Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Matt Holliday

St Louis Cardinals, Spring Training 2014

A quick post to share player photos from our recent trip to sunny Jupiter, Florida – the Spring Training home of our beloved St. Louis Cardinals.  Photos (from the February 28th game against the Marlins and the March 2nd game against the Mets.)

Coming soon:  Photo diary with tips on how to be a baseball tourist in and around Jupiter Florida, Roger Dean stadium and the practice back fields.  (LINK HERE)

Click on any photo to enlarge and/or to shift through larger photos one at a time.  Enjoy!

Baseball is back!!  :)

NLCS Game 6 Photo Diary

The energy in the air, the roar of the postseason crowd, the Sea of Red at Busch Stadium – add in an offensive surge, a rookie pitcher rising to the occasion and surpassing expectations and a shutout of the LA Dodgers, and you have a Game 6 WINNER!

Here is our Game 6 experience, told in photos…

Thanks to Carey and Patricia for the invite!

Thanks to Carey and Patricia for the invite!

and some brought signs...

and some brought signs…

Sea of Red with their rally towels, ready to get the party started.

Sea of Red with their rally towels, ready to get the party started.

First pitch.  Wacha Wacha Wacha!

First pitch. Wacha Wacha Wacha!

by the 5th inning, all the scoring became ho-hum for this little fan in front of us.  ;)

by the 5th inning, all the scoring became ho-hum for this little fan in front of us. ;)

Exit Kershaw

Magic Johnson's face says it all.... exit Dodgers.

Magic Johnson’s face says it all…. exit Dodgers.

WINNER!!!

WINNER!!!

Group HUG!

Group HUG!

Matheny shows it off

Matheny shows it off

The Hollidays, postgame

The Hollidays, postgame

a HUGE hopping hug for Yadi

a HUGE hopping hug for Yadi

MVP Wacha

MVP Wacha

Oh, hey….. THE CARDINALS ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!!

Go Cards!!  ;)

A Bromance We Can Get Behind

In past years it was easy to accuse the Cardinals of being almost… bland. Elder statesmen of the team like Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter brought drive, passion, and supreme athletic ability to a strong team.

What they didn’t bring? Fun!

It sounds stupid, but the more you think about it, the more you realize that this clubhouse was not one that seemed like a barrel full of laughs. Older teams like the 2006 World Series winners brought winning, although there wasn’t much in the way of personality there. Outside of the Jim Edmonds nightly game ball and Scott Rolen’s drama with manager Tony LaRussa, I can’t say I recall much else that involved the players in the clubhouse.

Over the last couple of years, the combination of Yadier Molina and Pujols created a bromance that Matt Sebek of Joe Sports Fan captured with this:

However, having these two being so close hasn’t translated to a whole clubhouse. Stories surfaced about how Albert’s entourage would do things like go to NBA games and barely notice the peons of the team that also went to the game and wanted to meet Kobe (oh crap, I’m talking about Brendan Ryan again… did you hear he’s engaged?). It wasn’t team things – it was entourage things. Maybe there was something to the whole Colby Rasmus thinking the team was rough on him thing. If it was a fractured clubhouse……..

Wait, was I about to stick up for Colby’s whining? Moving on…

Now that Albert has split for the sunny beaches of California, a new bromance has emerged.

You know who I’m talking about: Matt Holliday and David Freese. They’re everywhere, from a Skype interview on Intentional Talk to their latest endeavor with the Cardinals as the ambassadors for the new “Homers for Health” initiative where fans are encouraged to donate money in quarter increments to help out a local children’s hospital in St. Louis. Their work together has shown up on Twitter, although not in the way you would think…

Offseason squash workouts became Twitter fodder for most of us bored-tired-of-football-when-does-spring-training-start-again?! baseball fans, seeing pictures like this and watching all of the interaction between the Cardinal players on Twitter has brought about a new feel with this team.

They laugh. They joke. They include more than Freese – it’s Lance Berkman’s candid interviews and Jon Jay’s Nike collection and Jason Motte’s beard eating small children.

Wait, that’s wrong too.

What I’m saying is that this is a new era for the Cardinals. One that we can definitely get behind.

Is it Opening Day yet?

Speaking of Hollidays…

Happy day-after-St-Patty’s to you!  Green eggs, green beer, green baseball jerseys…. what’s not to love?  Checking in on our Cardinals this morning (yesterday’s Spring Training loss, 10-3 to the Tigers), I found a lovely video highlight from MLB:  Matt Holliday, in green, belting a two run homer.  (With a couple of slow-mo views to savor the moment again and again!)  Thank you, MLB!

(click HERE to watch)

Of course, seeing Holliday all dressed in green, smacking the shamrocks off a baseball, reminded me of this gem from 2011.  A day late, but definitely worth hunting down.

So Happy St. Patrick’s Day…. from me (and Matt Holliday)

Go Cards!!  ;)

The Boys Are Back! Almost.

Little league practice schedules and reports from Jupiter’s Spring Training games: signs that the world is finally waking up from a long winter, and baseball’s back! …..almost.

Spring Training whets the appetite and refreshes the senses.  Lineups, pitching reports, actual games on green grass with familiar faces (and some unfamiliar mugs) donning the birds on the bat… it’s all so surreal, especially with the backdrop of Florida palm trees.

