There’s no question that Tony La Russa is the single most divisive figure in the Cardinals franchise. Matt Holliday might be second.
Much of the fan base was upset with the trade that brought Holliday to St. Louis in the first place. Brett Wallace was a fast-rising prospect in the organization, and for everything he seemingly could not do in the field, he made up for with his bat. The kid could straight mash with the best of them.
The anti-Holliday movement regained momentum in the 2009 NLDS. He batted .167 in the series and dropped what would’ve been the final out of game 2, ultimately costing the Cardinals the game and their run at a 3rd trip to the World Series in 6 years.
Adding more fuel to the fire, Holliday tested the free agent market for a good 2 months after the season, making comments that would lead you to believe he wanted anything but to return to the Cardinals. He then eventually signed to the richest deal in Cardinals franchise history.
And then, he got off to a terribly slow start in 2010, and his inability to get clutch hits began to remind fans of Alex Rodriguez in the playoffs pre-2007.
But Holliday rebounded, eventually evening out to his normal self in the 2nd half of the 2010 season. It was evident that the pressure of the huge deal and all the expectations had gotten to him. He only hit .250 with the bases loaded, and just .271 with runners in scoring position. And despite all of that, he still managed to hit for .312, 28 HRs, and 103 RBIs for the season. Insane.
Just imagine what Cardinal fans could be in store for this season: Holliday with all the pressure off in year two of his contract could easily hit over 30 HRs and 120 RBIs with a decent start in the first couple months of the season. And with Pujols and Berkman playing for contracts batting 3rd and 5th in the lineup, the Cardinals could have one of the most lethal 3-5 combinations in baseball. Bookend those hitters with Colby Rasmus and David Freese, and you’ve got potentially the best Cardinals lineup since the 2004 squad. Only time will tell, and for the first time in a while, it feels like time is finally on our side: 6 days until the spring opener, 37 until opening day.