Tagged: Heyward

Do The Braves Have a Heyward “Obsession” ?

There are lots of reasons for playing lots of different players and all of them come with a unique set of circumstances. Some players are written into the line up card because they provide speed or power, some because they are the leaders of their respective ball clubs and others are just in their because they make too much money to sit on the bench despite their struggles.

But when Fredi Gonzalez inks in Jason Heywards name into the line up card what reason is he giving himself? Is he playing Jason for his ability to help this ball club win baseball games? Is he putting him out there so that he can work through his struggles? Or is he putting him out there because he’s Jason Heyward and he’s supposed to be a franchise player for the next decade and a half?

Certain players bring a certain element to the game that isn’t on the field related. A certain element that is based more on emotion then it is on factual information. We are only a brief way into this 2013 season and it’s too early to be labeling anyone as a success or failure for the season and I won’t even attempt to do that. However I can bring some issues I see with Heyward to the surface of this argument that I’m going to present to you guys.

Since before Heyward even saw a pitch in the Major Leagues he was a Braves icon. There was so much excitement and hype around him that blew even Freddie Freeman’s move to the big leagues out of the water. Freddie Freeman, despite often out performing Jason Heyward does not gather the same type of enthusiasm.

Maybe it’s because on paper Jason Heyward is almost a perfect a athletic specimen. He stands 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 240lbs. He can field his position, throw out base runners, hit for average, hit for power and the man can run like a deer despite his large frame. There are very few baseball players that look as good as Jason does on paper.

Unfortunately baseball games are not won on paper they are won on the diamond with excellent team and player performances on a nightly basis. And I believe that things may be getting a little too comfortable for Mr. Heyward. Being penciled into the line up card night in and night out despite his struggles and on top of that has not even been dropped out of the 2 hole yet.

Fredi is dealing with the pressure to play Heyward because he can not appear to give up on the team’s franchise player. There’s the energy surrounding the Upton, Upton and Heyward outfield. The only issue is one Upton is playing excellent baseball, the other Upton gets paid too much money to bench and Heyward is neither of those two things.

With Heyward under performing from a statistical stand point and only making 3.6 million from a financial aspect, the Braves could exercise the option of sitting Heyward. Now if any of you are arguing that no one has ever gotten better by sitting on the bench and missing at bats, you’re absolutely right but I’m not sure that’s Jason’s entire issue.

I think the Braves have possibly made it a little to comfortable for Jason in Atlanta. Always putting him in the line up and generally speaking batting him in a critical part of the line up ( the top 3rd) is sending him the message that he is guaranteed to occupy that spot no matter what the results may be.

But what if the Braves took a different approach with Heyward and Fredi put him in a position where he competed for playing time and competed for at bats with the other outfielders. Several situations come to mind of how Fredi could handle this in the near future.

Drop Heyward to 6th or 7th: When Jason was put in the bottom part of the order last season he thrived and basically tore the cover off the ball for weeks on end. He was hitting for a solid average and showing off his power while driving in runs. A lot of his success last season came from the lower part of the order and the reason he got moved back up to the top of the order was because of his excellent performance in the 6th spot. Not sure if he’s more comfortable there or if it’s a lower pressure situation (only Jason knows this) but he does seem to hit better in those areas of the line up.

Evan Gattis needs a job: If you have been a fan of what Evan Gattis has been bringing to the table for the Braves then you may want to listen to this alternative solution. With Freddie Freeman due back on Monday the whole at 1st base will now be plugged on a nightly basis. So if Gattis wants to get regular at bats then he will have to catch. However Laird catches at least 1 day a week with Teheran and in a few weeks McCann will hopefully be ready to come back. This creates a possible situation of moving Justin Upton to Right Field and having Gattis play LF, leaving the struggling Heyward on the bench. The line up would include all the major bats of Freeman, McCann, Gattis and the Uptons.

A Solution to our Lead Off Needs: The idea of possibly sitting Heyward also opens up the opportunity to get Jordan Schafer into the lineup. In a very small sample size Schafer has looked impressive this year and seems eager to get some playing time. The key here is that Schafer is a “true” lead off man, something that the Braves have been lacking all year. Schafer can also defend the outfield with his solid glove work and could take over for BJ in Center while moving him to right field.

These are all just possible solutions and I’m not saying that any of them should be 100% pursued at this point in the season but it’s imperative that Fredi keeps his options open and explores any and every alternative that would help the Braves win ball games.

