2017 will be the first Matt Holliday-less spring training since 2009. The St. Louis Cardinals will not pick up his $17 million option and the soon to be 37-year-old will test the free agent waters for the first time in nearly a decade. Every player gives a team a service. Sometimes they are a disservice. Holliday deserves appreciation for his contributions as a Cardinal.
Pardon me if I care to stand up on a soapbox and wish one of the most tenured St. Louis Cardinals well. For a fair portion of St. Louis Cardinals fans, Holliday was the guy who couldn't become the new Albert Pujols in 2012. He will always be the left fielder who couldn't pick up a baseball team and place them on his broad shoulders. They missed quite a bit.
In his seven plus seasons in St. Louis, Holliday hit .293, got on base 38 percent of the time, and slugged .494. He put up WAR of 5.9, 3.9, 4.0, 2.5, and 3.3. He cranked 30+ doubles five different seasons. He ran the bases like an angry lion. He was the model of consistency for a team in need of stability as coaching and personnel changes were made.
For some fans, the infamous line drive fumble in the 2009 playoffs will never leave Holliday's ledger just like the 2013 World Series pick-off won't leave Kolten Wong's time sheet. Some just can't get over a single play and doom a player's production levels to insurmountable heights.
Holliday hit 20+ home runs five times and was a four time All Star in St. Louis. He never won the MVP or hit more than 28 home runs so people think he's didn't do enough.
Don't forget that some clamored for the Cardinals to sign Jason Bay to a similar long term contract. Bay's OPS dropped under .800 after the 2009 season and he was out of baseball after the 2013 season.
Some wanted Carl Crawford. While he put up great numbers with Tampa Bay, Crawford wasn't worth the huge contract that the Boston Red Sox gave him. Crawford's last .800+ OPS season came in 2010 and he spent the next six seasons struggling to live up to a contract. The Dodgers paid him to go home. They are still paying him.
Others mentioned Jayson Werth, a solid if not great player for the Philadelphia Phillies who got a huge contract from the Washington Nationals. Werth followed the new deal with seasons where his WAR landed at 1.3 and 0.6. After a rebound in 2013-14, Werth's WAR slumped to -1.3 and just 0.3 last season. He couldn't live up to the big contract.
For the money, Holliday's production was perfect. The market for outfielders of his caliber included the likes of Crawford and Werth, but Holliday was the only guy to actually live up to the hype and produce.
Now was the right time to cut him loose. His slugging power rose slightly in 2016, but his OBP and AVG suffered because of it. The power wasn't enough and for the second straight season, Holliday couldn't produce a WAR of 1.0 or play over 110 games. His durability and ability to get on base were no longer assets to the Cards, and General Manager John Mozeliak made the right move to part ways.
There are rumors via CBS Sports that Holliday might return to Colorado and finish his career. With healthy legs and more first base, Holliday could still produce and the hitter friendly arena of Coors Field would definitely help. There's nothing like going home to salvage something you've lost.
If he does go to Colorado and returns to Busch Stadium in 2017, the ovation should shake Clark avenue downtown. Holliday gave back to this city, on and off the field. While he never approached Lou Brock or Stan Musial like legend, Holliday was a pillar for this team through a transition and was one of the few long term contracts to meet its requirements.
His bat speed isn't what it used to be and his health is colliding with father time, but I'll miss seeing Holliday roar around second base. I'll miss the huge leg kick, plant, and 100 mph+ destruction of baseballs. I'll miss the passion exuded on game day.
Long after he retires, Holliday may get the respect and appreciation he deserves. Baseball fans can look back on his career and marvel at the consistency and versatility. It will take awhile, but it will happen down the line. Sometimes the fog on a career takes time to pass.
While Hot Stove fever approaches and the Cardinals team transitions again, take a moment and remember the work of Matt Holliday. It may not have been the flashiest of careers, but boy it got the job done.