This isn’t an article about the merits of playing either Jason Heyward or Jose Constanza.
At this point, just about every Braves fan has heard the arguments for each side (ride the hot hand vs. let the future of the franchise work through a slump) and seeing another article about that isn’t going to change many (if any) opinions.
After Wednesday night’s loss to the Cubs, in which Heyward took a called third strike to end the game, he was heavily criticized (some things so bad that they can’t be repeated) by a number of Braves fans.
While Heyward is in a slump, it’s ridiculous that people are actually starting to give up on the guy. He is 22 years old (barely) and this was his age 21 season.
Sure, there are some flaws with his game right now but there’s no reason to panic. Most players aren’t lucky enough to be in the majors at 22, never mind already having a 5+ WAR season under their belt.
To make the point as simply as possible, I’d like to bring up the case of Hall-of-Famer Willie Mays.
Like Heyward, the Say Hey Kid made his debut as a 20 year old and excelled. Compiling a .274/.356/.472 slash line and 4.3 fWAR, Mays won the rookie of the year award.
Things turned around quickly for the young outfielder however. In 1951, his sophomore season was a disappointment from the start. Mays put up just a .236/.326/.409 slash line in 144 plate appearances before leaving baseball to serve in the military.
Obviously, Mays’ slump didn’t last over as many games as Heyward’s and wasn’t quite as bad (Mays had a .347 wOBA as compared to Heyward’s current .341). The point remains the same however. Mays had a terrific rookie year, struggled in his (shortened) sophomore campaign, then put everything together (after his time in the military was completed) to eventually become one of the greatest players of all time.
Even if Heyward can’t live up to Mays (which would be an incredible and unlikely feat) the J-Hey kid still has a promising future regardless of this season and it’s ridiculous for fans to write him off because of one bad year when he is still extremely young.