While that’s all very well and tropically good (and I’m still crossing my fingers for the possibility of a quick pilgrimage to Florida), I find myself longing for the real deal:  the true start of the 2012 season.   The 2011 World Series Champions have a lot to prove.  New manager and No Albert Pujols may top the list, but whether ESPN is interested or not, Cardinal Nation has a lot of curiosities about how this team will perform.

My Top 10 Highlights/Curiosities for the upcoming 2012 season:

10. Pregame interviews on Fox Sports Midwest:  this is where the players get a chance to prove they have personality.  Sink or swim, boys!

9. Who’s on 2nd?  Descalso? Greene? Schumaker??  The anticipation’s killing me.  Wishlist:  quick glove, soft hands, excellent range, add in a little offense… Honestly, I’m just glad it isn’t Theriot.

8. Eduardo Sanchez’ filthy slider.  I fell in love with that pitch only to have it ripped away too early in the season last year.  Please, oh please, let’s have a healthy Sanchez and many, many gorgeous dirty pitches out of the bullpen this year.

7.  Mike Matheny management style.  What attitude will this team have under Matheny’s reins? Will it be more youthful? Will the playbook be more predictable? One thing’s for certain, getting my non-baseball girlfriends to watch a game will be easier with Matheny front and center in dugout shots.  (Cute manager?  Heckya!)

6. Jason Motte, “The Closer”.  Bearded, fidgety, always throwing himself off the mound with the force of that fastball.  He makes me smile.  Bring on the crazy-Motte!  I miss watching him yell at his glove.

5. Lovable Lance at 1st – those are mighty big shoes to fill!  Can Berkman be more than “adequate”?  For his sake (and ours), I hope we never hear “Albert would’ve…” or “if Albert had been there…”  Honestly, Berkman surpassed any and all expectations last year, so here’s hoping he can make us forget all about you-know-who.

4. Chris Carpenter attitude.  Yes, he scares me.  Yes, he has a mouth on him.  But man, oh man, a game with Carp on the mound is like a baseball drug.  He’s our bad boy, intense. fierce.  And afterwards, please throw in a good dose of that sexy, deep, gurgly Carp-voice in post game interviews?  Thank you.

3. Adam Wainwright back on the bump.  Remind me again…How did we ever win the World Series without Wainwright??   Soooo glad he’s back.  Soooo thrilled he’s healthy.  The question now is can we expect him to pick up where he left off??  Pencil him into those pregame TV interviews ASAP.  And also into those dugout shots.  Ok?  Ok. Good!  ;)

2. David Freese smiles.  Is there anything lovelier?  Especially those ginormous joyful grins of a walk-off win.  Such a humble, talented, gorgeous MVP… and he tweets?!!  (love!) Stay healthy, Dave, stay healthy!

…and for my #1 pick, I gotta say that I am most looking forward to seeing the return of my favorite familiar baseball sight: Matt Holliday digging in at the plate, Matt Holliday leg kicks, Matt Holliday launching ‘em into the stands, Matt Holliday digging for home,  Matt Holliday… well, you get the point.

The boys are back!  Almost.  =)

WWU Recap: David Freese

Picking the subject of my first Winter Warm-Up Recap was easy. Hometown hero and World Series MVP, David Freese was a media darling.  Here’s what he had to say during the short 10 minutes he spent with us in the media room at Winter Warm-Up:

We’ll start with my favorite quotes, the humorous and sweet side of Mr. Freese:  (audio link included so you can listen for yourself)

About his squash record with Matt Holliday, who told the media he was ahead of Freese 4-2…

” Is he (Holliday) publicly announcing our record?  Wow, he must be nervous because I beat him last time so he’s trying to get that record out there.  Yeah, he’s taken me down a few times, but I’m coming back.  I’m getting him!”

About being a role model:

“I think I’ve been considered a role model since you get into pro ball.  Even in high school and college, there’s kids in this area, being a hometown guy, that are going to look up to you just because.  I’ve been in this city for a while and that is something that you can’t take for granted and you have to hold onto.  Each day I realize that there is more pressure involved in that.  But that’s cool.   I think it’s great.  I think the kids are the best part about this.  As hectic as it is, as crazy as everything gets, every time you see the excitement of a kid, it makes me realize it’s all worth it.”

–When asked if he still feels like himself after all the World Series fame:

…” yeah, I KNOW I’m me.  I think that’s the easy part.  I think about that all the time.  Stuff (has) hit me quick, that’s for sure, but I’ve said it before, if you get the right people around you, it’s that much easier to stay you.”

—About getting mobbed by everybody wherever he goes:

“It’s hectic, but it’s flattering. It’s humbling just going in places and seeing fans.  I still can’t understand why people thank me all the time, but it’s a cool feeling.

—Characterizing this offseason:

It’s been “preparation for 2012 with holding onto the excitement of 2011.  But when I get down to camp, it’s all about 2012.”

