Bringing up Heyward

Talking with Bill James: Part 2 | Cincinnati Sports News.

This is about a Reds prospect, but I think it’s germane, and I found it interesting:

A very high percentage of the greatest players ever got to the majors when they were 20 or 19 and they did that in part because they had unusual talent, but it also works the other way. The guys get an opportunity to learn the game at the Major League level sometimes pick up things at a deeper level than the guys who have to learn the game at AA and AAA and relearn the game in the majors and sometimes unlearn a lot of stuff. There is a real problem with moving too slowly. On the other hand, in modern baseball, there’s usually a bigger problem with moving too fast. That’s in part because of the clock, particularly if you’re not one of the rich organizations, you’ve got six-and-a-half years to take advantage of the players you develop and you don’t want to waste too much of that while they’re figuring out how to play the game. You want to do as much as possible of figuring out how to play the game at the minor league level and then get the good years in the majors.

For what it’s worth, I checked, and it’s absolutely true about the greatest players getting to the majors at 19 or 20. Of the twenty top players in career Runs Created, sixteen got to the majors before their Age 21 season. (Admittedly, that gives them a better chance at a long career and to compile stats, but they’re the type of players you think of as the greatest in history.) Three of the four exceptions (Bonds, Palmeiro, Thomas) were college players who had short minor league careers. (And Bonds, of course, grew up around the game.) The other exception, Pete Rose, was unique in many ways and really not the type of player we’re talking about anyway.

157 thoughts on “Bringing up Heyward”

  1. I have to admit I’ll be a little ticked if Heyward is on the opening day roster… Because I’m a fan of the Braves team, not just the 2010 team, and I want that extra year out of him (though I hope the front office will figure out how to talk to him about it realistically and frame it in a way that doesn’t sound like “we want to screw you out of $10M in 5 years”).

    That said… I’m looking forward to seeing him play this year.

  2. What happens if Heyward comes up, struggles, and they send them down? Does the clock stop then? That could be the silver lining in this.

  3. JB,

    Just before roster expansion date (sometime in August) in 1996.

    Andruw was 19, as I remember, and had played at High A (Durham?) for 60 days AA (Greenville) for 30 days and AAA (Richmond) for 15 days. The year before he had been Minor Leeague Player of the Year at Macon in Low A.

    The real failing now in looking at Heyward is why they didn’t bring him up in August of last year when Church was ailing, McLouth was ailing, and we had Reid Gorecki getting meaningful innings. FO should have determined by then that he either (1) would not come up before mid June 2010 or (2) if possible he would come up, should have been brought up to fill the breach in 2009. That MIGHT have been enough to push the 2009 team over the line. If Heyward had shown he wasn’t ready, then you hold him down in 2010 until July or August and you still get your 6 full years. Only cost was a 40 man roster spot and prorated ML minimum for 60 days.

  4. Rob at 4,

    Heyward will not be sent down. Only way he doesn’t start in ATL now is if he has a nagging injury. They will hold him in AAA if he isn’t apparently fully ready to go and make the roster move later when they activate him.

    But, if they DID option him, then service clocks stop.

  5. I live in Raleigh and went to see Andruw play in Durham in 96. He was amazing. I still don’t understand what happened to stall his development. Always wondered if he was older than advertised.

  6. He got big, then he got fat. That seems mean, and Andruw is one of my favorite guys all time, but when he bulked up, it ruined both his offensive and defensive game. I think it’s amazing that he has so much talent, he was able to get away with it for so long.

  7. 4,
    Yes, once a player is optioned to the minor leagues, he stops accumulating service time until he’s called up again.

    For instance, Jordan Schafer got about 90 days of service last year. If he had alerted the Braves about his wrist injury before being optioned, he would’ve accumulated closer to 180 days.

  8. #5, were 33-25 in August and September, even allowing for the 6 games were lost to close the season once it became clear we wouldn’t get the wild card. I don’t see how a 19 year old Heyward especially helps that, even if you believe Garret Anderson would have been dropped and not Matt Diaz.

  9. Spike,

    I don’t exactly get the “social darwinism” dynamic as it applied to this.

    Besides, Darwin’s theories should probably be referred to as “Biological Smithianism.”

  10. Oh I was being slightly hyperbolic, but it seems like Bish went out of his way with the “good boy from an IVY LEAGUE family” bit, when contrasted with some of his previous articles. I’ll leave it at that.

    /and “social darwinism” has nothing to do with Darwinism, although I am probably just not understanding your last remark.

  11. Spike at 11,

    But doesn’t he remember the Somalian pirates? I mean, he did remember Japan from WWII.

