You could see it in his swagger, or I lack thereof. It gleamed through his stare and balanced on the edge of his vacant flat-sided grin. Chase Headley hit a two-run homer yesterday and jogged around the diamond like a man whose wife had just left him. What is usually celebrated was handled like a kid bored with his Christmas presents. Chase Headley is still a Padre and Chase Headley doesn’t seem very happy about that.
It’s not like he didn’t drop subtle hints that he wouldn’t mind a change of scenery. To Chase’s credit he was never a jerk about it, though. Never complained or flat out said he wanted to be traded. After all he did sign an extension and for the most part has seemed to enjoy his time in San Diego. But, I guess like all players – they want to win. They want to contend and be relevant. Sure, they’ll put on a happy face and lend their hands to a franchise down in the dumps; possibly be the hero that saves that franchise and lifts everyone to another level. Ozzie Smith and Dave Winfield had an idea of being those guys, but realized it was futile and went on to greener pastures. Tony Gwynn succeeded twice and thought it was more important to stay in San Diego, keep chugging along and hope that his incredible hitting would give the Padres a media boost. It didn’t, in fact it did quite the opposite – it made Tony Gwynn less relevant to the game of Baseball. One of the absolute, undeniable greatest hitters in the history of the game and people on the East Coast probably have no idea who Tony Gwynn is. Adrian Gonzalez tried to do what he could, and was sent to Boston, a decision I’m positive he regrets. A-Gonz talks about the Padres all the time, and if I was a betting man, would place money on his return to San Diego after his Red Sox contract is up.
Now it’s Headley’s turn. He’s the next guy in line. The most all-around talented guy on a team heading into a rebuilding phase. He doesn’t necessarily want to leave, but can easily see the benefits of doing so. So can I. So can you and so can anyone who pays attention to Baseball. Being a Padre is not a position coveted by young boys swinging off tees all over the world. Sure, all of us would be more than happy to play left field for any team, except maybe the Marlins, a team that built a new stadium and somehow became less popular. But, we also can’t hit a curveball, so we sit here judging the moves of others never fully understanding what it’s actually like to play left field – even for the Marlins. We can’t comprehend the amount of money that gets thrown at you and how much that amount can change given the current city that employs you.
It’s gotta be strange to be a Major Leaguer. Basically, if you play outside of LA, New York and Boston no one knows or cares who you are. I would imagine your ultimate goal would be to play for one of those teams in one of those cities. Biggest stage, biggest paycheck and immediate hall of fame potential. It’s hard to counter that with loyalty and hope. These days it’s nearly impossible to expect Mike Moustakas to stay in Kansas City if the Yankees came calling. What would be his advantage to stay in KC? Unless the Royals we’re contending then he wouldn’t have one. He’d be toiling away, making less money and fading into obscurity all for the sake of making KC fans happy. Is that worth it? No. But, it should be. It used to be, and as a fan I wish everyday it would go back to that. The Reserve Clause, for all its faults, had one thing it held in place – parity. But, I won’t get into that right now. We’ll save that for another day when I’m not drinking.
If you’re Chase Headley and you hear the Yankees are interested in you…then you are freaking stoked! The big time! You might recoil a bit when you hear the A’s or Orioles, but still it’s a ticket to a contending team on the rise. You think about your family, your livelihood, your future and it starts to make sense. You look back on your career so far: you’ve played Scottie Pippen for some great seasons in San Diego, and it is possible there is nothing left for you to do here. Your mind is cleared; you’ve played well and been a class act on the field. You deserve a shot and you’re gonna get one. Then, all of sudden, you’re not. After you went through all this drama, all this confusion and emotion and heartache and happiness, it’s just over and you’re right back where you started: Playing third base for a last place team that isn’t sure you’re in it’s future plan. You’d probably be a little ticked. I do expect Headley to grumble a bit. Show a little disappointment. Nothing over the top, but a nudge and a blank faced homerun trot to let us know that he’s bummed out.
If I were Headley I would be bummed out too. I would look at the organization and wonder what you have to do to be on a contending team here, or somewhere else. But, mostly I would be bummed about what happens next. Is this going to be an annual thing until 2014 when I can go on my own? Are you going to give me a reason to stay? Will I always just be a July blurb? Having that kind of mindset would be terrible. Being stuck in that kind of uncertainty would suck. Maybe being Chase Headley isn’t that great right now, and he’s not afraid to show it. Maybe I’m glad I could never hit a curveball.
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