—-About expectations of him from this point on:

“I think expectations maybe from the fan base have risen, but not in my mind or I don’t think in the Cardinals’ mind. I think all they’re worried about is me just being healthy…

I think if I’m healthy, hopefully that’s enough. I can do my part. Losing Albert, we gotta kind of turn it up a little bit.  Beltran coming in is HUGE and  I think we are jacked up that he’s going to be putting on our uniform, and I’m just going to be me.  That’s what this is all about, just be me and do my part.

—Speaking about being considered the hero for Game 6,

Freese said hero is a “tough word.”  “It’s cool.  I think everyday I soak it in a little more and really understand what we accomplished as a team.  I’m pumped I did my part and glad we’re getting that ring.”

—About this team’s chances to compete again in 2012:

“Losing Albert’s tough, obviously, but  25 guys win a championship, and not one.  We are all going to miss Albert and we all wish him the best…. We’re going to have a good team and I think everyone knows that.  We’ve got hopefully  20 more wins coming from Waino too.  So it’s exciting.  I think it’s going to be different having Mike as our manager.  It’s going to be different not having Albert… not having Tony, but it’s definitely going to be exciting.”

—About changes in the way he expects to be used with Matheny as the manager now:

“There were times when Tony would give me rest in games and also it helped that Descalso’s a gold-glove caliber third baseman so it was a win/win.  You could throw D’s in there and keep him fresh.  I think 2012 is definitely going to be different in the sense that is going to be like hey Dave, just go in there and play and do what you can do because each day, each year I get more healthy.  There is still room for improvement, but that’s the exciting part.

“The weirdest thing is I’ve been really good friends with Mike (Matheny) for two years.  To say you have a friend become your manager, usually it’s the other way around.  That’s special.  That’s great.  Everybody in here knows the type of guy Mike is.  I think it clouds his knowledge of the game and that is an absolute compliment.  I  wouldn’t want any other guy taking this team and running it in 2012 than Mike Matheny.”

—About new teammate, Carlos Beltran’s addition to the team:

“(It) fills a void.  You can’t fill Albert’s shoes, but Carlos Belran is an elite talent and when he’s healthy, you know, he’s scary for sure…  He’s a middle of the order guy.  He’s going to do his part and help us out a lot.”

—About how he expects to be able to perform in 2012: 

“I’d like to say I could handle 162 (games).  I’m not going to throw a number out there, I hope I get this or I hope I get that, but the way I feel now… I’m not nervous.  That’s a good thing.  That’s a feeling I don’t have and I’ve had that feeling for a long time with my legs and stuff.  A year ago today there was definitely a nerve-wracking feeling going into camp.  So to pull that off my shoulders is a great feeling.”

“When healthy, I think I get the job done (as a defensive player).  Over the past couple of years I go out in the field and sometimes it’s tough just day in and day out getting after it, but I think this year it’s going to be a lot easier because you’re not worried about your feet, you’re not worried about your legs, you’re just being me.  I think about ’08 in Memphis ….I remember just running out there and just loving playing defense because I wasn’t worried about my feet.  This year it’s going to be like that, so I’m excited.”

“As far as rehabbing my feet, I’ve done less (this offseason).  There’s less to worry about.  It’s relaxing.  The nervous feeling of “am I ready?” isn’t there anymore and I’ve been waiting for that.”

——

Freese is excited and ready for Spring Training, ready to get out there and play baseball.

We’re ready too, Dave.  We’re ready too.

:)

Winter Warm Up, Day 3

Where do I begin?

Composing this while sitting on the floor of the St. Louis airport, I am still spinning from the wonderful experience of covering Winter Warm-Up.  After getting a small taste of the behind-the-scenes media experience, I have a newfound respect for journalists and beat writers who live it, day in and day out.

When I opened my newspaper this morning to the Cardinal coverage, I savored and dissected the columns with even more enthusiasm than usual.  Besides the obvious difference of actually holding a real copy of the Post Dispatch in my hands today (a bit hard to find in Oklahoma and one of my favorite little things about visiting St. Louis), I was fascinated to see how the writers would pick and choose their details from the very same player interviews I had experienced the day before and then weave those facts into the stories we read online and in the paper.  They make it look so easy…

After 3 days of jam-packed activity, I am truly worn out. The thought of keeping up that pace through an entire baseball season combined with deadlines, hectic travel schedules, game notes, pre- and post-game interviews plus the real-life pressure of it being your JOB to rapidly condense it all into timely, informative and entertaining samplers for the hungry baseball masses… and I’m quite content sticking to this blogging thing where we do it for the love of the game.

Don’t get me wrong however… this was the weekend adventure of a lifetime and I savored every moment of it.  The honor of the invitation and the unbelievable access were something I will treasure forever.

Looking back on this amazing whirlwind adventure, I am overwhelmed with gratitude at the opportunity to pass along the sights, player interview tidbits and my experiences at this tremendous event to Cardinal fans through our blog and Twitter.  The people of the Cardinals Media Relations team (Brian Bartow, Melody Yount, Chris Tunno, Ron Watermon and especially Terry Rodgers) and the Cardinals Care volunteers were welcoming and helpful.  Their hospitality helped ease many of the fears of being out of my element as part of the  “new media” contingency included in this year’s Winter WarmUp coverage.  It was great fun visiting with a variety of media folk throughout the weekend, all very kind and accommodating.