  12. Spike at 13,

    As I understand the pharse “social Darwinism” it means a position or belief that in human society the people should survive at their own wits and efforts (i. e. not with government support). The term is used to indicate application of Darwin’s theories of biology (The Origin of the Species) to human attempts to “survive.” So, I definitely think it has something to do with “that Darwin.”

    The last part of my earlier post references the often posed question of where Darwin came up with his ideas. Adam Smith published “Wealth of Nations” in 1776 and some of his students were Darwin’s teachers (not sure of whom). The thought is that Darwin overlaid Smith’s theories onto Darwin’s observations of biology.

    Getting political here (but maybe “fair and balanced”), isn’t it ironic that a large number of people who think “social Darwinism” is bad believe strongly in its application to biology, while on the contrary, many people who think Darwin was very wrong seem to support the application of his principles to human behavior and interaction.

    As Arsenio Hall would say “Hmmm ?”

  13. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard’s first full years were both at age 25. They are doing just fine.

    There is a real problem with moving too slowly.

    Prove it.

  14. Greetings from Miami…

    Re: Bisher
    I try not to pick on the old man, but it’s hard. However, I might imagine that he’d enjoy HBO’s new miniseries, “The Pacific.”

  15. Cliff, that is a completely different definiition than I have ever seen before. And I really will leave it at that.

  16. Bobby on TV just now: “I think this time is his time… Jason’s got a good chance to make this team and make us a lot better… he has not shocked me at all.”

    Hey, Yunel made up for it by hitting a 2-run homer! How bout that!

  17. WTF?

    Francoeur looks a lot better physically now that he’s lost all that old Braves muscle. Just a lot smoother and more athletic.

  18. cliff –

    I am having a hard time finding any reference to Darwin having pupils of Smith as instructors, let alone that “Darwin overlaid Smith’s theories onto Darwin’s observations of biology.” I am aware that Darwin read Smith, and mentioned/cited Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments in The Descent Of Man. He never mentions Smith again, and never uses the “invisible hand” expression.

    What is your source for this assertion?

  19. Yes, the old Braves muscle just killed him. And they never taught him about stealing bases, either.

  20. The quote from above irritates me a little. In particular, the line about guys who learn the game at AA or AAA having to unlearn a bunch of stuff at the major league level. Either that’s a baseless statement (which if it was Bill James saying it, seems unlikely) or else teams are going about player development ass-backwards. I simply can’t fathom why any minor league affiliate would be allowed to teach, or even simply not to correct, approaches that will not work at the major league level. And if the implication is that the coaches at the minor league level aren’t as capable as those at the major league level, well, isn’t that wrong too? Obviously not everyone can be coached to be successful at the highest level, but the statement implies that players will have to UNLEARN things they learned in the minors. The other day Neyer wrote something about how nutrition in the minor leagues is effectively ignored, and how dumb that was. I’m starting to wonder if that stupidity isn’t endemic.

  21. “Unlearn” may mean bad instruction, but in this case I think James is referring rather to bad learning by experience. A hitter who spends three years in AA and AAA learns that he will get a certain type of pitch in a certain situation, and can drive it, only to find out, when he makes the majors, that major league pitchers are better and he can’t expect that. A pitcher learns that he can get away with a certain pitch in a certain spot, only to find out that major league hitters will kill it.

  22. Beyond Mac’s explanation, where do you put your best teachers? (I don’t know the answer to that question.)

  23. Mac, thanks for the clarification. I still wonder, though, if some of the bad learning by experience couldn’t be mitigated by coaching. When a minor leaguer succeeds in a manner that won’t beget success at a higher level, shouldn’t a good coach be working on that? Or am I forgetting what it was like to be young and confident and difficult to coach?

  24. A hitter who spends three years in AA and AAA learns that he will get a certain type of pitch in a certain situation, and can drive it, only to find out, when he makes the majors, that major league pitchers are better and he can’t expect that. A pitcher learns that he can get away with a certain pitch in a certain spot, only to find out that major league hitters will kill it.

    This is obviously what James means but there is no way this could apply to having a 20 year old spend an extra half season at AA.

    And considering the success of the Ken Phelps All-Star types over the years, I question whether this phenomenon exists at all.

  25. You put your best teachers in A and AA. By the time a guy reaches the majors, he’s mostly trying to repeat whatever has brought him success already. (Remember, Hank Aaron admitted in his autobiography that when he had a particularly high-pressure at-bat, he would sometimes bat cross-handed — since that’s the way he learned to hit when playing stickball.) You want your best teachers in the minors, helping kids learn how to get the most out of their abilities in an environment where wins and losses matter far, far less than individual results.

