A House Divided: Chase Headley Edition

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:

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. 

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  • VM David

    I would say Headley looks like he’s pressing, but when I tweeted that I meant he literally looked like he was in physical discomfort. The swing has looked a bit off this year, but that night it looked like he had a real issue. Of course, he’s followed by missing the last two games with a biceps strain.

    This brings me to the issue I think the anti-Headley crowd should be focusing on: injury issues over the past few years. This team has put more than enough money into injury-prone players, and to dedicate another large portion of the payroll to a player who has dealt with a myriad of injuries of late? Perhaps it’s wise to proceed with caution. Pointing that out is a COMPLETELY REASONABLE ARGUMENT!

    • Geoff Hancock

      Reasonable arguments regarding Chase? BE GONE WITH YOU SIR!

  • USMC53

    He’s turning 30. He’s not producing. His career numbers aren’t amazing. He wants a ton of cash for a lot of years; and we aren’t swimming in money. He seems to frequently have a minor injury here or there. It just isn’t looking like a long-term investment in him, that would take him into his mid-30s, makes a lot of sense. I don’t scream “Trade him!” every time he Ks or GIDPs or anything; I’m legitimately pulling for him. But it’s just not looking like keeping him is the smart play.

    • Billy Lybarger

      What’s with this “we” shit? Is it your fucking money? He is a a three and a half to four WAR player and will be awarded as such on the open market. He is in the top three in games played at third over the last five years. And you know what makes the least sense? Depending on the weak-ass minor league positional players, particularly infield, that the Padres have. All the people that don’t want to sign him have no viable alternative solution. And the FA market is either completely unaffordable, or bone dry.
      The Padres have completely made this shit filled bed. You and the rest of the “get rid of him” crowd can sleep in it.

      • Calm down, Billy. It’s not that big a deal.

        But, seriously, what is with this “we” shit?

      • Billy Lybarger

        Please accept my sincere apology. I was playing the role of the over-zealous Chase fan.
        I say we run that no good, money loving greedy rat bastard right out of our God fearing, military lovin’ town. We are too good for him. Why is he even still here?Trade him for a bag of balls. Give his ABs to Amarista. At least he has grit!

      • Geoff Hancock

        At least you kept your cool.

      • Geoff Hancock

        So you’d just write a blank check for Chase and call it a day? Being able to get that kind of money in free agency doesn’t necessarily correlate to him being worth it or it being a smart financial move by the Padres. Neither option is great but any discussion regard his statistics over a 5 year span has an asterisk.

        That said, he’s a very good player and there’s no viable alternative and the Padres are better with him. So I don’t know what they should do.

  • FreakSammy

    I almost wish he’d not had that incredible two-month period in 2012. It’s not as if that propelled the team to a playoff appearance, and all it has done is distort his “value”. If he’d just been the normal Chase Headley – above average, but not great – he’d probably already be signed to a modest, but fair extension by now.

    • Lonnie Brownell

      Excellent point.

    • Geoff Hancock

      That’s a great point. Oh what could have been.

  • Lonnie Brownell

    Some team is going to end up with Chase in 2015–and for several years, most likely. What Chase will they get?

    If you subscribe to the notion that his troubles are at least in part, if not largely stress-related, then will having a big contract–with big expectations–cause him to continue to falter? Added pressure would be applied if he’s in a large-market location, which will make today’s San Diego scrutiny seem like apathy.

    Or will he feel the comfort of a secure future and just Play The Game and blossom into an actual Savior?

    Sad. I like Chase, and I hope the best for him. At least until he’s a #Doger, then I don’t know.

    • FreakSammy

      You forgot another variable, and that’s if he ends up on a team with excellent lineup protection his productivity might blossom. The current Padres cannot provide that, so it would of course be an unfair comparison.

  • SDPubmix

    Headley is somewhat of a teaser. Defensively, he’s fine. The argument before was that he didn’t hit for much power prior to 2012. He was looking more like a good two-hole hitter. Which was fine with me. Then, he hit 31 HR’s and lead the league in RBI’s. I think everyone needs to temper their expectations. He is a home-grown talent, which is something of a rarity here. Right now, he is pressing at the plate, trying to do too much up there. He’s swinging at some bad pitches and falling behind in he count. Just like everyone else is doing.

    I’d rather have him hit +.280 with 21 Hrs and 75 RBI’s, and getting on-base at a much higher clip. 2012 was a career year for Chase. If he focuses on being a line-drive hitter, he can be the player we all want him to be.

    Which is a guy who gets on base, hits for a good avg, plays Gold Glove caliber defense, and has decent enough power numbers. Chase can have a productive career by doing all of these things he’s capable of doing. If the club decides to trade him, I don’t think we can get much in return if we trade him at this point.

    But if he’s dealt, it had better be to an AL team. I don’t want to see him coming here as a visitor and being successful. It’s bad enough seeing Adrian doing this in Dodger blue.

  • Rick

    The Padres offered Chase Headley 3 year -$39 million. That sounds right
    for an injury-prone player who is hitting 176 and who chokes with
    runners in scoring position. I will say this for Headley: I’ve never
    seen someone so good at hitting with two outs and no runners on base. I
    would trade him if another team would offer a quality minor leaguer or
    two for him. Headley’s trade value has plummeted.I wish the Pads hasn’t
    moved him to the outfield and let him start the majors at third.They
    should lock up Headley for many years like they did Carlos Quentin,
    offering a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract for a guy whose
    legs are so bad that he can’t play the field. When will the Padres get a
    competent general manager?

  • DiamondDaveRolfes

    I’ll say it this way……………… To Chase Headley, I can now understand why you’re playing very poorly. It has to be VERY difficult to play when you have a “Cast On Your Heart”.

  • Bryan Clark

    another SEA/SD fan here… Great topic/well written blog entry. Chase is an interesting player, one that has surely driven me to both sides of the fence. While I don’t advocate accusing any player of something there’s absolutely no proof they’ve done, not only does Headley’s ’12 second half seem like an aberration, it frankly seems as though he was using PED’s, and then stopped using because at heart he’s a good guy and just regretted it. The authority and confidence with which he was hitting the ball seriously reminded me of Bonds. the rest of his entire career he reminds me more of whatever patently average hitter, above-average defensive player you can think of. James Loney?

    The thing that gets me about Headley (on the negative side) is that whenever he’s struggling, it always ends up coming out that he’s dealing with injuries. And then he always talks to the media about it. Essentially, he makes excuses, or at least that’s how I perceive him. He’s clearly a guy who struggles to keep in the right frame of mind emotionally when it comes to baseball. What you really want are the guys whose confidence never seems to wane even when the evidence stacks up they might not be that great. Nick Swisher, anyone? Those guys are ball players.

    At this point I don’t think my (or anyone else’s) criticisms are helping, AS someone wisely suggested, I vow to just root for him to do well and be happy when he does. I’m done chastising him.