It's not easy saying goodbye to a legend. No matter how many times it happens, it doesn't get easier with experience. Cardinals fans are saying goodbye to Matt Holliday this weekend, and the slugger isn't making it easy to let go.
When Holliday arrived in 2009, he brought a newfound excitement to the plate. The Bunyan type stature. The high leg kick. The vicious swing. The line drive home runs. However, for many St. Louis Cardinals fans, it wasn't good enough. Holliday wasn't Albert Pujols, and the expectations have been heavy since #5 left for Los Angeles nearly five years ago.
It's finally time for those fans to appreciate #7 and all he's given St. Louis.
The reality is clear. Holliday is taking his final swings for the Cardinals this weekend. What has been whispered all season was confirmed Friday night. The Cardinals aren't picking up his 2017 option for 17 million, and will more than likely part way with the soon to be 37 year old slugger. It makes sense financially, but emotionally it's not computing just yet.
Holliday isn't going quietly. He walked up to the plate Friday night in the seventh inning in a pinch hitting appearance, and blasted a home run on an 0-2 pitch. It was a breaking ball and Holliday, broken thumb and a face full of man tears, scorched the baseball over the right field wall.
It was another perfect baseball moment in a week full of greatest hits that include an Aledmys Diaz grand slam, a Yadier Molina controversial walk-off, and now a touching moment from a Cardinal legend.
The big man wasn't finished yet. He produced an RBI single Saturday afternoon that helped the Birds rally from a 3-0 deficit. They would eventually win 4-3, but most hearts and minds were on the second memorable at bat from their departing Cardinal.
In 7+ years with the Cardinals, Holliday has hit 156 home runs while hitting .292, getting on base 38 percent of the time, and slugged .479. His 23.0 wins above replacement equal 184 million in value, and he was paid 100 million dollars. His contract is John Mozeliak's best work because true value was delivered until the very end.
2016 hasn't featured Holliday's best work. He went from a batting average-on base machine to a pure slugger, collecting 20 home runs and 18 doubles yet struggling to hit .250. Following an injury plagued 2015 season, the writing was on the wall for an end to the Holliday days in St. Louis.
He wasn't even expected to return this season, but the Stillwater, Oklahoma native didn't want his final at bat with the Birds to be the collapse at home plate at Wrigley in August. That wasn't the proper exit. So Holliday changed all of that this weekend with two big swings. He may have a third on Sunday in the regular season finale.
Hopefully fans can finally appreciate the work of Holliday as a Cardinal. In a day and age where bang for buck isn't as common as it used to be, Holliday gave the Cards every penny back in performance and also took over Pujols' work in the community and became a true pillar of goodness for the city of St. Louis. He was a giant on the field and off of it.
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said that he hasn't seen anyone hit the ball as hard as Holliday in over 40 years. Hurdle felt chills as Holliday turned back the clock Friday night. He is a baseball player that opposing players, managers, and coaches can respect while facing. He's one of those guys.
Holliday wasn't perfect. He made left field look like Jurassic Park at times. He clearly lost something after the 2013 season. He grounded into a lot of double plays. He didn't hit enough home runs to satisfy the fanbase and couldn't carry the Cards this season when they needed something extra.
None of this will hinder Holliday's legacy in St. Louis. He'll depart as one of the best righthanded outfielders in club history. A clutch producer. A leader. When it's all said and done, Holliday should be a lock for the Cardinals Hall of Fame. If he's not, something is wrong.
Here's something odd from the past week. Last weekend, the Chicago Cubs were honoring David Ross like he had spent a decade in Wrigley carving out memories. Pregame ceremony. Constant standing ovations. Loads of Sunday Night Baseball love. I sort of understood it but really thought it was overblown.
There isn't a soul around the game who watched the weekend heroics from Holliday, the reaction from the home crowd, and thought it was overblown. He deserved every single moment and ovation. He deserves a few more standing ovations. Give him a key to the city and a few other awards.
Next season, when the Cards try to fill his shoes in left field and find it harder than expected, fans will truly begin to appreciate Holliday's work. At some point, he will get his due.
As a columnist who covers the team and a fan who likes to see great moments, here's to Holliday getting another chance Sunday to do something special before he gets on the horse and rides off into the sunset.
#7 isn't done just yet. Now is your chance to properly appreciate his work.