  26. I’ve been out of the loop for awhile. Generally during the offseason I go pay attention to other sports, but let me enter the fray late by saying that I don’t think we can afford to leave Heyward down in Gwinnett for the first part of the year. You may be saving yourself a year, but you’re costing yourself wins…wins we can’t afford to cost ourselves.

    I know statistically it’s only one or two wins we’d likely be punting, but why would we intentionally not start the season with our best team on the field? It just doesn’t make any sense looking six years down the road. Who knows what will be happening six years down the road? Who knows what will be happening two years down the road?

    If we didn’t need him, or he would be on the bench, that would be one thing. But he wouldn’t be. He would be our starting RF. If he’s our starting RF, we need him up.

    We were already left wondering what would have been had we called Hanson up at the start of last year. We can’t make the same mistake again.

  27. Statistically, it’s much less than 1 win you’re costing yourself in 2010 by leaving Heyward in the minors for 10 games. And you’re earning yourself his Age-26 season. This should not be a tough decision.

  28. I think it would look really shabby to send Heyward down for only 10 games. Yes it’s a business but it would rub him and others the wrong way. I say start him in the majors or plan on having him in AAA for a month or more. I favor the latter.

  29. You know, a few years ago this sort of thing was considered low-class and not trying to win, and teams would deny doing it. Now, nobody denies it. Is this progress? Maybe.

  30. Spike at 28,

    Actually my original source was something I read in law school almost 30 years ago. In 20 minutes I found the following on the internet. Apparently it (the possible link in the philosophies) has been a hot topic in recent years.

    From Stephen Jay Gould (one of Darwin’s most ardent modern supporters):

    In reading Schweber’s detailed account of the moments preceding Darwin’s formulation of natural selection, I was particularly struck by the absence of deciding influence from his own field of biology. The immediate precipitators were a social scientist, an economist, and a statistician. If genius has any common denominator, I would propose breadth of interest and the ability to construct fruitful analogies between fields. In fact, I believe that the theory of natural selection should be viewed as an extended analogy–whether conscious or unconscious on Darwin’s part I do not know–to the laissez faire economics of Adam Smith.

    A couple of other links

  31. Is this progress?

    Absolutely it is, and I see nothing particularly “low-rent” about it. Players are drafted and sign contracts. Both parties have a specific set of rules to adhere to. Players have (and rightly so) no compunction about taking advantage of the arbitration rules (for example, you can’t get more than a 20% pay cut). Owners should be free as well to use the rules as they are constructed to maximize their investments in these guys. It ain’t like Mr. Potter swiping George’s money here. Why the heck would Heyward “hold it against” the Braves when every other team in baseball would do the same thing?

  32. On a side note, I have a guy in the class I’m teaching who roomed with Pete Rose in A ball. He basically confirmed the stories about him. He said he didn’t need to express what he really thought about him in mixed company and hopes he NEVER gets into the HOF.

  33. Right – I saw the articles, among others, and noted that it was controversial to say the least, and hardly a settled topic. In fact, since there are no notes or references from Darwin indicating any debt to Smith, it would seem the only “connection” between the two is one of inference and conjecture, primarily based on the predisposition of the author of the article, I might add. I was hoping you had based your assertions on something more concrete.

    A discussion of the parallels (or not) between natural selection and laissez-faire economic policy will have to wait until Mac loosens the rules of the forum or we meet somewhere else in cyberspace.

  34. cliff, the difference between your definition of social darwinism and, well, the correct one, is that social darwinists did not focus on what should be the case (basically advocating for meritocracy), but claimed that it is the case the rich and/or white are inherently better than the poor and/or dark. They were basically eugenicists.

    It’s a pejorative phrase. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone unironically label himself a social darwinist.

  35. I have a question re: the ten days thing. Mac noted that it’s a fairly recent development that teams have sort of openly and proudly rigged call up times like this.

    The only worry I have about keeping Heyward down is the possibility it’d affect the Braves’ chances at extending his deal past his arbitration. It doesn’t seem likely, but have any players responded really negatively to teams treating them that way?

  36. I hope this issue isn’t even being discussed by the FO. If Heyward is in Atlanta for opening day, it had better be in the stands.

  37. Another thing… while everyone remembers that Hanson was kept down for largely (but not exclusively) financial reasons, they seem to forget that Schafer, who at the time was considered an elite prospect, though not in the Hanson/Heyward range, started on Opening Day last year.

  38. Mac, one might argue that since he was not in the Hanson/Heyward range, the risk in having him up on opening day was considerably smaller.

  39. He’s still your 22 year old centerfielder of the future — and Blanco, at that time, was a much better candidate to fill in for ten days in center than anyone is now to fill in for ten days in right, and they had another candidate in Josh Anderson. Everything that the Braves have done since cutting Church has indicated that they’re at least willing to start the season with Heyward.

