ST. LOUIS — Seven years ago at about this exact time, the thought of Kolten Wong leaving St. Louis may have sounded alright to Cardinals fans. The rookie had after all just gotten picked off to end a World Series game. A World Series the Cardinals eventually lost.
But in the years since, Wong has grown up in the big leagues. Sure, the development may have seemed slow at times, but all-in-all I think it's safe to say he's grown into the guy Cardinals fans hoped he'd be as a prospect.
That's what made Wednesday's news all that more disappointing.
On Wednesday, Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said the team would be declining Wong's 2021 option for $12.5 million, but would keep the door open on a possible new contract.
I'm not sure how open that door really is though, especially after Mozeliak's comments on the team's current financial situation and Wong's post on Instagram Wednesday night effectively saying thank you and goodbye to St. Louis.
If we really have seen the last of Wong as a Cardinal, the team is worse off without him, and a whole lot less fun.
It's always rewarding when fans get to see a guy develop in their system all the way through. That's what Cardinals fans got with Wong. He went from being known for one of the most embarrassing moments in World Series history to being a Gold Glove second baseman who became one of the most consistent offensive performers on your team.
Wong seemed to really hit another gear when Mike Shildt took over for Mike Matheny. The new manager gave Wong the reigns at second base and didn't look back.
In 2019, he officially put it all together. It was his best and most consistent offensive season of his career, and he finally got the Gold Glove he had made no secret about wanting. He'll likely win another one this year.
On the field, it really did seem like Wong would do something at least once a game out at second base that made you audibly go, "wow". He was magic, and his defense saved countless pitchers' ERAs and games for the team.
Off the field, he was charismatic, honest and truly loved being a Cardinal. In the locker room there were few players more welcoming for both easy and tough conversations. Wong was going to give it to you straight, no matter the topic, but he still knew how to have fun and showcase his personality.
I don't think I'm being too controversial when I say the Cardinals have been a pretty boring team over the past few years. Lacking a dynamic offense will do that.
Kolten Wong brought EXCITEMENT pretty much every day.
I understand the Cardinals' financial situation due to the pandemic. It's going to be a sentiment echoed by probably every team around the league this offseason. But if you can't spare the money on a one year option to bring back one of your best players, then what are you doing?
And no, I don't think the team plans on redirecting this saved money on a different free-agent splash. That would truly be the surprise of the offseason. It's going to be a status quo winter in St. Louis barring a drastic change.
Here's hoping Wong is able to go out and get at least close to what he deserves on the open market, and is able to keep growing his game.
St. Louis is going to miss him in more ways than one.