Regarding Heyward, Fredi G. shows the letter stands for ‘guts’

Your first-string right fielder, at least for the moment. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Jose Constanza, first-string right fielder. At least for the moment. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

You might not like the way Fredi Gonzalez constructs his batting order. You might cringe when he summons Scott Proctor. But you have to say this for the manager: He’s not afraid.

He wasn’t afraid to brace Hanley Ramirez, the gifted Marlins shortstop who didn’t appear to be applying those gifts, and in the end that confrontation surely was part of the reason Gonzalez was rendered an ex-manager. He has a new gig now, and again he’s proving that talent is no ticket to lineup tenure.

Gonzalez sat Ramirez for not hustling. Now he’s sitting Jason Heyward for not producing. The parallels aren’t exact — nobody has suggested that Heyward isn’t trying his hardest — but they’re close. Even if you’re as established as Tony La Russa, it takes some guts not to write a high-profile name on the lineup card.

Monday’s game marked the fourth of the past seven in which Heyward didn’t start, and he’s not listed in tonight’s lineup, either. And the Braves aren’t facing a lefthander tonight, which tells us that Fredi G. simply believes his team is better off with the up-from-nowhere Jose Constanza in right field than with the 21-year-old who has been hailed as the greatest prospect of his generation.

It isn’t just that Heyward is hitting .222. (As Braves fans can attest, even good hitters can go bad — and then, for no apparent reason, get hotter than Georgia asphalt.) It’s that much of what made him the greatest prospect of his generation hasn’t lately been on display. He’s seeing fewer pitches per at-bat. He’s not walking at the same rate. His on-base percentage has dropped from .393 to .317. Last year we marveled at Heyward’s measured approach and the wise-beyond-his-years way he made adjustments. But it has been, sorry to say, a while since he appeared so marvelous.

Yes, Heyward has been hurt, but he’s presumed healthy now. He’s just not hitting as well as Constanza, who was signed as a minor-league free agent and who went to Braves camp as a non-roster invitee. Two springs ago Heyward was all the rage — he was featured not just in Sports Illustrated but also The New Yorker — and now he’s playing behind a 27-year-old rookie.

This is surely a temporary thing: You don’t go from being the greatest prospect of a generation to being untalented. But it’s instructive that the rookie Braves’ manager is willing to bench the player who has been ticketed as the next face of the franchise. It tells us that, no matter who you are, your starting job isn’t guaranteed. It tells us that Fredi G. is swayed less by reputation than performance.

By Mark Bradley

314 comments Add your comment

steve

August 9th, 2011
4:07 pm

P B Orr

August 9th, 2011
4:14 pm

I’m beginning to question Heyward’s work ethic. He doesn’t seem too concerned at his decline. That thing he started doing with his fingers and dipping the bat is just some sort of show that takes away enough of his advantage to start sucking.

anderson jones

August 9th, 2011
4:14 pm

Or it tells you Fredi G. knows a .400 plus BA is better than .220

Mitch

August 9th, 2011
4:14 pm

Mark, surely you jest. Am I to understand that someone can earn respect from you by making a stupid decision boldly?

Fazemike

August 9th, 2011
4:14 pm

Can I get a kudos for 2nd!

honest_abe

August 9th, 2011
4:16 pm

this is why the braves are the best organization in atlanta…. because wren and freddi make moves sometimes that aren’t popular but they make alot of sense. the hawks are just inept and incompetent. the falcons make moves to appease their fans but are actually quite mediocre. the braves have the best chance of winning a championship because they have excellent leadership at the top!

go braves!

Shaun

August 9th, 2011
4:18 pm

It just tells us that the same rules don’t apply to Uggla and Prado that apply to Heyward; the “hot hand” rule and the looking at recent small sample sizes.

If Heyward looked and acted like Kevin Youkilis, no one would be questioning him.

The Atlanta media is more concerned with Fredi’s “guts” than with pressing him on giving the Braves the best chance to win.

Brandon

August 9th, 2011
4:18 pm

I think he’s still hurt but there’s no way that he’s going to say anything after the way things went down the last time. He’s been trying to play through something and hasn’t been right the whole season.

Mark Bradley

August 9th, 2011
4:20 pm

Kudos for second, Fazemike. Or fourth, technically.

Matt

August 9th, 2011
4:21 pm

For Mitch at 4:14. Why is it a stupid decision? Seems like an easy call to me. Sure, if we were the Nats we’d leave Heyward in to develop, but we’re the Braves and the playoffs are at stake. go with the hot hand.

superiorblogman

August 9th, 2011
4:21 pm

This tells you that Freddie G is a hypocrite and will lose this team at some point just like he did Florida. Dan Uggla had one good month people, the baseball season started March 31, on July 1 Uggla was hitting .176. That means for 3 whole months he stunk worse than Heyward ever has but was allowed to play through it. The only history that will matter in the end is the history that Freddie G is currently creating with Heyward, which is he was not allowed to play the something that was far less worse than others. His contract will be up before you know it and he will walk at 24 or 25 and he will be just what most thought he would be by then.