  40. Oh, I certainly agree with that statement. I am holding out hope that “at least willing to” doesn’t become “will” though. For me, sacrificing the greater good for 10 days of play, half of which are on the road, is bordering on fiduciary irresponsibility, but hey, it ain’t my money. I would be interested to flash forward a few years and listen to how loud the wail from the Braves Nation will be should he leave a full year earlier than might have for free agency.

  41. 43—Amen.

    47—The Rays did it with Longoria, and nobody — including the player himself, who subsequently signed one of the team-friendliest long-term contracts of the modern era — seemed to hold it against them.

  42. ya know, i dont want to say jerry crasnick has a point but… he has a point. wasnt it the braves that wanted francoeur to develop more power? he had his best year the year before he put on those 15 pounds of muscle and his worst year when he put on those 15 pounds of muscle.

    i still loathe jeff francoeur.

  43. At least it’s another team now deluding itself, sdp.

    Rob, I think the idea is that too much muscle leads to diminished flexibility. That was conventional wisdom in baseball from the early ’60s to the early ’80s. Either that, or Frenchy got obsessed with hitting tape-measure shots, which I wouldn’t put past him.

  44. I’m perfectly okay with starting Heyward in the minors, provided that he goes back to the minors for 10 games at some point. He might get injured or fatigued at some point in the dog days and sent down to recuperate or whatever, and that’d be totally fine with me. The main thing is just as Stu said: making sure that the man is a Brave for 6 years instead of 5.

  45. Another thing… while everyone remembers that Hanson was kept down for largely (but not exclusively) financial reasons, they seem to forget that Schafer, who at the time was considered an elite prospect, though not in the Hanson/Heyward range, started on Opening Day last year.

    Yeah, and the fans piled on pretty quick too. Schafer hit that homerun in his first major league at-bat and everyone was crowning him rookie of the year; then he struggled and some morons on DOB’s blog wanted him released.

    With the expectations for Heyward even more sky high, what’s it going to be like if he makes the team and doesn’t hit a lick in April? Calls of “bust prospect”?

  46. 49,
    Just to add to your point, Schafer was a top-50 in all of baseball prospect pre-2008 and pre-2009.

    Yes. Yes we did. Some of us even bought it, too. (…where’s that Gadfly fellow…)

    The thing is, if the Braves option Heyward to the minors for anything other than a baseball reason, his agent is going to file a grievance and win. If he gets hurt while in MLB, the DL (where he still accumulates service time) is the only option.

    I do agree with your sentiment that he needs to spend 13 days in the minor leagues (and not on a rehab assignment) at some point within the next six years, and that it’s not particularly important when those 13 days happen.

  47. The Francoeur muscle thing probably has more truth to it than most of us are willing to admit. Though I hardly think it’s the Braves’ fault as Crasnick seems to indicate.

    The real story is Jeff Francoeur is a dumb ass (can’t stress this enough, though I’m mostly preaching to the choir here) and, for some reason, thought working out like a football player was an excellent idea. It led to a .239 batting average and a complete deterioration of his useful secondary skills (power, arm, running). When you never walk to begin with, that’s not going to end well. But it got him off our team and on the Mets, so maybe it was worth it.

  48. The best players in the majors tend to play at a young age because they are the most talented. They are simply ready earlier than other players because they have more talent. Playing early doesn’t cause players to play better. The Reds (or maybe it was the Cards) recently talked of a plan to improve their team by promoting their prospects faster, because guys who got to the majors earlier tended to be better. It reminded me of my friend who was concerned that his son might be autistic. His doctor told him that autistic children won’t sit criss cross applesauce (that’s today’s PC term for “Indian style”); therefore, he should encourage his child to sit this way, as if the way you sit could cause you to be autistic.

    If Heyward is ready, he’s ready. The Braves have a good team that they might not have a few years from now, so his contribution over a few weeks might be the difference between playoff revenue or not. Unless he blows it, I say let him start the season in Atlanta. And I am one who is extremely conservative about promoting players. But, if he starts on the big-league roster must be with the understanding that he can (and will) be sent down (stopping his service time) if he needs more work. We cannot have another Jeffy situation. If you perform you can stay, if you need work, you go to the minors.

  49. PW,

    I disagree with you on Jeffy’s muscles. Though his numbers have fluctuated, except for the first six weeks when he was called up, he’s been pretty consistent. He’s an all batting average kind of guy, so his numbers are going to jump around. And when he slumps, I think he tries to fix things rather than ride it out, which makes things worse. I think that’s why his power dipped some. If there is one thing we learned from steroids, it’s that big muscles do help you hit. That they don’t is baseball folk wisdom, which no one really believed anyway.