The Cardinal organization deserves a big, BIG thank you for opening the doors to us involved in blogging and social media.  The responsibility was huge, and I was really proud and (honestly) quite blown away by the volume and quality of material coming from my fellow media credential-newbies.  Kevin (posting for C70 at the Bat) was jumping in with both feet, asking players insightful questions that elicited amazing and heartfelt answers. Ann (for Aaron Miles Fastball) was a speed demon at taking notes at those player interviews and getting those words online quicker than… well, quicker than Aaron Miles’ Fastball.  Nick (Pitchers Hit Eighth) cranked out summary stories on several hot topics.  And Chris Reed (writing for i70baseball.com) ramped up the technology and created his WWU Video Blog.  Check them out, if you haven’t already.

My 2nd love (behind family and baseball… so it’s more like my 3rd love, I guess?) is capturing and sharing photographs.  So I attempted to gather as many images as possible and pass them along on twitter throughout the day, as well as here on Diamond Diaries. While pursuing this goal, I learned that #1: Winter Warm-Up is a HUGE venue.  #2: Comfy shoes can only do so much.  #3: Despite my best efforts, even after hustling back and forth all day between player interviews and autograph tables, there were still many other WWU moments that I missed.  #4 Who really needs lunch (or dinner) when there are Cardinals to photograph and write about? #5:  Ditto for the “sleeping” thing.  And #6 Cardinal fans continue to be some of the friendliest people I have ever met.

Winter Warm-Up offers a little bit for everyone.  There were lectures, forums, silent auctions, presentations and oh yeah… a World Series trophy! While I only managed to catch a quick glimpse of the variety of vendors and souvenir offerings, Kevin (C70 at the Bat) convinced me the selection was amazing and the prices were spectacular after I saw the treasures he’ll be taking home.  It’s no wonder Cardinal fans keep coming back year after year.

With all proceeds from the 16th annual Winter Warm-Up going to the Cardinals Care foundation (the charity benefiting children in the community) fans can enjoy their weekend in baseball heaven, spend lots of money and know it’s for a worthy cause.  Win/win!

 Yes, the Hyatt was PACKED with people, but the crowd movement was expertly orchestrated.  The amazingly adept crew of patient and friendly volunteers directed traffic phenomenally. It was a QUALITY event with the QUANTITY of experiences to match!

 

This year’s Winter Warm-Up provided hours of voice recordings and hundreds of photo files.  It should be enough to keep us entertained for at least a month or so.  And from the looks of the Spring Training Countdown, that should just about do it!

Once again, I am excited to share with you my collection of photos from the final day of Winter Warm-Up.

Today’s featured Cardinals include:

  • Kyle Lohse
  • Tony La Russa
  • Kyle McClellan
  • Allen Craig
  • Manager Mike Matheny
  • Carlos Beltran
  • Skip Schumaker
  • and World Series MVP (with the best smile in baseball) David Freese

And another Thank You to the Cardinals with a special shout-out to Peggy (our wonderful hostess/guide/source in the media area), Patty, Kathleen, Judy and Doris and all the other fabulous Cardinals Care volunteers who made the weekend easier for us all.  It was a joy to share the weekend with you!

Although the weekend was truly a dream come true, I am happy to be back home with my family and a slower pace, packing lunch boxes, chauffeuring the kiddos, homework, housework and my real world job.  Keep an eye out for more posts and pictures about my adventures.  I’m looking forward to digging through my digital keepsakes and sharing the rest of the experience with you… right after I meet the laundry deadline and interview the pets.

Thanks for reading!

Winter Warm-Up, Day 2

Who is this guy and what did he do with Mitchell Boggs?

Today, Day 2 of the Cardinals Winter Warm Up, was a lot of fun hard work!

Yesterday, I figured out the system and broke in my sparkly new media pass.  Today, I put it to full use.

In between player interview opportunities, I branched out to explore more of the Warm-Up environment.  By staking out some hallways and talking to folks waiting for autographs, I met a slew of wonderful Cardinal fans who were willing to answer all kinds of questions about their Winter Warm-Up experiences.  (Be watching for the poll results in an upcoming post!) I also made an executive decision to postpone the transcribing of over 2 hours of player interview recordings from today in order to take lots and lots of photos – which was way more fun hard work.  ;)

The media room was hopping with visits from a phenomenal sampling of Cardinal players and one Mr. Bill Dewitt, Jr.  Among those who stopped by:

  • J.C. Romero
  • Shelby Miller
  • Matt Adams
  • Brandon Dickson
  • Daniel Descalso
  • Mitchell Boggs
  • Jason Motte
  • John Jay
  • Jaime Garcia
  • Shane Robinson
  • Lance Berkman
  • and ….Matt Holliday

Some of the highlights/stand-out moments of the day (for me) included getting an introduction to our new pitcher, J.C. Romero, who made a wonderful first impression with his fun personality, making jokes about being “old” and doing a bang-up job of being a likeable character. Romero spoke honestly and openly about his desire to protect his reputation and to be a role model to kids.  He’s a long-time friend of Yadier Molina (Romero teased “He’s my boy.  I knew Yadi before all of you guys knew him.”) and made it a point to talk about his faith in God.

