Hey Cardinals fans, what’s with the Matt Holliday hate?

I wonder if there has ever been a St. Louis Cardinals player who has done more for the team and gotten less respect in return than the club’s current left fielder Matt Holliday.

Maybe that’s just the perception I get because of the rise of social media. But Holliday is a darn good player … and it seems like all people do is gripe and moan about him.

Is it because Holliday isn’t the once-in-a-generation player that Albert Pujols was in his prime? He might not be 1 percenter, talent-wise. But he’s a heckuva complementary player like Jim Edmonds was before him. He’s not the rah-rah sort to be the face of a franchise. But he’s definitely been a pillar of every club for which he has played.

Is it because of his contract, which a lot of people freaked out about at the time it was signed? Relative to baseball paychecks, it turned out to be quite a reasonable deal. In fact, it’s on the cheap side for that sort of production. But, since he got the long-term deal before Pujols’ departure, in a lot of folks’ minds, Pujols left because the Cardinals spent their money on Holliday instead of their superstar. (This grudge seems to persist despite the fact that Pujols’ Anaheim Angels contract turned out to be one of the biggest busts in baseball history. If the Cardinals really DID choose Holliday over Pujols, fans owe him an even larger debt of gratitude.)

Maybe it’s because people somehow hold it against Holliday that he dared to get older. But I haven’t seen a player yet who could get out of that deal. And his contract is only guaranteed through his age 36 season. He couldn’t have been signed for a shorter term at the point he became a free agent. He wouldn’t have accepted it — unless he got a deal for a huge annual value.

No matter the reason, it seems a little ridiculous to complain about a guy who is a .294 hitter and has averaged 21 homers and 90-plus RBI in his time with the Cardinals.

One of knocks on Holliday is that he hits into too many double plays. But how can you hold it against him that he’s in the middle of a lineup of plodding runners — and that he hits the ball so hard that, if he hits it at a fielder, there is plenty of time to turn two? Should he hit the ball more softly? Over his career, the guy is a .307 hitter with runners in scoring position.

People seem to be losing their minds that Holliday’s .244 mark this season is the worst of his career. But why is it that Brandon Moss can hit .256/17/40 and people act like he’s some sort of hero, meanwhile Holliday is batting 12 points less with one less homer and 13 more RBI, and he’s supposedly a bum?

I think Holliday’s average is deceptive. I was at a game just before the all-star break in which he absolutely crushed the ball three times and had nothing to show for it. If those three balls would have fallen in, better luck in just one game, Holliday’s average would jump 10 points. His luck has been so bad that he’s only hitting .251 on balls he has put in play. Moss, a strikeout artist, is batting .307 on balls he actually connects with. A difference of 56 points on balls in play compared to 12 points of batting average shows just how unfortunate Holliday has been.

But one base hit a week is the difference between a .250 hitter and a .300 hitter. So why is everyone so obsessed with Holliday’s average when he’s driving in runs in bunches?

With the winning run on third base, I can tell you I would MUCH prefer Holliday at the dish than Moss. Two outs, one out, it doesn’t matter. Holliday might have worse stats right now. But he’s a better hitter than Moss today. And Moss in his prime couldn’t touch Holliday in his.

No, Holliday isn’t the best outfielder in the National League. But he’s not nearly as bad as some people make him out to be. He can cover enough ground to justify keeping his bat in the order. If you weigh his positives and negatives, there is no doubt that the slugging outfielder justifies playing time — and respect.

What people don’t realize is that, regardless of what people in the stands think, Holliday is a respected leader in the clubhouse and a consummate professional who does everything he can to be in the best shape possible. I just don’t see how fans can look past at all Holliday has done for this team over the years to be so critical of him now.

It would be similar to booing Ozzie Smith for making an error in his last season. I understand that people expect their idols to be perfect. But that doesn’t make it right to forget the great things they’ve done.

I guess that’s just the way it goes in professional sports.

I have a magazine from 1961 or so that I bought at a flea market because Stan Musial was on the cover. Inside, there is a shockingly disrespectful story about how Stan the Man was dragging down the Redbirds because he was too old to be any good and too stubborn to quit.

The greatest player in St. Louis sports history. A Hall of Famer if there ever was  one. But even in the era before mega contracts that span a decade — and before Twitter pundits took to the internet in a never-ending competition to see who could be the most negative — Musial was fit to be wadded up and thrown in the trash in the opinion of many.

Meanwhile, if they still believe what they said publicly last year, the Cardinals ownership group thinks enough of what they’ve gotten from Holliday in the past and what he’s still giving them that it’s a no-brainer his $17 million 2017 option will be picked up.

Maybe next season will finally be the year that fans warm up to one of the best hitters to ever wear the birds on the bat.

— Gashaus34

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