By: Bob McVinua


Who’s Our Right Fielder?

I told myself 100 times last night that I wasn’t going to write a story about this. I said that blowing it up into a bigger deal then it actually is, always a bad idea. But as I’m sitting here at my computer I can’t help but wonder something. Who is the Braves right fielder? Is it Jason Heyward? Or is it Jose Constanza?

Now I live in New England so I can’t even claim to have more exposure then my fellow Braves fans who are from the south, but I have heard A LOT of mixed feelings on this subject. I can’t remember the last time the Braves fan base was so divided on something like this. Now there are two different arguments to this situation and to be honest I believe both of them make sense. One of the things I love about the Braves fan base is that were generally very reasonable. Our points are usually very valid and we just want what’s best for our team.

Argument #1: Jose Constanza should be the right fielder. He has proved he can handle big league pitching and he brings a ton of speed to our line up. The one thing about speed is it never slumps and affects so many different aspects of the game. With Bourn and Constanza in the line up our opponents have to worry about extreme speed at the top and bottom of the order. Constanza can steal a ton of bases and beat out infield hits. His speed also helps him to field his position. The biggest and simplest part of this argument is that Constanza is HOT RIGHT NOW. Play the hot bat while it’s hot. This team needs to win now because were capable of competing for a world series right now. You don’t play .600 baseball by accident.

Argument #2: Jason Heyward needs to be in right field. Heyward is younger then Constanza and has been said to be the future of this franchise. There for he needs to be in the line up and getting at bats. The only way to get out of a slump is to get plate appearances. No one has ever broken out of a slump sitting on the bench. Heyward, as we saw last night possess some serious pop in his bat. He is a lot more likely to hit a 3 run home run in a big spot then Constanza is. We don’t want Heyward to lose his groove completely because of lack of at bats, thus making the slump even worse.

Both sides are very passionate about their sides. People are very upset that Heyward isn’t playing and other people don’t want a struggling Heyward in the line up. Some people love Constanza while other people are happy when he’s on the bench.

The bottom line is these are two different types of players. It’s like comparing Derek Jeter to Albert Pujols. They are in the line up to do two completely different things. It doesn’t mean that they both can’t be talented players, it just means that they have two very different ways of doing things.

The stats match up like this:

Jose Constanza: 23 games / 78 at bats / 18 runs / 29 hits / 7 steals / .372avg / .417obp

Jason Heyward: 99 games / 321 at bats / 42 runs/ 72 hits / 6 steals / .224avg / .314obp

The first thing that should jump out to you in fairness is the sample size. Constanza has played in basically a 1/4 of the games that Heyward has played in. So most people will say that the chance of Constanza keeping up this pace would be very unlikely and boarder line impossible.

But lets be fair to Constanza here. Yes he’s only played in 23 games. However he doesn’t have to keep his average at .372 to prove a point. If he kept up this pace in other categories such as stolen bases. if he played in 99 games like Heyward he would possibly have 28 steals right now. He would certainly pass 30 steals for the season as a full time player because speed DOES NOT slump.

Constanza’s batting average could drop down to .310 or even .305 which would be a lot more “normal” and he’d still be way ahead of Heyward. I do feel that some people have it out for Constanza because of his journeyman status. Here comes this 28 year old career minor league player, who has basically taken our future superstars job.

The thing is Jason Heyward has not voiced any concerns over it. He knows that he is going to have to win his job back by playing better. Last night was a very good start and we’ll have to see if he’s in the line up more often once Constanza comes back .

Yes Jason Heyward had a great rookie campaign but so do a lot of people. One year does not make you a super star that deserves a spot in the line up everyday. Dan Uggla didn’t get benched because he had proven time and time again that he is one of the best second baseman in all of baseball. He made a name for himself in Florida which allowed him to ride out his hitting slump on the field instead of the bench.

I think the over all offense was producing at a higher level with Constanza in the line up. I’m not looking at them as individuals here because I’m a much bigger Atlanta Braves fan then I am a fan of any single player. I like what Constanza brought to the line up. I think his speed produced a lot of runs and kept defenses off balanced. Whenever Constanza put the ball in play he had a chance to get on base. That’s not the case with Heyward. Speedy players very rarely slump for long periods of time because they can bunt for hits and beat out routine ground balls.

