You’ll often hear it said, if you follow San Diego sports for any length of time, that the attitude and environment in San Diego are relaxed. For some players, this is the draw to playing in San Diego (besides weather, beaches, beer, tacos, etc.). The media isn’t as pushy as in New York or Boston and the fans are far more forgiving. This reputation is well-earned and often mocked amongst fans from more frigid locales.
But that reputation is in serious jeopardy now. Because of Chase Headley. And I know what you’re thinking. “Another Headley article?” You’re right. There is no point in writing anything about Chase Headley at this point. Because whatever side of the Headley fence you reside, you are entrenched there and likely not moving.
And that’s a problem.
I’ve followed the Padres my entire cognitive life. And in that time plenty of players have come out of that dugout with “Padres” written on the front of their jersey that have been fan favorites. And plenty have run out of that dugout that rubbed fans the wrong way. But rarely, if ever, has a player so divided a fan base like Chase Headley.
Earlier this week this divide was brought to a boil when it was reported by Jon Heyman(‘s cat? Seriously, what’s with the typos? That’s our territory Heyman!) that the Padres had offered Chase Headley a 3 year deal around $39 million. This set off only the most recent of tidal waves of opinions on Chase who is, depending on your view, wildly over or underrated and definitely worth or not worth that money. Never mind that whether it was a fair offer or not was irrelevant as he didn’t sign it. Or whether a counter-offer was made. Or any number of variables that we aren’t privy to.
Such is the life of Chase Headley in 2014 in San Diego. Everything he does, says, or is rumored to have said or done is analyzed and scrutinized and ultimately viewed through whatever prism you use when it comes to Chase Headley. Watch any Padres game this season in which Headley plays. Then watch the reaction to his at-bats. Strikeouts confirming one side, base hits confirming another. Bad throw to first? TRADE HIM! Double in the 5th? EXTEND HIM. And so on and so on.
A great microcosm of Headley’s life as a Padre these days came one week ago today against Detroit. In a game now remembered for the brilliance of Cashner, Headley did a little something for all sides of the Headley argument. For those that love him and believe he should be extended he went 2-for-4 with 3 RBI and a run scored. For those who think he’s not worth extending he had a throwing error and GIDP. Of course, depending on your prism, something about that game was an aberration, the other standard operating procedure.
There is no way that this is not affecting Headley. Vocal Minority noticed it in Tuesday’s game against Colorado:
Headley looks so uncomfortable at the plate that it makes me feel uncomfortable. #PPLive
— VM David (@VocalMinoritySD) April 16, 2014
Of course he’s uncomfortable. For someone that is going to get over 500 ABs in a season, having every single one of them micro-analyzed must be nearly crippling. This is not the laissez-faire San Diego of reputation. With Headley, every play he makes or doesn’t make is simply more ammunition for detractors or supporters.
I don’t know how we got here. But here we are. As for me, I don’t know what I think about Chase Headley anymore. On one hand, he is measured as one of the Top 5 3rd basemen (depending on how you choose to quantify that) offensively in baseball. But that takes into account a 2012 season that is increasingly looking like an outlier by the day. Should the Padres compensate him for a season two years (and counting) in the rearview mirror or compensate him on what he’d project to be in the future, removing his 2012 season? Can anyone accurately project Chase Headley going forward?
You’ll often hear that Headley deserves fair market value (true) and the Padres have yet to offer that to him (likely true, though unknown). What is Headley’s fair market value though? Any measure includes that 2012 season, thus inflating his value. Unlike most players, Headley’s fair market value is difficult, if not impossible, to predict. And with no discernible replacement at 3rd forthcoming (Gyorko not withstanding), should the Padres overpay to keep from creating a hole at a corner position? I don’t know. As Gaslamp Ball pointed out on Tuesday:
That being said, a Headley contract extension is a tough nut to crack. His performances have been a mixed bag. He has never been a bad player, but one that has had the bar set high.
What I know about Chase Headley is this: he’s a good player, with potential to be great, playing under circumstances in San Diego that no other player has had to previous. When he first got here he was “The Savior,” a lofty title to place on a rookie. For the past 2 seasons he’s played under constant rumors of his impending extension, trade, release and now with free agency forthcoming. Presently, he’s not playing well by anyone’s standards. Confirmation bias follows every move he makes. And facing this scrutiny on a daily basis, would it surprise anyone if he really didn’t want to stay in San Diego? I point that out only as a thought out loud and not as a theory or based on any evidence.
Let’s perhaps agree on this. Ron Fowler, as a new owner, made a misstep last season in going public with the “largest contract in Padres history” talk regarding Headley. Headley, conversely, has not played up to his 2012 production. And while one story of one offer was made, none of us are privy to the negotiations that may or may not be happening between the two sides. But the Padres in 2014 are better when Chase Headley is producing. So perhaps we should stop analyzing everything he does like the Zapruder film and simply root for him to do well and be happy when it happens.
What side of the Headley fence do you land on? And what do the Padres do about him longterm? Or has Headley already made up his mind that he’s leaving? Comment below or on Twitter @LeftCoastBias. I (try) to post every Friday. If I don’t post, I typically blame #LeftCoastBaby. Don’t tell her.