous years as he’s off to a .273/.368/.364 slash line. NBC Sports Chicago recently made a case that the Cubs should make Heyward part of the next core.

But the most important reason that Heyward still commands respect is simple.

It’s very possible that the Chicago Cubs would not have won the 2016 World Series without Jason Heyward. Again, his numbers were abysmal on paper. J-Hey went 5-for-48 in the 2016 Postseason, an abysmal .104 batting average in 16 games.

But Heyward’s biggest contribution was his speech during the rain delay in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.

Without that extra motivation, there’s a strong chance that we would be sitting here in 2022 with the Cubs World Series drought at 114 years and counting with likely no end in sight.

I don’t care what his numbers are from here on out. That $184 million was worth every penny just for a few words in extra innings of one game.

$184 million to end 108 years of suffering? Absolutely. Sign the contract.

Just look at every sports movie ever made. The most important part of almost every movie isn’t the game-winning goal or the last-second touchdown.

It’s the speech that happens before it. Remember the Titans. Rudy. Miracle. Hoosiers.

You name the movie. I’ll name the speech.

While it’s difficult to watch Heyward struggle on the field, the day will come when Cubs fans welcome him back to Wrigley Field with open arms. And the biggest thing that he should be remembered for is his leadership and his pivotal speech in the postseason.

Show J-Hey some respect for the rest

of his tenure in Chicago. He’s more than earned it.

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