    In my mind, Jeffy’s the same mid-.700s OPS guy he always was. He’s a useful player, but has no business being anything other than contributor on a major-league team.

  50. I think his power dipped because of a fairly noticeable decline in bat speed. I’m no scout, but I’m far from the first person to make that observation.

  51. isnt power generated from your legs? he sure did look chest heavy that year. rememeber the SNL skit with Dana Carvey and Mike Myers, “How Much Ya Bench?” i could see jeff sitting under the bar working on his chest for hours.

  52. That is a good, somewhat depressing, point about Schafer making opening day roster… And unless McLouth pulls out of his funk the front office is going to be more justified in bringing up Heyward for opening day as it would be nice to not have one of your starting outfielders sucking at the plate.

    Unless they’ve got a deal ready to go with him for X years (and I’m not sure that’s a good plan just yet) I’d hate to see us screw ourselves out of a year of him on the team down the road, for two weeks of his production.

  53. Used to be that MLB players were discouraged from weight training because of the fear that it would slow their batspeed.

    Bonds, McGwuire (sp?), et al seem to dispell that notion, don’t they?

    Any “settled science” on the subject?

  54. The thing is, if the Braves option Heyward to the minors for anything other than a baseball reason, his agent is going to file a grievance and win. If he gets hurt while in MLB, the DL (where he still accumulates service time) is the only option.

    It’d be pretty hard to argue “Spring training stats aside, he’s not ready for MLB quite yet” isn’t a valid baseball reason. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone successfully grieving “non-baseball issue” though. It’s far too hard to prove.

  55. Should Heyward start with the club or go to the minors? I don’t know. There isn’t one and only one correct answer here. I have to laugh at all the guys who say such bold things like “if he’s in Atlanta he better be in the stands”. lol

    There are merits to both situations. To act like you have the only solution is hilarious.

  56. Heyward will start the season in Atlanta. The kid is our farewell gift to Bobby.

    When can we finally stop talking about Frenchy? Who care about that guy anymore? He could be awesome for the Mets, but frankly I don’t care.

  57. “The thing is, if the Braves option Heyward to the minors for anything other than a baseball reason, his agent is going to file a grievance and win.”

    Is that possible. How could you argue that a 20yr old shouldnt be sent to AAA if the team sees it as the best option for them. The Braves control the player, the agent doesnt. Did anyone here Bobby on ESPN during the game yesterday. Morgan was asking him about Heyward. Bobby said he was special and would spend “almost” all of his 20yr old season in the majors. Wondering if they are really considering keeping him down for 2 weeks. Id be surprised at any decision

  58. Optioning him down would be something that happened within the season. Heyward doesn’t need to be optioned yet, he’s not on the 40-man. And he may not be a member of the union yet. It’s only once he’s a major leaguer that he would have a grievance.

  59. I still don’t think there will a big difference between a 20 year-old Heyward and what he will be replacing (basically more Melky at bats). Certainly not over 10 games.

    However, I have a feeling there will be a very BIG difference between what Heyward will provide as a 26 year-old in 2016 and his likely replacement.

    The lesson: even the very best players in HISTORY, usually aren’t much more than league average as 20 year-olds. Send him to AAA.

  60. Look, either we eventually sign Heyward long-term or we don’t. If the 2016 year is a free agent year and we don’t sign him, are you really going to feel better? “At least we got an extra year out him!”, you’ll say? No, this whole place will be in meltdown mode. So it doesn’t matter if we “lose” a year of Heyward’s production if we sign him to a long-term deal a few years from now.

  61. Jason C.,

    And that is why it can be considered “baseball related.” (Even though Heyward may not be able to file a grievance until put on 40 man roster as noted above).

    But actually, if Heyward were down (10% chance if there isn’t an injury), you would probably see Hinske in against righthanders and Melky and Diaz against left handers.

    So, yes, the odds are that that strange platoon would out hit Heyward (He would have to ops 800 and only a few 20 year olds have ever done that).

  62. David at 75,

    Only to address the debate, not the fact of Heyward on ML roster.

    David, it is very damn relevant. Based on anything approaching normal aging curve, If Heyward is 800 ops this year he will be 1000 ops in 2015 (the jumping off point for his value in 2016). If there is no inflation and substantially the same arb system as now, then Heyward could be had for 1 year at around 15 million. If he is a free agent, it is 8 years 25 million (maybe more on both).

    So, even for that one year, he gets 10 million extra (let alone the fact of requiring a big guarantee going beyond 2016).