I believe that Heyward is the future right fielder for the Braves. However I think that Fredi has to play the HOT bat. It’s not different in any other sport, the player who’s hot RIGHT NOW plays. Fredi could not sit at the podium after a Braves loss and explain why he has a red hot bat sitting on the bench so that he can get Heyward at bats. It’s not like Heyward is sitting on the bench for weeks at a time. He’s in the line up at least once a week so he is still getting at bats.

By: Bob McVinua




Who Is Jose Constanza?

By: Bob McVinua

As the calender turned from July to August something changed with this Braves team that was much more drastic then a new month. It almost seemed as if it was the dawn of a new era. As if someone flipped a switch and things were different. What was the difference? This team finally had speed. However Michael Bourn was not the only player providing this impressive increase in speed. There was another guy who know one knew much about until a week or so ago. There was a guy who was trapped in the minor leagues just hoping for a chance to prove himself.

On the outside Jose Constanza might not look overly impressive. He stands roughly 5’9 and weighs about a 150lbs soak and wet.  But what he lacks in size he makes up for in speed, heart and determination. This is a player who was being bounced around the minor leagues for almost 7 seasons. The fact that most players who make it to the major leagues are up in 2-4 years tops. Everyone needs development but 7 season is a long time. It appeared that Jose Constanza would be a career minor league player as he turned 27 and still didn’t see much hope of playing in the big leagues.

If you search  the internet you will find little information on Jose Constanza. Sure you might find some stats or brief scouting reports but who is this guy? I know that he was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I know that the Cleveland Indians signed him as a non drafted free agent. In February 2011 he was labeled Triple A’s best base runner. But to me these are all standard facts. A minor league scouting report and a birth place can be found on just about every player who’s ever played this great game of baseball. I want to know more about the man behind the speed.

Constanza spent 7 seasons in the minors for the Indians.

So I’m sure a lot of you are wondering how did this journey man outfielder who had never played a day in the major leagues until a week ago take over Jason Heyward’s job in right field. That’s a good question. When you look at Jason Heyward you see an absolute monster. The guy is 6’5 and 240lbs. He has power at the plate and as much hype surrounding him as any Braves rookie I have seen in the past 17 years of being a fan. He was supposed to be the future of the Braves outfield and to be honest many people, including myself considered him to be the future of the franchise once Chipper Jones calls it quits.

One word can describe how this all happened. That word is opportunity. See without opportunity none of us would be where we are today. This doesn’t just apply to sports. This is a lesson that can be applied to life. If your boss hadn’t given you an opportunity then you wouldn’t have the job you do. If  your spouse had never given you the opportunity to show how wonderful you are then you guys wouldn’t be married. Kid’s who try out for little league are given a chance when they are selected for a particular team. Opportunity is not about sports, it’s about life.

Constanza has been a spark offensively and defensively for the Braves.

Jose Constanza got called up to the major leagues for several reasons. Some of them were just by chance and others were his own doing. At the time of his call up the Braves were lacking team speed, had slumping players and a brash of injuries. All of those things were blessings in disguise for our new found friend Jose Constanza. Those aspects of the situation he had no control over. However what he did have control over was that he was hitting .312 with a .361OBP at the time of his call up. Jose made himself a prime candidate to be promoted to the major leagues, so when the time came he was the one they wanted.

Another aspect that we’ve learned from this situation is that what you did yesterday won’t guarantee you success for tomorrow. People quickly forget about the past and that forces all of us to stay on our game. If your a sales men and you had a superb month in March but don’t sell a single thing in April and May, then your boss won’t care so much that you had a great month of March. Jason Heyward is having the same realization as we speak. Yes, he had a great rookie campaign but right now he can’t hit water if he was standing in a boat. Were in a pennant race and a slumping Heyward is not going to help us win games.

What’s the future for Jose Constanza? It’s tough to say for sure. Sometimes these journey man players fade almost as quickly as they came into the picture. Jason Heyward will ALWAYS have the upper hand in this battle. He is the “chosen one” as far as the Atlanta Braves are concerned. If Heyward starts tearing the cover off the ball in the next 2 weeks then Constanaza will either go to the bench or back to the minor leagues. Even if both players are producing at the same level, Heyward will be given the chance to play. Right, wrong or indifferent it’s just the way it is.

So if you ask me. Jason Heyward has as much control over Jose Constanza’s future as Jose Constanza does. This is not just a great sports story. This is a great life story. We should all be inspired by Jose Constanza and realize that we need to take advantage of all the opportunities that comes our way.

Opportunities have wings. And they will eventually fly away. Grab it while you can.