Stumbling upon a barely recognizable baby-faced Mitchell Boggs signing autographs for fans had me amused mid morning, as did the interviews with Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso, Jason Motte and Lance Berkman.

I was impressed by minor league pitching prospect Shelby Miller’s openly discussing how the suspension last season (alcohol related) helped him to realize his priorities and to make necessary changes in his life and “keep his head on his shoulders.”

Shane Robinson spoke to a small group of us, detailing his horrific outfield collision in a AAA ballgame last season and the recovery process involved, mentally and physically.  Shane also shared the exciting news that he and his wife are expecting their first child in May, grinning nervously as he spoke about being a new dad.

And of course there was Matt Holliday.  Matt spoke to a packed house of very determined journalists, so I knew my chances of getting in any questions were honestly hopeless.  So, I climbed up on my chair and balanced on my tiptoes to snap a dozen (or hundred) fairly gorgeous shots of the birthday boy. Yes, Matt Holliday spent the afternoon of his 32nd birthday with ME…. annnnd a small multitude of Cardinal fans. ;)

Okay, I’m keeping the post short tonight, because honestly? I’m exhausted – a good exhausted.  It’s time for bed so that I can wake up and do it all again tomorrow!  Winter Warm-Up, Day 3 – the last hurrah!

I leave you now with a slideshow of some of my favorite photos from today AND a promise to write more later!  =)

Diamond Diaries’ 2011 Stories of the Year

The United Cardinal Bloggers take part in many different activities throughout the course of the year. Many of these projects can be found on our site (search ‘ucb’ in the search tab at the top to find more). The last project of the year comes on the next to the last day of the year, and it is a time for reflection. What were the big stories of 2011? This is our list – what’s yours?

1. First and foremost has to be the #11in11 World Series win! This was a team that was left for dead, then came back and fought their way through a thrilling October run. You would be crazy not to appreciate what going out on top meant to Tony LaRussa, and now that he whose name Erika has forgotten is gone off to the West Coast like Tony did, the 2012 team is going to have a much different feel to it. But that doesn’t sour this win at all for us! The wild ride to the postseason, the extended series’ wins in the wildest of ways, the dramatic home runs and the dominant pitching performances. Yes, this was a postseason we will never forget!

2. Oh David Freese. Your glass ankles made me unsure that you would ever reach the potential Erika and I hoped you would. Your hot start to the season was derailed by your hit-by-a-pitch broken wrist on May 1. The .356 batting average cooled, but your solid play did not. Going in to the postseason we did not factor you in as a major player, but your wrote your name in the recordbooks over and over, thrilling us with clutch hits and home runs that no one expected. Your NLCS and WS MVP trophies must be getting dirty from having to lug them around on the talk show circuit. We would gladly offer to shine them up for you! :)

3. Erika’s favorite, Matt Holliday, had a strange year. What’s stunning is that despite having played in 34 fewer games than 2010, his counting numbers were still relatively in line with his career averages. Appendicitis in the first week of the season? One week out, no big deal. A moth flies in his ear and becomes lodged mid-game? Whatever, pull it out and stick it in a jar. Sore muscles, hurt fingers, Holliday was this year’s Freese in terms of strange injuries. Despite it all, he had a strong enough season to garner an All-Star selection and was even selected in the home run derby competition (I know, that feels like an incredibly long time ago!).

4. At the beginning of the year, Bill Ivie had a Diamond Diaries night on the UCB Radio Hour. Since it was the beginning of the season we were asked to make various predictions on how the season would go for various players and the team as a whole. While I was still licking my wounds about Adam Wainwright’s season-ending Tommy John surgery and Erika was wondering what would become of David Freese’s glass ankles, Bill threw us a curve and asked what we thought about the Lance Berkman signing. I was trying very hard to be optimistic. It was a shot in the dark signing, hoping that he could reclaim some of his former All-Star glory, while still knowing that even if he didn’t show much, it wasn’t a break-the-bank signing either.

Did anyone see an All-Star selection and a 7th place finish in the MVP award voting? Anyone?

Lies. You didn’t. We didn’t. We tried to predict counting stats – .280 batting, 20-25 home runs, 75ish RBI were the numbers I tossed out – wording our predictions with “If he could get here, that would be awesome!” He went above and beyond all of our expectations, while also adding that ever coveted “clubhouse presence” that was missing for the past few years. Just for kicks, he also picked up two NL Player of the Week awards. Take that!

5. Why not round out our top 5 with a little bit of silly? Every playoff run needs a theme, and this one appeared to be all about the squirrel and Torty Craig and Happy Flight. It gave fans something silly to smile about, fake Twitter accounts to interact with, merchandise flew off the shelves, and despite all the silliness the Cardinals still found a way to win.

Also, we didn’t have to deal with that ridiculous “Beast Mode” theme. So there’s that.

Make sure to check out the United Cardinal Bloggers site to catch all of this year’s top 5 countdowns.

Happy New Year Cardinal fans!

Matt Holliday: Beast or Bust?

The United Cardinal Bloggers Fall Roundtable discussions have been going on now since November 1st and are finishing up soon.  Great questions, superb insight, fun & informative reads.  You can review all the previous topics HERE.  Today was my turn to start the conversation.