    Any eventual buy out contract starts from the proposition of “where will we be if we don’t do this.” Both parties know that and adjust as they see fit. If you are Heyward’s rep and you know you are arb controlled through 2016, then that changes the value of 2016 (and the several years that follow it).

  63. Umm, the extra year is *exactly* what I want. I mean, Heyward projects as a star-level player. Every year we can ensure that he’s a Brave, the better.

    And there’s a very real chance that he rejects any contract offer to take the Boras path of quickest to free agency. Why simply assume he will sign? Because Longoria did?

    10 games of 800 OPS ball is not worth a year of star-level performance. I want to compete in 2016, too.

  64. @ 70/75 – I started to respond to the comment @ 70 with something approaching the reasoning laid out in prior posts, just not reflected in my last one. Then I read @ 75 and discovered that we’re dealing with, at best, about 40 watts upstairs.

  65. Cabrera leads off with a triple and doesn’t score. At least the offense is in mid-season form…

  66. It’s not wise to assume Heyward will sign a long-term contract with us. When and if he hits free agency, we’ll be competing with the Yankees et al. for his services and that doesn’t bode well for the Bravos.

    I got to see him in a spring training game, so maybe that’s why I can stand to be patient and let him stay in AAA a few games to start the year. :)

  67. But the vast majority of people who are accepted long-term contracts very early on in their career accept them. The reason they do so is because it is very, very smart for them to do so. If things go well for them, they have given up (to pick numbers abstractly) $35 million in favor of $25 million. You might think, that’s ten million dollars they’re giving up!!

    But the alternative, that he doesn’t pan out, or that he has some kind of catastrophic injury, is renders his future earnings so little that it is critical for him to bank that first ten million. That first ten million is more valuable than the next hundred million; it guarantees him a comfortable life.

    People in general want to bank that first ten million ASAP (because it’s a good idea for them!), and guaranteed baseball contracts allow them to do that. That’s why Longoria accepted the deal he did, and it’s why Heyward should be approaching the Braves about a Longo contract now. The Braves can afford to take on some minimal risk; if the worst comes, and Heyward doesn’t pan out for injury or whatever reason, the Braves are at a competitive disadvantage, but that’s it. Heyward, in that case, is screwed.

    It’s basic economics. Heyward wants to transfer the risk to the Braves because it guarantees him a good life, and the Braves want Heyward to transfer that risk to them because he’ll cut them a good deal to do it.

  68. There is an elephant in the room that no one is talking about. Attendance. The FO is counting on Jason Heyward to fill the stands, not just in Atlanta but on the road. At the same time, the Braves want to do something about their walk-up ticket sales. (That suffers when the average fan has to drive close to 100 miles to get to a game.) Heyward’s presence alone could significantly affect ticket sales from the local area. Think about it. Atlanta is a majority Black city, but you wouldn’t know it by the turnout at Braves games. People want to root for someone they can relate to. Not just the Braves, but MLB in general is trying to do something about African-American interest in the game. That goes back to being able to relate to the players. And word-of-mouth is the best advertising there is. Heyward will be with the Braves for a long time (think Chipper & McCann) and he’s a great guy (think Diaz). He will make the team, and he will definitely have earned it. Go Braves!

  69. He’s a useful player, but has no business being anything other than contributor on a major-league team.

    I was watching pretty closely but I guess I missed it. What was the useful part? Selling tickets?

    But the vast majority of people who are accepted long-term contracts very early on in their career accept them. The reason they do so is because it is very, very smart for them to do so.

    It’s certainly a risk-reduction move on the player’s part. Still, guys like Tex and Sabathia were clearly very comfortable with risk and both hit the jackpot landing huge FA contracts lasting well into their 30s with World Series rings as a little bonus.

    The point being that there are strong precedents out there for good young players holding out for free agency and it working out really well.

  70. Nathan – I agree with your general reasoning, but keep in mind that the greater the (mutual) perception of the risk being transferred, the lower the cost to the party assuming that risk. Having 7 (instead of 6) years of control increases the perceived (and probably actual) risk of injury or some other decline in a player’s career before reaching that first free agent season.

  71. Jeff,

    sure. You’re totally right. I’m sorry; I didn’t take myself to be arguing against that idea. I was just trying to motivate why Heyward should want to sign a long-term contract with the Braves ASAP, regardless of details, contra Rob in #83.

    Obviously, if we keep him down for ten days, we’ll be able to negotiate a better deal with him than otherwise.

  72. I liked how Hudson attacked and blew away Ibanez and Howard only to then pitch around Victorino like he was Ted Williams.

    We do not fear you Greg Dobbs!

  73. Small sample size, meaningless, etc… but 7 of our 8 position players expected to spend significant time with the club this season (so Heyward is included) in the lineup today have spring training BAs over .300… the only one without is Diaz. I find this rather encouraging in spite of all the aforementioned caveats.

