Jason Heyward told reporters at his introductory press conference last week in Chicago that he chose the Cubs over the Cardinals due in large part to the Cubs’ younger core of star players: “I felt like if I were to look up in three years [in St. Louis] and see it’s a completely different team, that would be kind of be different for me,” Heyward said. “Chicago really offers me an opportunity to come in, get introduced to the culture by a young group of guys.”
Those comments are generating some posturing from the Cardinals, who have won three straight National League Central titles and played in four out of the last five National League Championship Series — the one miss was this past year, when the Cubs advanced past their arch-rivals in the NLDS.
Here is Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, speaking Saturday to St. Louis Post-Dispatch veteran Rick Hummel …
“I don’t think we have anything to apologize for in having a group like a Holliday, a Molina, a Wainwright,” said Matheny. “Those are the kinds of guys everybody wants on a club.
“I see where he’s coming from. I mean, look at what Chicago’s done. It’s very unique in this game — to have that many impact players at that young age. And he’s a young player. But I can’t say I’m in any kind of agreement with that (Chicago) core being better than any kind of core that we have.
“That veteran group (that the Cardinals have) also helps drive what the younger group turns into.”
All things you’d expect Matheny to say about his own club — a club that will not enter 2016 as favorites in the NL Central but should still be very competitive. He then dug a little deeper …
“I don’t blame him. But I don’t like it,” continued Matheny. “I thought we created a really good atmosphere and he had to weigh what was most important to him. … We made a terrific offer. With all that being said, it comes down to what does a guy want? (Staying in St. Louis) just wasn’t what he was looking for.”
This seems like a good time to note that the Cubs’ eight-year, $184 million deal with Heyward carries two opt-outs, which could very well give it more overall earning potential than whatever the Cardinals or Nationals proposed. Heyward says he took less, but that’s not certain. Big-time free agents usually follow the money.
The Cubs first visit St. Louis for a three-game series at Busch Stadium April 18-20.
The rivalry is all the way back.