“…before all this fun comes to an end, I’d like to turn our attentions back to one of my favorite subjects: Brendan Ryan.  Okay, okay…. I had to try. Come back. Let’s talk about hunky Matt Holliday.

How do you feel about Holliday’s 2011 season?  Are his contributions (to date) worthy of the biggest contract in franchise history?  Will Holliday be the producer in 2012 who helps us overcome the lack of #5?  Is he worthy of potentially becoming the new superstar face of the franchise?

Your topic:  Matt Holliday, Beast or Bust?”

I’ve heard continued grumblings about Holliday’s performance online and wondered if the UCB crew would come to his defense.  Here are their replies with everything from charisma comparisons to hunky ratings, stats and injury reports:

Bill Ivie, I-70 Baseball 

That is a big question mark, isn’t it?

I think Holliday has performed well.  He has been healthy (for the most
part) and has been one of the most consistent performers in the cleanup
spot in the last few years.

As for him becoming the star…I don’t think he has to.  I think the
pressure will be on homegrown players like Freese and Molina to step into
that role and Holliday just needs to be what he has been to date.  I’m not
sure the fans will embrace anyone completely for a while, kind of like that
jilted lover that just doesn’t want to date, it may take some time.

Daniel Solzman, Redbirds Fun
To the subject of Matt Holliday, he was not a bust.  In no way was he a bust.  How many baseball players start the season with their appendix bursting?  Get a moth trapped in their ear?  Not to mention the other injuries that I can’t recall. His 2012 numbers, I feel, will be on par with that of 2010.  This was the first season since his rookie year of 2004 that he hit under .300.  I think he’ll come back better than ever and put up an MVP caliber year and be sent to another All Star Game.
Tom Knuppel, Cardinals GM

Holliday just needs to be consistent. I don’t believe “star power” is a
necessity. I think he will enjoy being a bit more free of Albert and will
be ok.

Now as far as he being hunky, methink not.

Ray DeRousse, StL Cardinal Baseball

Did hunky Matt Holliday have a bad 2011? Sure, he had a WEIRD 2011, but his season-ending numbers were all pretty typical: average around .300, homers between 20-30, and slugging around .500. His RBI’s were down a bit, but that could’ve been due to the Pujols/Berkman factor in the lineup.

Let’s be honest, though – Holliday isn’t going to “make up for the loss of Pujols.” He’s going to give you another robotic year of similar production barring injury. And that’s what he’s being paid to do.

If anything, I’d like to see Holliday be more of a leader on this team. His performance during the Series was an awful example of tail-between-the-legs surrender that we can’t afford this season. So far, Holliday has seemed aloof and distant (much like Pujols). I’m hoping Holliday steps it up emotionally with the departure of Pujols.

Jon Doble, Redbird Dugout

When I look back on Holliday’s season, I’m not disappointed by his season at all. I would have liked more games but an appendix and the tendon issue
can’t really be avoided. And only Matt knows if his back injury that nagged him a lot of the late season could have been avoided.

If you project Holliday’s numbers out to his typical playing time, he would have hit .299 with 29 home runs and 98 RBI. For me, I’m happy with .300-25-100 out of Holliday and he just about met that. He hit .316 with
RISP, better than in 2010. He hit .419 with a runner at third base, better
than in 2010. He scored 19% of his base runners, tied for the team lead
with Freese and better than 2010 (where he once again led the guys who were
on the team all season).

His lack of ability to stay healthy was disappointing, but I’m not
concerned with it yet. If he has another year of freak injuries this year,
I’m going to start questioning whether we can depend on him long-term, but
right now this is an aberration and I have no reason to believe that it is
anything else. This is the first time he’s gotten less than 620 plate
appearances since he started playing everyday back in 2006.

Going forward, it’s going to need to be a total team effort. The Cardinals
have 6 starting players who can hit .300 (Jay, Holliday, Berkman, Freese,
Craig, and Molina). They also have four guys who are capable of hitting 20+
home runs (Holliday, Berkman, Freese, and Craig). However, Holliday needs
to be the offensive leader in that 3 spot in the lineup and he needs to
step up into that role. It’s obviously one that he’s filled before in
Colorado, so I am not worried about him going overboard in his approach.

Aaron Hooks, CardsDiaspora

I’m scared about Holiday.

Frankly, I’m scared about how Cardinals team in general. Pujols was
such a staple in the lineup that not one other player on this team the
past 11 years had to worry about being THE man, they just had to be A
man. Is Holliday capable of being THE man, much like he was in
Colorado? He’s got the talent to do so, sure. But 2007 and ‘Rocktober’
was 5 years ago for a team gambling with house money.

He hasn’t had to carry a team for a while. He hasn’t had to carry a
World Series contender ever.

I think we all agree with Ray DeRousse, who called Holliday’s season
in 2011 ‘weird’. It was. But if I was to have a pejorative descriptor
for my feelings in 2012? scared.

For Erika’s sake, I hope he comes out strong.

Tara Wellman, AMF

You don’t replace Albert Pujols, no matter who you are.

That said, Matt Holliday has a chance — and the potential — to carry much of the load.

Others have already quoted his stats, so I won’t repeat them. But, his numbers are enough to conclude that his year of freak incidents isn’t the norm.