ExBraves Fan

August 9th, 2011
4:22 pm

I am afraid to even think that Heyward is the next Brad Komminsk or Frenchie. Ouch! I hope that does not ring true or the guy will be taking his .235 BA, 12 HRs, and 44 RBI to KC or Oakland very soon. It is simple that the 21 year old could not adjust to how MLB pitchers have caught up with him and started pitching him differently. If he is going to be a career .245, 16-20, 50-70 RBI guy, then package him and trade him with a pitcher for a decent bat. Surely someone out there is dumb enough to fall for it.

TomahawkChoppin'

August 9th, 2011
4:23 pm

Simple math. would you rather have a guy that goes 2-3 with 2 singles and a SB or a guy who goes 0-4 with 2 foul outs and 2 strikeouts. heyward became a hole in the lineup and his glove slipped too. easy decision

M10

August 9th, 2011
4:24 pm

I dont agree with sitting Heyward but at the same time Constanza is producing so I hope this does’nt become a issue.I believe the league is adjusting to Heyward and he has to do the same but he’s showing signs of coming out of it.Next year Freeman is going to go through the same thing just wait.

kevin

August 9th, 2011
4:24 pm

It tells me he should be fired like he was in Florida.

Dennis Reynolds

August 9th, 2011
4:24 pm

Fredi Gonzalez is a puss.

MLT

August 9th, 2011
4:24 pm

/Agree Shaun. Lowe can’t be skipped in the rotation even when we have better options in AAA. Prado can’t be benched because he’s #SUPERUTILITY. Uggla couldn’t be benched because he was “hustling”. Chipper couldn’t be moved out of the 3 hole til this week because “It’s where he’s always batted”. Schafer got PT because he was “developing” (despite being 3 years older than Heyward and notoriously having a worse attitude). Proctor stays on the roster because…(I haven’t heard a reason).

Fredi doesn’t understand advanced statistics (see his usage of Gearrin). It’s a shame that a team’s performance is the barometer for managerial success and not “does this make any sort of logical sense”.

Shaun

August 9th, 2011
4:25 pm

superiorblogman, I don’t know about losing the team. A lot of players still probably think batting average is more important than on-base, slugging or what a player is likely to do going forward.

Assuming a player with mediocre-at-best discipline and no power/no ability to hit the ball with authority is going to keep it up beyond yesterday simply because he got a lot of hits in all of his last 10 games equals cluelessness.

Hawg in Douglas

August 9th, 2011
4:27 pm

Enter your comments here

ChillyMutt

August 9th, 2011
4:28 pm

Hope Heyward can figure it out. Because he looks totally lost right now.

Cobby's Box

August 9th, 2011
4:28 pm

So let me pose this question; If Heyward isnt producing then why not send him down to AAA and let him work things out? Wouldn’t that be a bold move that might actually help him to get back on track. I just hate to see him riding the pine, not doing anything to get AB’s!! Someone help me out here.

Puma

August 9th, 2011
4:28 pm

It shows guts and stupidity. He needs to play Heyward to get him out of his funk. And, as others have mentioned, Heyward has shown signs of snapping out of his funk. Heyward can carry this team if given the opportunity, Georgy cannot. You got to play Heyward just like you stuck with Uggla.

Which begs the question, why does Fredi G stick with Uggla, but not Heyward?

Shaun

August 9th, 2011
4:28 pm

ExBraves Fan, if you think Heyward has even a decent chance to be Komminsk or Francoeur, time to stop assuming you know something about baseball.

Komminsk and Francoeur had some major red flags in their games while in the minors. Heyward had very few.

Sportswriters should question Fredi about his decision to consistently bench Heyward until he is mad enough to take any more questions.

Matt

August 9th, 2011
4:29 pm

superiorblogman

Uggla is a proven veteran and Freddie did the right thing by sticking with him. It looks like it is paying off wouldn’t you say? Heyward, for all the hype, is not a proven commodity….yet. With the way this team has hit for the better part of this season, I’d say Freddie has done a great job steering it to the 2nd best record in the NL.

dobearsbare

August 9th, 2011
4:29 pm

@Shaun: Prado’s production has never gotten down to the level where Heyward’s is. And Uggla has a much longer track record (and, not to put too fine a point on it, a much longer track record with Fredi). Any reasonably astute observer could conclude that he wouldn’t stay down forever. Heyward’s “recent small sample size” is all he has. Not so with Uggla.