  74. You know spring training is too long when Kruk starts making sense. (Rough paraphrase follows.)

    RAVECH: For all he’s done this spring, Heyward is now 0-for-his-last-8.
    KRUK: 0-8? That’s not a slump. That’s like two games!

  75. Did anyone else hear Hudson reference getting hit on the “boob” or am I going nuts?

  76. I don’t want to rely on Heyward’s financial sense to lock up his first $20 mil or so. I’d rather guard against his agent’s best interest to get him to free agency as soon as possible.

    In other words, send him to AAA. If he signs a long term deal great, nothing lost. If he doesn’t, you’ve gained a whole year of his prime.

    I don’t see a downside here.

  77. Ravech is just terrible. In the last two innings, he’s now informed us that Clint Sammons is fighting for a utility job and that Craig “Wimbrel” is on the mound. Even Bobby Valentine doesn’t deserve this.

  78. And now we see why “Wimbrel” needs more time in the minors. No idea where the ball is going. Not a clue.

    Added: Ravech really does think his name is “Wimbrel”, he just used it again.

  79. “Wimbrel’s” line for today – 2 BBs and 3 Ks. For some reason I don’t think this type of outing will be sustainable in the regular season. Given ST performance to date, my guess for the last roster spot is JoJo.

  80. I just got back from New Mexico and my latest edition of ESPN the Magazine was in the mail. Normally I just immediately throw it away, but I saw a note on the cover that said: “A Different Take On HGH Page 84”. Naturally, I turned to page 84 and, what do you know, it’s a J.C. Bradbury article.

    I highly recommend reading it.

    J.C., if you see this, very well done. I’m extremely happy to see an informed take on HGH in a major media outlet.

  81. Medlen with 5 Ks in two innings on the minor league fields.

    He seems to be doing much too well to simply be a long reliever.

  82. “he’s not in the lineup today”

    Im assuming you were talking about McLouth. If so, he and Hinske were in a minor league game to get extra AB’s today

    per DOB
    No real statistics to report on Nate McLouth, since I’m told he just jumped in for as many at-bats as he wanted, but manager Bobby Cox said he had a hit in his first at-bat and is continuing to bounce back. Eric Hinske also got a couple hits today back there.

  83. You know what could piss him off and make him more likely not to sign a deal with us? Thinking that we’re jerking him around for no good reason. I realize that the same thing happened to Longoria and he signed a deal anyway, but as long as we’re making crap up about what will happen six years down the road…

    If he’s your starting RF (not saying he is necessarily), and if you know that he’s going to be your starting RF from the moment that he’s up in the majors, starting him in AAA for 10 days is borderline demented IMO. And if not demented, it’s certainly one of the biggest douchebag maneuvers of all-time, and with Frank Wren’s history of horrible PR moves, it’s not going to happen.

    If we do that, we will be absolutely trashed in every corner of the media (local and national). And we will deserve every bit of it. We do not need to turn into the freaking New England Patriots, screwing people over at every turn for no particular reason.

    Also, did the Rangers and the Indians, respectively, offer Teixeira and Sabathia contracts after the first year, or did they wait several years? I’m guessing it wasn’t immediately, and that if it had been, they’d have signed it.

  84. The definition being – a pitcher who takes the mound with great stuff but no idea where it’s going?

  85. I suspect the Longoria deal was agreed before he was called up.

    Is it possible it was a condition of his promotion?

  86. To change the subject–Just got back from Seoul where I got to watch some Japanese baseball (on Korean tv) and bought a Braves cap! It is really nice to see the popularity of baseball evident in Korea: lots of baseball related things to buy, many kids wearing baseball hats, people on the subway playing baseball games on their handphones and televised games.

    I might add that its nice to come back here and read about the intellectual origins of Social Darwinism on Braves Journal!

    Nice to see Huddy off to a great start….

  87. @ 121,

    I understand that on Mets Blog they will be discussing Martin Luther and the Reformation.

  88. I’m really anticipating the three part series on Containment and the Truman Doctrine on FJB next week.

  89. If he’s your starting RF (not saying he is necessarily), and if you know that he’s going to be your starting RF from the moment that he’s up in the majors, starting him in AAA for 10 days is borderline demented IMO.

    People keep saying things like this, but the facts do not support it at all. It is incredible to me that folks don’t understand that 10 games of 20-year-old Heyward are worth significantly less than a full season of 26-year-old-Heyward. Even if you’re not a stats guy, isn’t that conclusion sort of intuitive?

  90. @127, your two options aren’t mutually exclusive. You can start him in the majors AND have him for that 6th year if you sign him longterm. There aren’t only two options here.

