Jason Heyward recently said that he signed with the Cubs, in part, because Chicago’s core players are younger than the Wainwright-Molina-Holliday core in St. Louis and that he was worried about the state of the team three or four years from now. Which, when you’re signing a long-term deal, seems significant.
In the wake of that, however, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny bristled, seemingly thinking that Heyward was making some sort of judgment about the Cardinals’ players rather than merely noting the obvious and incontrovertible fact of their biological age and the fact that every single player ages and, eventually, loses effectiveness. Matheny’s response would make sense if Heyward said that old guys suck or that the Cardinals’ old guys are somehow bad or whatever, but he didn’t do that at all.
Matheny isn’t the only one reacting curiously. Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright was on Bernie Miklasz’s radio show and was asked about Heyward’s comments. He decided to go in a different direction altogether: armchair psychology!
After noting that Heyward is a great player and was a great teammate in his time in St. Louis, he said that Heyward wasn’t just making a financial and competitive decision. He speculated that Heyward lacks a certain quality of leadership that would make him want to be a St. Louis Cardinal:
“[I]t really comes down to a personality trait to me. The person that we want to give that kind of money to, that big money to, he needs to be a person that wants to be the guy that carries the torch. He needs to be a guy that wants to be the person, that after we leave, he carries on the tradition. And that’s just a personality thing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But we’re looking for that guy who wants to be the man.”
That passage is fun, suggesting that, really, the Cardinals didn’t want Heyward after all or are relieved that they didn’t get him now that he’s revealed himself not to “want to be the man.” Which may make Wainwright and the other Cardinals feel better, but management certainly wanted him or else they wouldn’t have offered him in excess of $184 million to stay.
This is all rather hilarious. You would think that Heyward’s own comments about why he didn’t take the Cardinals’ offer — the relative ages of the teams — would be taken at face value. Or, if we didn’t take that at face value that we’d next go to more objective factors such as the Cubs’ giving him an opt-out clause which the Cardinals appear not to have offered him (or at least have not been reported to have offered him). Or maybe he has his own reasons of which none of us are aware.
But no. Rather than accept that a grown man made a professional and personal decision which suited him and his interests, Adam Wainwright decides to play psychiatrist and diagnose Heyward with some combination of Dependent Personality Disorder or Imposter Syndrome. That’s a great look. Way better than doing what most players do when someone leaves a team and either wishes him well or refuses to comment on him because he’s not with the club anymore and no longer their concern.
Between this, Matheny’s comments and the reaction of some portions of the Cardinals fan base and commentariat I can’t recall a more emotional and, in some cases, ridiculous response to a rental player in a walk year deciding to sign elsewhere.