Youkilis? Really? Is that you playing the race card? If he were [i]hitting[/i] like Youkilis, we wouldn’t be having this conversation and Constanza would likely be back at Gwinnett.

Cobby's Box

August 9th, 2011
4:29 pm

So let me pose this question; If Heyward isnt producing then why not send him down to AAA and let him work things out? Wouldn’t that be a bold move that might actually help him to get back on track. I just hate to see him riding the pine, not doing anything to get AB’s!! Someone help me out here.

TomahawkChoppin'

August 9th, 2011
4:30 pm

Every year the Braves bullpen has some dude who is obviously the bottom of the barrel. You have to have a guy like that to work in the blowouts. I know Proctor is bad, and I’m pretty sure he knows he is bad too. You cannot bring up one of our studs just yet and have him take lumps like that. It would be bad for there psyche. So bringing up a prospect before September to take lumps in the bullpen would be inconceivable. That being sad when Moylan returns; Proctor will be the odd man out.

LawDawg

August 9th, 2011
4:30 pm

I’ll say one thing, Mark, I am very glad the Algonquin round table that makes up your commenters are not making any decisions for the Braves.

TomahawkChoppin'

August 9th, 2011
4:31 pm

Joey

August 9th, 2011
4:32 pm

There wasn’t a backup hitting over .400 who could take Uggla’s place at second during his slump. The situations aren’t the same.

LawDawg

August 9th, 2011
4:32 pm

Cobby’s Box : Conceivably, it could shatter his confidence far worse than this unofficial demotion from the lineup. Arguably, sending a stud prospect down is a vote of no confidence, whereas saying the right things can sooth this slight.

Scott proctor facts

August 9th, 2011
4:32 pm

Don sutton holds the record for most at bats without a home run. It’s no coincidence that don sutton never faced Scott proctor.

Puma

August 9th, 2011
4:33 pm

Cobby’s Box – I somewhat agree, sitting him is the worse possible thing to do. A couple days off here and there fine, but benching him when facing a RH pitcher – shows no confidence in Heyward, which is not a good thing to show your players. I do not think he should be sent to AAA, but that’s better than just sitting there. (BTW – not sure what your name means, but it makes me uncomfortable)

Will MB or DOB ask Fredi point blank why he let Uggla play through it and not Heyward?

Matt

August 9th, 2011
4:33 pm

What is up up with all of you ripping the manager? Bradley didn’t say Constanza was going to be the next great thing. He just happens to be playing like it right now. Sure, he’ll cool off and then the Braves will turn back to Heyward. And if he is the player I hope/think he is, then he’ll respon.

ExBraves Fan

August 9th, 2011
4:34 pm

Shaun: without knowing your age, and I have been following the Atlanta Braves since DAY ONE in Atlanta in 1966, I have seen EVERY player that has been on this team. Kommisk and Frenchie were BOTH #1 draft choices. Both were the next great thing, just as Heyward is suppose to be. I know that Kommisk could not hit a garbage can with a car. He was out of baseball by age 30 or so. I probably have forgotten more baseball than you have ever seen. My knowledge of the game goes back to black and white TV and a night game on TV during the week for the first time, watching Roger Maris go for #61. So, if you have seen that much of the game my friend, talk on. Otherwise, speak about what you actually know something about when you speak to other people and open your pie hole.

kreedham

August 9th, 2011
4:34 pm

Heyward’s not going down to work it out….at least not yet….when McCann comes back I think there’s a better chance. Right now if he goes down a minor leaguer comes up…not really helping. Of course when McCann comes back Boscan goes back to AAA…so who would take his place?

Fan of the Game

August 9th, 2011
4:34 pm

This late in the year, you might as well keep Heyward on the roster. Rosters will be expanded soon anyway. He will get his ABs. Chipper will need rest and there are some other situations to use him. I haven’t read where he has been benched and forgotten about. Like I have said earlier, the Braves owe Heyward no more than they do any other player. He is only a second year player and if he doesn’t think he has struggled and can’t accept his role get rid of him like we did Justice or Escobar.

superiorblogman

August 9th, 2011
4:34 pm

Matt

August 9th, 2011
4:29 pm

superiorblogman

Uggla is a proven veteran and Freddie did the right thing by sticking with him. It looks like it is paying off wouldn’t you say? Heyward, for all the hype, is not a proven commodity….yet. With the way this team has hit for the better part of this season, I’d say Freddie has done a great job steering it to the 2nd best record in the NL.

