Jason Heyward on the state of Cubs-Cardinals rivalry and how defense wins championships


ST. LOUIS — Seeing heavy rain in Wednesday's forecast, the Cardinals postponed Game 3 until Thursday afternoon, forcing the Cubs to spend a sixth straight night in St. Louis. That wiped out a scheduled day off and what would have been a chance for players and their families to get settled in Chicago after six weeks of spring training and then ride up to Milwaukee on Friday.

Yes, the rivalry is alive and well, from the two sellout crowds to the rotating national TV crews to Dexter Fowler crashing into Addison Russell with a takeout slide to Javier Baez losing a ball in the white advertising panel behind home plate, which he noticed flipped over while the Cubs were on defense.

So far, there haven't been any reports of Busch Stadium officials cracking down on Joe Maddon's "Try Not To Suck" T-shirts. But from a walk-off loss on Opening Night to another one-run game that ended when Baez made a diving stop to his left and a spinning throw from his right knee, this isn't what Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer used to describe as a Big Brother-Little Brother rivalry.

"This is what we expect," Jason Heyward said. "I said it last year, I'll say it again: In our heads, it's a little lopsided, as far as where we want to be. As far as postseason, we got work to do. That's what we're hunting for.

"We want to be known for going to the playoffs. We want multiple opportunities to win World Series."

St. Louis fans still boo Heyward, who helped the 2015 Cardinals win 100 games with his all-around play and then made the personal and professional decision to chase that first World Series ring with the Cubs. In the end, the Cardinals felt like it didn't really matter how far they got out of their comfort zone or how they structured the megadeal — Heyward still wanted to go to Chicago.

"It's fine," Heyward said. "It doesn't matter. I don't hear it anymore, anyway. There are worse things to get booed for, too."

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Already this week the Cardinals have committed $93.5 million in contract extensions for All-Star/Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina  (through 2020) and Heyward's replacement, Stephen Piscotty (potentially into 2023). During the first season of that eight-year, $184 million contract, Piscotty out-homered Heyward 22-7 and finished with an .800 OPS, or 169 points higher than Heyward's numbers.

The Cardinals also lost their Way last season, ranking 25th in the majors in defensive efficiency and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010. The Cubs played defense at a historic level as Heyward helped change the team's identity and won his fourth Gold Glove.

"We all take pride in it," Heyward said. "I kind of got a front-row seat to how (good it is from) right field (because) I can see the whole field.

"We just understand that's a part of the game that we're going to need. We're going to need to handle it. You see it in a one-run ballgame. You're able to keep some momentum on your side."

At times Wednesday afternoon, the sun wound up shining on downtown St. Louis. The Cubs and Cardinals will go toe-to-toe at least 17 more times this season, which means more booing, psychological warfare and slights real or imagined. But the little things will matter. Team "D-Peat" already saw "Javy Being Javy," Heyward's leaping catch on the run to rob Matt Carpenter and Albert Almora Jr. taking a home run away from Matt Adams with a Jim Edmonds-esque jump at the center-field wall on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium.

"We just have fun doing it," Heyward said. "We understand it's a part of the game and we don't take it for granted. Our pitchers really appreciate it, obviously, (and) you just always understand that it's going to take a lot of different elements to win a baseball game, whether it's base-running, whether it's drawing a walk, whether it's playing defense."

Contact Us