The only problem I foresee is that, as the potential “face of the franchise,” he’ll put that pressure on himself and struggle. We saw that with Pujols all the time — when he started to play like it was all up to him, he struggled (usually pretty badly). I hope none of the guys are told/feel that pressure of being the ONE to step into Albert’s role.

Just one more thing on his leadership. He’s a quiet kind of guy. You listen to him talk or give interviews, it can feel like he’s distant. However, I tend to build my thoughts of players’ personalities and their “clubhouse dynamic” by what other players say about the guy. Listen to David Freese tall about Matt, and you’ll get a pretty solid idea of their bond and the understated leadership style Holliday displays. Plus, keep in mind, he wasn’t supposed to lead this team to victory. Albert was. Now that AP isn’t there, I suspect Matt will be able to have a greater impact on the guys around him.

Kevin Reynolds, Cards ‘N Stuff

Matt Holliday’s contract looks a lot better after Werth’s absurdity in
Washington. Holliday has the ability, name, and track record to become the
face of the franchise for the next couple years…but he seems to rely a
lot on skills that could erode fairly quickly over time. Many of the hits
he gets are hits simply because he hits the ball so hard and powers it to
the wall or past a fielder. That strength and bat speed could gradually
fail him – twice as much so because skills required to make his strength
look good (coordination, etc.) will also gradually fade. And although he
catches most of what he gets to (except, apparently, in the playoffs…?),
he still isn’t an exceptional defender.

I think what I’m trying to say is that Holliday, to me, is not a “pure”
baseball player. He’s a helluva an athlete…no question…and great
hitter…but I believe guys who are athletes first and baseball players
second tend to erode more quickly than guys who seem to come out of the
womb with a bat in their hands.

Also, for whatever reason – pressure, comfort level, playing in Albert’s
shadow, quirky injuries – Holliday hasn’t been able to truly settle in as a
Cardinal. He seems to be, at times, attempting to turn his bat into paper
right there in the batter’s box. Dude just tries too hard. I love that
about him, but he has to get it under control.

Okay, all that being said…I think Matt is poised for his biggest seasons
as a Cardinal with Albert gone. Watching Holliday in Colorado, I saw a
ballplayer who would do anything it took to win…to cross the plate…etc.
He seemed to shine in the spotlight. Then, when he came to St. Louis…he
seemed less sure of himself and perhaps hesitant. I don’t know if he was so
aware that it was Albert’s team and he was just here to support the dude in
the 3 hole…or what…but I think now Holliday will have more room to
shine.

With Albert out of the way and TLR’s controlling nature giving way to
Matheny’s “go out and play” attitude, I think you will see a more
assertive, aggressive, “gimme the ball” Matt Holliday. If that’s true, and
given the player contract landscape, I don’t actually have a problem with
his contract. And for me, his 2011 season was rather remarkable considering
what the guy dealt with all season.

Bob Netherton, On the Outside Corner
I will add more later when I have the time to do this great question justice, but on the subject of “face of the franchise”, Holliday does not have the charisma for that label.  Not a problem because David Freese, Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright and Chis Carpenter have plenty :). With a catcher as a manager, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter should replace Albert Pujols as the new face of the Cardinals.  A new era of pitching led championships, just like another rookie manager led after the Cardinals won the World Series in  …… Well you know :)
Mark, Retrosimba
Matt Holliday underperformed in 2011. Injuries played a part but he still was inconsistent and subpar. The season he had in 2010 for the Cardinals established the baseline: 28 home runs, 103 RBI, .312 batting average, .390 on-base percentage and .532 slugging percentage. That’s what I expect from him each of the next 3 or 4 seasons. He’s clearly capable.

Subpar?!  Gosh, I’d hate to see what you thought of Ryan Theriot’s season…If you adjust his 2011 season into 650 plate appearances (in other words,assume health) he winds up with exactly 28 home runs.  Sure, health is not a
guarantee, but in home run rate, he was clearly even with his 2010 season.

The difference between his 2011 and 2010 batting averages is 7 hits.

The difference between his 2011 and 2010 on-base percentage is 1 hit.

The difference between his 2011 and 2010 slugging percentage is 1 home run,
or 2 doubles, or 4 singles.

His OPS+ was 10th highest in MLB among qualifiers, his OPS was 13th in MLB
among qualifiers – both ahead of a new Anaheim Angel.

It wasn’t Holliday’s best season, when compared to his own high standards,
but to say he underperformed and had a subpar season is just not accurate by
any measureable, IMO.

Dustin McClure, Welcome To Baseball Heaven

I had a good idea that Erika’s subject would be around hunky Matt Holliday.

To answer the given question in short he’s definitely not a bust. Last
season was just such a weird campaign for him. Ruptured appendix, moths, sprains, it was so unusual for the durable outfielder. I reference 2010 as a medium of what I consistently expect from Matt Holliday which is pretty damn good. I’m always surprised at the number of people I come across that refer to him as an underperformer. I just don’t get it.

As for being the “Face of the Franchise” I’m with Bob in the fact he’s not charismatic enough for said title. Lovable Lance Berkman is a good comp of someone who has the skill set and personality to attain such a title if he was in Matt’s position as far as contract and age.  This Albert Pujols wound will need some time to heal before Cardinals fans are ready to crown another “Face of the Franchise” I believe. Or maybe it’ll be J.C. Romero who knows.

