Dodgers' Jason Heyward earns spotlight, Magic Johnson praise during Seattle sweep

The Dodgers have done it again.
Los Angeles Dodgers v Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Dodgers v Seattle Mariners / Stephen Brashear/GettyImages

It took a little longer than expected, but mark down Sept. 17, 2023 as the day the rest of the baseball world noticed what the Dodgers had done with Jason Heyward (and what Heyward had done for their clubhouse).

The partnership began innocently enough in early December with a minors deal and an invite to spring training, but behind the scenes, Freddie Freeman was really turning the screws on adding Heyward and his reworked swing quickly. The two came up side-by-side in the Braves' farm system, and though they hadn't been teammates since 2014, they remained thick as thieves.

The concept of "thieves" has resonated all year long, actually, after it became clear the Dodgers had stolen Heyward and his powerful new swing. The veteran seemed like a potential 26th man when he was first imported, filling in on occasion but mostly there for pump-up speeches. He turned 33 in 2022 and played like it, hitting .204 with a .556 OPS in 48 games with the Cubs. The 2016 World Series was an indelible moment shared between the two parties, but the relationship was very much finished, and had been effectively done for years.

That's when Freeman stepped in, picking up the pieces of the severed relationship and welcoming his friend into the lab in Los Angeles. The partnership hasn't just resulted in a few laughs and defensive replacement entrances. Instead, the Dodgers have gotten all the benefits of Clubhouse Heyward while also watching him post 2.4 bWAR, drill 15 homers in 297 at-bats, and pop an .866 OPS, the highest of his career.

Dodgers outfielder Jason Heyward posts arguably best numbers of his career in 2023 in Dodger Blue

Last season, the Dodgers were forced to clench their fists and put up with Cody Bellinger's second straight sad sack campaign. This year, their outfield depth piece is pummeling the ball like prime Bellinger. Make it make sense.

Heyward's only been allowed to face righties, and with good reason; he's delivered a .290 average with 13 bombs against them, as opposed to a .191 mark in 23 plate appearances against same-side slingers. Still, he's as close to an everyday player as you can get with those restrictions remaining, and he's captured the hearts of some of the Dodgers' most enthusiastic Twitter critics.

Yes, I'm referring to Lakers legend Magic Johnson, part-executive and part-online hype man with the "exclamation point" key stuck.

Johnson didn't let Sunday's cancellation of HBO's "Winning Time" get him too down in the dumps, instead passing the ball to Heyward for a little evening praise after he keyed a sweep of the very-much-in-the-race Mariners.

Heyward entered the season as someone you'd very much like to sneak onto the Dodgers' playoff roster, but might not be able to.

He'll end it as a crucial ingredient in the Dodgers' efforts to counteract tough playoff righties like Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta and Spencer Strider. That GM Freddie Freeman might just know what he's talking about. Probably deserves a Magic tweet, too.