::lights fade in::
There is a small wooden table in the middle of an otherwise empty stage, next to it, a small wastepaper basket; a lone door set upstage right.
Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye begins to play.
Howard Bender, dressed in jeans, sneakers, Atlanta Braves jersey and Atlanta Braves cap, enters through upstage door. He appears sullen and dejected.
He slowly walks downstage and stops just behind the table, removes his cap and sets it down on the table top. He then reaches for wastepaper basket, picks it up and sets it on the table. He puts the hat into it. He slowly removes the Braves jersey, reveals the number 22 and the name Heyward on the back. He places the jersey into the wastepaper basket. He then pulls out a single wooden matchstick from his pocket, strikes it against the table and holds it up to show the audience the burning flame. He drops it into the wastepaper basket and in seconds a large fire emerges from the basket.
Howard looks to the audience, shrugs, and without a word, walks back upstage to the door and exits.
::lights fade out::
What can I say, people? What can I say? My first mea cupla of the season is indeed a doozy. I started back in mid-January with a Keeper League Would You Rather and said that I would take Jason Heyward over Bryce Harper and then followed it up a week later declaring that Heyward was the guy you would all want to own this season. And despite a poor spring, my faith never wavered and in my 10 Bold Predictions, proclaimed that the Braves would win the NL pennant and Heyward would win the NL MVP. As the Braves sit with the best record in baseball and are 14 games in front of the Nationals in the NL East, I couldn’t care less about partial credit. This one was ugly.
Heyward genuinely seemed primed to put it all together here in his fourth season with the Braves. Yes, his walk rate diminished and his strikeout rate rose during his third season, but the surge in power was outstanding and it looked as if he was finally ready to live up to the hype we endured in 2010. He would re-adjust to fix those walks and strikeouts while maintaining both the power and speed we were now enjoying. Or so I thought.
April and May were a train wreck, marred by a .146 average, no power, no speed and an appendectomy that didn’t exactly scream “rebound coming.” He did manage to produce well in June, batting .312 with four home runs and nine RBI, but he immediately dropped again in July as he his .230 and was in and out of the lineup throughout the second half of the month with a hamstring problem. Hope began to brew in August as Heyward started out on-fire, batting .348 with four home runs and 10 RBI in just the first 18 games, and both a strong finish and a bit of redemption seemed to be in the works. But on August 21st, Mets pitcher Jonathon Niese put an end to any further hope as he hit Heyward with a pitch up and in, fracturing the outfielder’s jaw and putting him on the shelf for the remainder of the regular season. While devastating, it seemed to be the perfect ending to a year in which the baseball gods opted to use both me and Heyward as their personal toilet.
We all want to know where it went wrong? Where didn’t it go wrong? Between disappointing plate appearances, low BABIP totals (read: bad luck), and injuries, there are very few places where this season went right. Even when things were looking good and hope was building, there was always an unsettling feeling that doom and gloom was right around the corner.
The season was a disaster. There’s no other way to put it. But to compound the ugliness was the fact that I hung my hat on Heyward so much that it killed me in six different leagues. I managed to sell him in a couple but, sadly, for less than what I paid for him. And that’s where the real problem was. Heyward’s 2012 season, the expectations for him in 2013, the hope and the hype all pushed his ADP up towards the second and third round of most 12-team leagues. As much as I hate to say it, I was easily better of grabbing Jacoby Ellsbury instead.
Ah well…..hindsight. It’s always 20/20.
So to all of you who heeded my advice and suffered through the nightmare that was Jason Heyward’s season, you have my deepest sympathies. Come meet me at the next San Francisco meet-up and I’ll buy you a craft beer to cry in and supply a nice big bag of rocks for us to kick together.