25 Oct

the right stuff

There are players you find yourself rooting against, for whatever reason. It’s hard to find a reason to root against Jason Heyward. He plays hard, and he plays smart. He conducts himself like a professional, which is easy to do when you’re going good, which hasn’t been the case for Heyward here lately. It’s been tough to watch the former Mississippi Braves star scuffle at the plate this postseason. He is 2-for-28 during Chicago’s historic run to the World Series. In the first year of a $184 million contract, Heyward batted .230 with seven homers, 49 RBIs and 11 steals. (His career-highs: .293, 27, 82 and 23.) Yes, he plays a Gold Glove-quality right field, but for the money he’s making, he is expected to hit, too. And he can hit. If you saw him at Trustmark Park back in 2009, you know this first-hand. Arriving on July 4 of that season, as Atlanta’s top-ranked prospect, Heyward batted .352 with seven homers in 47 games for the M-Braves. He was 6 feet 5, cut like an elite athlete and just scary good. He won the right field job in Atlanta the next spring and homered in his first at-bat. A great career surely lay ahead. Yet there was always something odd about Heyward’s swing, and it seems that major league pitchers have gradually learned to exploit the flaws. There have been reports that the Cubs will address those in the off-season. Heyward isn’t in the lineup tonight for Game 1 against Cleveland; ex-Ole Miss star Chris Coghlan, another left-handed hitter, will start in right field. But Heyward will play at some point, and when he does, Cubs fans can rest assured that his head and his heart will be in the right place. “It’s about this team,” Heyward said in a recent interview with CBSChicago.com. “It’s about the team.”