Disappointing season because he struggled with injury?  Sure, I’ll go along
with that, because who knows how much the nagging injuries hampered him.
Subpar?  C’mon.

Holliday’s been worth every penny, and I don’t care if he is the face of the
franchise or ever has a season as good as Pujols does in Anaheim – so long
as he keeps posting numbers in line with his career averages.

Malcolm Pierce, Redbird Menace

History and the changing nature of the league have been kind to Matt
Holliday’s contract.  Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford inked larger deals
despite being inferior players.  And then they both busted like overstuffed
pinatas.  Meanwhile, Matt Holliday has continued to be Matt Holliday. The
only thing disappointing about his 2011 (in which he posted the
second-highest OPS+ of his career) was a series of bizarre accidents and
maladies.

Meanwhile, the remainder of his contract runs through the five years of the
newly-approved MLB CBA.  This agreement significantly limits the ability of
teams to spend money on talent beyond MLB payroll (and NPB posting fees,
interestingly enough).  Money can no longer be significantly allocated to
the draft or international free agents, especially by competing teams.  As
long as owners invest that money into their ML teams, this should have an
inflationary effect on contracts, which was probably what the MLBPA
intended in negotiations.  We’re already seeing it: from Anaheim’s behemoth
deal with Pujols to Boston turning Nick Punto into a multi-millionaire.
Holliday’s contract, which seemed like a bit of an overpayment the day it
was signed, just continues to become more and more of a bargain.

As far as what to expect from Holliday, he’s been a remarkably consistent
player throughout his career.  I think we can expect more of the same.  As
long as he doesn’t have any more internal organs burst or insects take up
residence, we can expect an OBP near .400 and a SLG a tick over .500.
That’s pretty fantastic.  While no one can replace Pujols, I think he’s
already the kind of producer who can help make up for the loss.  He was
second on the team in OPS last year–behind Berkman, not #5.

One last note: if you told me three years ago that someday I’d be trying to
decide whether Matt Holliday or Lance Berkman would be the face of the
Cardinals lineup, I’d have thought you were crazy.

JE Powell, STL: Fear The Red

Matt Holliday helped the Cardinals down the stretch to win the division in 2009 and was an integral part of the Championship in 2011. Early in the season im 2011, the Cardinals were much better with him on the field and his several stints on the DL hurt. I think that in 2012  we will see a Holliday that will have a .300+/25-30/90-95 line. I really feel that he is going to step it up next year and have one of the best years he has had in awhile.

In 2010 he had 28 homeruns and 103 RBI in 158 games and in 2011 he had 22 HR in only 124 games. Had he had a full season, he may have been able to get 27 HR and 95 RBI. As long as he stays healthy the next few years I think he will be a beast.

Chris Mallonee, Birds on the Bat ’82

Not sure the whole charisma thing matters much in regards to “face of the franchise”…Has anyone given less interviews and less intriguing interviews than Pujols?

After game 7 of the world series he looked and talked like someone had just shot his dog. Dont buy the charisma argument in regards to face of the franchise. Pujols was the face of the franchise because of his gaudy numbers, unexpected rise to greatness, and potential as the next and last Stan the Man.

I think Holliday will put up great numbers in 2011. He’s a good enough hitter not to need pujols protection to put up big numbers. Freese and berkman should be plenty of protection.

My vote is 2012 beast

Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At The Bat

There’s really not much to add here, but that’s never stopped me before.  I
do think Holliday is going to be one of those metronomes in the lineup,
that he’s going to get to his numbers but perhaps in a quiet way, in that
way when you look up at the end of the year and say, “Wow, I guess he did
it again.”

No need for him to be the face of the franchise or anything like that.  As
long as he keeps hitting, everyone will be happy.

Diane Shultz, Diamond Diaries
Poor Matt did have a crummy year.  All kinds of bad stuff happened to Matt this year.  Hopefully, he will rebound next year and have a great 2012 season.  The long shadow of Albert will be gone and Matt can shine.  He can be a big help to the younger outfielders.
Pip (Matt Philip), Fungoes

I appreciate Nick showing just how consistent Holliday’s production has
been the last couple of years and therefore how his performance shouldn’t
be seen  as anything less than beastly — unless for some reason someone
thinks that a 5-WAR season in an injury-shortened campaign connotes a
“bust.” Maybe I don’t listen to enough sports-talk radio, but I was
flabbergasted to hear someone at a recent SABR meeting propose the idea of
trading Holliday.

Are his to-date contributions worthy of the biggest contract in team
history? That question comes with some baggage — if you’re asking whether
he has been a positive value for his salary, then yes, certainly. But
that’s going to be necessary to offset the probable negative value in the
last couple of years of his contract.

I’m not sure why Holliday would actually fare better with Pujols gone, but
he’s likely not going to suddenly lose the ability to hit for both on-base
average and power. Neither is he going to magically gain out-front
leadership skills. He’s simply going to produce as he has been, which is
exactly what the Cardinals ask and need him to do.

——
Well, there you have it…
I think Hunky would be pleased.
Happy Holliday, everyone…  ;)
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