  91. I love this thread.

    CSG, that’s an interesting deal, but I’d probably prefer Heyward if you can keep a player indefinitely. Pedroia’s biggest fantasy strengths are BA and steals and power from a 2B, and Heyward can probably come close to matching Pedroia’s steals, BA, and HR as soon as this year. By next year, he’ll likely be a better hitter overall, and by 2012, he could be one of the top NL fantasy outfielders.

    Pedroia’s already had his career year. I’d sell high.

  92. 129—That seventh year is going to cost more, whether it’s part of a brand-new free-agent deal or a long-term extension signed this year, if you start him in Atlanta than it will if you play 10 games without him.

  93. While I agree that the smart business move is to send Heyward down for at least 10 days if not two months, it is evident that the front office does not really see that as an option. If your goal was to start him in the minors, then you don’t say things like “we’re going to give him every chance to win the job in ST” because then you set yourself up when Heyward outperforms everyone else in camp. You can’t go back now and say we just think he needs a little more development after he’s torn through the Grapefruit league.

    I do think if they start him in the minors (and I think there is zero chance that they will), while many of us will applaud the move it would look pretty bad from an outside perspective.

  94. Dusty – I have to agree with you. With what’s already been said, it will be impossible for the FO to come back and say (with a straight face), “It was a hard competition, but we really think an OF of Diaz/McLouth/ Cabrera with Gregor Blanco as a 4th OFer offers us a little more than Heyward does – at least for the next two weeks.”

  95. 133,

    I also agree with that. They set themselves up if their plan was to send him back down. Surely they expected him to have the kind of spring he’s having.

  96. Yeah… it will be tough to send him down with all the hype machine they’ve employed and because they has Schafer on last year’s opening day team. I guess I just have to hope they at least do a McCann deal with him after the season.

  97. @129 – There are only two options at this time … either Heyward starts the season in Atlanta (and so starts his ML service clock) or he starts the season elsewhere. Any number of outcomes are possible going forward, but the immediate decision the FO must make is binary. It is certified dementia (IMO) for Heyward to start in Atlanta.

  98. I don’t think the Schafer precedent is precedent here. Schafer was 22 then and had already enjoyed a prior successful ST with the ML club and a longer minors career. If anything, the Schafer precedent suggests giving Heyward more time at Gwinnett.

  99. If the Braves want to send Heyward to minors to start the season, all they have to do is make something up like, “we want to get him a few more at bats against pitchers with good breaking balls”. No further justification is needed.

    I don’t think they will do that, though. I think he’s probably the starting RF on April 5.

  100. At this point, the Braves management is a victim of the hype monster they created (stupidly, IMO). Anything less than a Ruthian debut at the ML level starting Opening Day will be viewed as a failure, or worse, get Heyward labelled a bust. Good luck kid – you’re gonna need it. I don’t understand the need to bring false pressure on the player or the organization, in addition to giving away millions of dollars from a budget conscious club, but whatevs – it’s done now. He’ll be here on Opening Day.

  101. #141–I totally agree and let me add that it fits a pattern that the Braves are quietly establishing with young outfielders.

    I wish they had hung on to Brandon Jones and let him battle Blanco for what should be a temporary position….

  102. I can’t believe I missed the social darwinism discussion! Yesterday, when spike bravely spoke up for actual history, I was administering a midterm on which the second question asked the students to “Define Social Darwinism.” Unbelievable.

  103. Fine performance by Kawakami. Now, let’s hope he can equal it this season against major league teams as well as the Pirates.

  104. Cliff, the UAE is actually quite the socially progressive place, especially compared to the rest of the region (although Stephen is the authority here). When I worked in Saudi, I got to see the Mutawaa’ (religious police) up close and personal. They have uniforms and police cars and are tasked with maintaining social order and public morality, which they do with great vigor. The most interesting part was that it seemed like their activities were supported by the bulk of the citizenry that I saw.

  105. Adam M — I’m going to be doing some routine testing of a new projector in one of our labs on opening day. You know, just to test out the image when projecting live streaming video.

    Let me know if you’re going to be on upper campus that afternoon and would like to see an inning or two…

  106. Well, the question is whether the Braves will have too much pride to send him down because we traded for him (albeit under sub-optimal circumstances). But yeah, on merit he deserves a ticket to Gwinnett.

  107. “Here he comes to ruin the day!” It’s proof that Manny Acosta’s on his way…

  108. Looks like the shin splints are going to keep Heyward in Gwinnett… Anybody think they keep him there till June to push back arbitration?

    Totally bummed about this… So I came up with some Heywardisms. Enjoy.


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