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Heyward’s Cardinals exit a blessing in disguise

A lot is being made of the return of Jason Heyward to Busch Stadium tonight as the Chicago Cubs face the St. Louis Cardinals for the first time in 2016.

All I can say is: “Yawn.”

Frankly, I couldn’t care less about Jason Heyward. He’s a good player. But he’s no Albert Pujols or Yadier Molina when it comes to current or recent St. Louis Cardinals greats.

If they would have left St. Louis to sign with a division rival, I would have been hot about it.

Some like to make Heyward out as some sort of revenge for St. Louis fleecing the Wee Bears of Lou Brock in exchange for sore-armed pitcher Ernie Broglio.

I saw Lou Brock play. Lou Brock was a favorite player of mine. And Jason Heyward, I can tell you, you are no Lou Brock.

Heyward not only isn’t as talented as Lou Brock, he didn’t WANT to be Lou Brock. He shied away from the responsibility of being the Cardinals’ marquee player when the team(reluctantly) offered the opportunity. What he did want to be, however, was one of the best-paid players in baseball. For the St. Louis front office, that was a formula that didn’t add up.

With the objectivity of distance, I applaud the Cardinals for not freaking out and going overboard to keep Heyward in red.

They made him an excellent offer. Maybe better than they should have. But St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak passed on the chance to deal a knockout blow over $200 million to keep the team’s top free agent from 2015.

If the Cardinals would have dug deep and made the extra effort to land a star player -- I said it in January and I’ll say it again now -- I wish it would have been for David Price. Then the team could have saved us a lot of drama and just told Heyward to enjoy playing somewhere else.

It’s not like Heyward is the heart and soul of the Cubs. He’s not even one of their best five players. If I was awarded the opportunity to pluck one player of the Chicago roster and add him the Cardinals, rest assured no one would regret throwing their St. Louis Heyward jerseys in the trash.

He’s off to a .205 start with no homers and 11 strikeouts in his first 44 at-bats, not much different from the slow start he had in St. Louis that had Cardinals fans longing to have Shelby Miller back.

Heyward’s replacement, Stephen Piscotty, despite a recent cool streak, is hitting 39 points higher with two homers, two doubles and a triple. He is also playing supurb outfield defense -- all at a fraction of the cost.

If someone forced me to bet, one way or the other, on who would have the higher batting average at the end of the season, I’m putting my money on Piscotty. I’d make the same wager in the same direction on the topic of homers and on RBIs, too.

I certainly wouldn’t trade Piscotty for Heyward even up -- even if the Cubs picked up Heyward’s salary.

I just don’t see a way that Heyward’s skills justify his huge pay check. I love defense as much as the next guy. But we’re talking about a right fielder, not a shortstop, ace pitcher or catcher. Through 12 games he has 17 chances to make an out by catching a fly ball -- and he has zero assists.

We’re not talking about a feared slugger who could win 10-15 games with home runs. He’s a lifetime .267 hitter who has only hit more than 18 homers ONCE in his six seasons in the big leagues.

So I am not going to boo Jason Heyward for choosing to sign with the Cubs. If that’s the criteria, I’d likely give him a standing ovation.

If I were to boo at all it would be because of the bad things he had to say about the state of the Cardinals organization on his way out the door.

It’s not that criticism bothers me -- if it’s true. But the statement that the Cardinals are too old and their window of opportunity is closing is a lie and a cop out on Heyward’s part.

Yes, Yadier Molina is 33 and Matt Holliday is 36.

But Randal Grichuk, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez are 24, Kolten Wong, Aledmys Diaz and Piscotty are 25, Trevor Rosenthal and Kevin Siegrist are 26 Jedd Gyorko, Seth Maness and Matt Adams are 27.

That’s half of the St. Louis roster at 27 or younger, not including 26-year-old reserve Greg Garcia. It’s an insult to his former teammates to dismiss their talents.

I thought Heyward was classless in the way he exited town, especially when he was treated so well when he was here. So that’s the only thing I hold against him.

It’s not my concern that he signed with the Cubs. I hope that he passes on his buyout opportunity and eats a huge hunk of the team’s payroll for the next eight years while hitting for his career average.

The Cardinals and Cubs are going to have a contentious battle all season. But it’s not going to be Jason Heyward who decides it.