I Will Always Love You, Guillermo Heredia
On November 15 at 3:34 p.m, Atlanta Braves fans were delivered devastating news: fan favorite Guillermo Heredia had been designated for assignment.
From a baseball perspective, this was 100% the right move. With the Braves dealing with 40-man roster crunch ahead of the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft, Heredia was the clear choice to let go. The Braves had already added an outfielder, Sam Hilliard, who had better numbers than Heredia and more promising outputs, as Heredia had a -0.2 fWAR and a 53 wRC+.
But baseball isn’t always about stats. This is from the same guy who believes that the Braves should sign Joey Gallo because of his advanced metrics and believes that Spencer Strider should’ve won Rookie of the Year because of FIP.
Guillermo Heredia could have a -5.0 fWAR and I wouldn’t care. Because, despite not being a good baseball player from a statistical standpoint, he is an excellent baseball player to have from an entertainment perspective.
So, in honor and memory of Guillermo Heredia, I thought we could look at the best of Guillermo Heredia.
The Best of Guillermo Heredia
February 24, 2021
Guillermo Heredia’s journey to Atlanta was met without much fanfare. It was an unassuming deal to acquire an unknown outfielder for depth. While most fans questioned who this outfielder even was or demanded that the team re-sign Shane Greene, one fan knew what was really up:
Aside from @CinMobile, few fans knew at the time that this man would rival the great Blooper as the best Braves cheerleader of all-time.
April 14, 2021
It’s early April and the Braves are in trouble. Max Fried and starting CF Cristian Pache hit the IL. The Braves will fall to 4-8 nine hours after this tweet is sent. The team is in need of a savior from an underwhelming start.
Heredia makes his Braves debut the next day, starting and going 0-1 with a walk, but it’s not until April 18 that Guillermo breaks out.
April 18, 2021
Fresh off being blown out by the Cubs and dropping to 6-9, the Braves are in need of a win, and they get it. Thanks to five homers, the Braves return the favor on the Cubs, beating them 13-4. However, there was one standout who shined brighter than the rest.
Heredia 3-4 with two bombs, including a grand slam. Is this a slugger the Braves got for cheap? Time will tell, but something…. something is missing on these homers.
July 4, 2021
The Braves head into the bottom of the 9th down 7-3. They roar back with four runs to tie it, but have to go into extras to win it. Our hero, Guillermo, does his part in the ninth, singling and eventually scoring.
Heredia at this point in the season has been excellent for a team that still hasn’t crossed .500. He has a .360 OBP and has a 118 wRC+. while also playing solid centerfield defense.
This day, however, is not about what Heredia does at the plate, it’s what happens in the bottom of the 10th.
After Will Smith keeps the fish off the board in the top of the inning, the Braves look to walk it off.
After a Dansby walk, a Guillermo flyout, and an Arcia walk, the bases are loaded for Kevan Smith (lol, remember him?). Marlins pitcher throws a wild pitch and Austin Riley comes into score! The Braves win!
… Except they don’t. The call is overturned and now with runners on 2nd and 3rd, Don Mattingly decides to walk Kevan Smith in order to face… Max Fried?
Yes, with the pitcher’s spot up, Brian Snitker opts to use starting pitcher, Max Fried, as a pinch-hitter.
Fried takes three balls and a strike and then on this pitch that he really should’ve laid off, he does this:
This is probably my favorite walk-off ever. How many times in your life do you get to see a pitcher pinch-hit and walk the game off with a line-drive hit?
But wait, this is supposed to be about the Braves’ million-dollar hype man. He wasn’t at the plate. Why am I mentioning this date?
Because seconds after Fried smoked a liner into center, Guillermo Heredia did this:
Storming the field, pink swords in hand, celebrates the Marlins’ defeat over the mound slicing the imaginary demons the Braves exorcised by overcoming Manfredball before joining the rest of the team and mobbing Fried.
It’s time we talk about the swords.
The Pink Swords
At some point during the season, Guillermo began to enforce the sword celebration. The Braves already had the Panda celebration, inspired by bench legend, Pablo Sandoval, but the team began to double up, adding the swords as well to homers.
But the sword swipes weren’t just on homers, they were the de facto celebration after a hit. Here’s Heredia demonstrating the perfect form after his double against the Padres.
Of course, whenever a new acquisition came along, like Joc Pederson, they needed to get with the program as quickly as possible as well.
But these symbolic gestures weren’t enough for our friend, Guillermo, as we’ve already seen. He didn’t want to be humble, he needed something that showed he was cocky.
These beloved pink swords were a fixture in the dugout for the rest of the outfielder’s tenure in Atlanta. On homers, Guillermo would bequeath one of the sacred swords to the teammate who had driven the ball over the wall and they would slash the air in unison. It became one of the most beautiful rituals in the game.
After the Braves clinched the NLDS against the Brewers in 2021, Bally Sports’ Paul Byrd took a minute to interview the outfielder who had helped stabilize the outfield defense in the late innings. Heredia didn’t say much, but he did deliver his signature line:
He’d reiterate this a few more times, notably after the World Series victory. Thanks to Guillermo’s unwavering confidence in his team, his energy and late-game defense helped this team win their first championship in 26 years.
When Yuli Gurriel grounded out to Dansby to end the 2021 World Series, Guillermo was in center, and his reaction was our reaction.
The designated bodyguard
When Spring Training began after the 2022 lockout, Guillermo was back, but this time, along with Orlando Arcia, he had found a new role.
Guillermo’s appearances as a bodyguard were limited, as he was also the team’s full-time cheerleader, along with Blooper, as well as a backup outfielder, but he made his appearances known.
Lastly, before we go, here are just a few more memories of what made Guillermo my favorite replacement-level player ever. If this is truly the end of the Guillermo Heredia era, it was a joy to experience as a fan.