Your comment about Uggla being proven once again points to how stupid this whole history argument is. Do you understand that history is written by things that presently happen? Meaning Freddie G now has history of playing Uggla and others even when they are going really bad and not playing Heyward even when Heyward has never been going as bad as Uggla once was. The whole history argument is flawed. What you do today creates history. Just because Uggla has a history of being really bad for stints does not necessarily mean you have to play him. It could mean that you should have addressed it at some point like you are currently doing with Heyward. That whole argument is biased ignorance.

Silky-D

August 9th, 2011
4:35 pm

He showed some guts when he put Chipper in the 5 spot in the batting order and not placing him back in the 3 hole just because he’s a future hall of famer (as Leo suggested)! I agree with showing Chipper some respect for being a great player over the years but a 3 hole hitter he is not at this stage of his career.

norman

August 9th, 2011
4:35 pm

What about trading one of the two? And throw in Proctor.

Shaun

August 9th, 2011
4:36 pm

The problem is assuming Constanza is going to stay hot beyond yesterday. A major league manager should know better.

And if an outfielder needs to sit, it’s Prado, especially against a RHP. Heyward has a higher wOBA (look it up) than Prado this season. Heyward is clearly the more skilled player. Both Prado and Heyward are more skilled than Constanza, clearly, but if you are using recent small samples and the “hot hand” as your rationale, you sit Prado.

MLT

August 9th, 2011
4:37 pm

B/c Matt as any statistician will tell you. Expecting this “hot hand” to continue past yesterday is silly.

And re: Fredi that his “Guts” are applied unevenly.

Mark Bradley

August 9th, 2011
4:38 pm

Our Algonquin round table is much more inclusive, LawDawg.

ExBraves Fan

August 9th, 2011
4:38 pm

Shaun: I have been a watcher of the Atlanta Braves since the first day in Atlanta. How long have you been around? I have seen them all come and go. I know that Kommisk and Frenchie were both #1 draft choices and the next big thing in Atlanta. They both didn’t stick here. Kommisk was out of baseball by age 30. I have watched this game long enough to remember watching a black and white TV and watching a night game during the week for about the first time ever, and seeing the Roger Maris chasing 60 HR thing? Have you been around that long? If not, shut your pie hole about what you do and do not know about me and my knowledge of baseball. I have forgotten more baseball than you even know, unless you are my age, which I suspect you are not and are much younger.

M10

August 9th, 2011
4:38 pm

I dont agree with sitting Heyward but at the same time Costanza is pruducing.Heyward has shown signs of coming around lately as well.The league is just adjusting the way there pitching to Heyward thats all.Next year Freeman is going to go through the same thing but we will see how he adjust to the way there going to pitch to him.I hope this does’nt become a problem with playing time.

Chipper the Weimeraner's mom

August 9th, 2011
4:38 pm

Maybe Fredi knows s’thing about getting someone to produce. After Heyward’s first nite on the bench, he actually dove for a fly ball and made the catch, instead of letting it drop in front of him like he usually does. We need everybody to play 100%……….”Georgie” Constanza looks like he comes to play!

heartofdarkness

August 9th, 2011
4:39 pm

More than sitting Heyward, the manager is looking for hitters that are trending well to fit into the lineup. While Uggla has struggled, there was no 2B who was hitting well. Hernandez and Hicks never put together a hot streak the entire time they were here. Constanza’s OPS has been close to the best on the team since he came up. How can you sit him while he’s hot and the team needs offense? As long as his legs hold out, Chipper always gives you a professional at bat. Prado gives some punch against lefties, which has been a weakness over the season.

On a good team, like the Braves, Heyward will continue to work, and be ready to reclaim his spot when the opportunity presents itself.

Scott proctor facts

August 9th, 2011
4:39 pm

If Greg norton and Scott proctor were to face each other an out would not be recorded and their would be no one on base.

Andre "Pulpwood" Smith

August 9th, 2011
4:41 pm

It is not only Heyward who is walking less this season, it’s the entire team. For all the criticism he received as hitting coach, at least Pendleton preached patience at the plate. As bad as Fredi has been at times, Parrish has been worse.

Drez

August 9th, 2011
4:42 pm

I like Constanza. However, if the Braves aren’t getting a contribution from Heyward when the post season starts, they will not advance. They will need big bats to battle the arms they will face in the post-season. Pitchers will soon get the book on Constanza, and his production will drop considerably. I think something is going on between Heyward and Freddi that we don’t know about. If Heyward is not going to get playing time, send him to the minors to get his swings in and let him work out the kinks in his swing. He can’t do that sitting on the bench. Keep in mind this kid is 21-22 years old, and still learning major league pitching. The organization needs to be careful with his psyche, or they may end up with another Frenchie.