Colby Rasmus Is A Good Centerfielder

[Adapted from an article on El Maquino]

As most people have figured out by now, I start my summer-long tour with I-70 Baseball [this] week as both a Cardinals and Royals writer. So, they may not appreciate the fact that I’m already ripping on one of their writers, but it makes for good reading, right?

[Saturday], a gem popped up on the site entitled “Colby Rasmus Is A Bad Centerfielder.” Naturally, with my near-paternal instinct to defend my boy Colby, I clicked and read. I have to say, I didn’t like what I saw. Some of the highlights:

“[The Cardinals] might have the worst defensive starting centerfielder in all of baseball, and his name is Colby Rasmus…”

It’s on.

“…In the bottom of the third inning [Friday night], Craig Counsell sent a Kyle Lohse delivery to deep right-center. Right fielder Jon Jay tracked it to the wall and leaped but could not come up with the catch. The ball rattled around a quirky little notch in the Miller Park wall and Counsell ended up with a stand-up triple. On the telecast, Al Hrabosky practically screamed about it and the Fox Sports Midwest replay confirmed it: Rasmus was standing in his centerfield position watching Jay attempt to make the play. He simply did not move. He was an innocent bystander, just like the 33,000+ spectators in the stands. It honestly looked like he could not care less.

“Could Rasmus have made the catch? Certainly not. But had he run to back up his right fielder, Rasmus would have been in position to do two things which could have been immensely helpful to the situation: he could have chirped at Jay, who was watching the ball, about his location and approach to the wall/notch; and he could have grabbed the ball on the carom and fired it back into the infield to keep Counsell’s hit to a double.

“The real problem, though, is this was not an isolated incident. Rasmus has a history of playing somewhat aloof in the outfield. But, believe it or not, he is actually a pretty skilled defender…as long as his head is in the game. Rasmus has shown he can make big plays; he just doesn’t make them all the time. And that’s a mental lapse, not a physical one–”

–Stop right there. Yes, I agree (just like Razz would probably agree) that he’s got to play a smarter outfield. But that doesn’t mean he’s a bad centerfielder. Chris Reed, you said yourself that his errors are mental and that he is capable of making great plays (of which I left some links to on the comments section of the article). So if he can make said great plays, why chastise him for not getting a ball you yourself said he couldn’t get to and going as far as calling him the worst centerfielder in the Majors?

I won’t justify Colby’s not even trying for the ball, but you should at least understand his reasoning that A) I can’t catch this ball and B) JayJay probably can. Calling him lazy is, I think, a bit out of line. Maybe he is or maybe he isn’t: I have no way of saying how hard he works on his game. But I’m willing to bet a bum wouldn’t make it this far.

“… If he wants to be an elite centerfielder, however, he must step up his defense and it starts with the fundamentals. He has to take charge, call the ball, direct traffic. Otherwise, the Cards may need to seriously think about a shuffle in the outfield sooner rather than later.”

With who? Even if Colby skipped out on some plays, Jay isn’t fast enough to cover center–especially with Lance Berkman to his left. Then what do you do when Matt Holliday gets back? Bottom line: he is the only one of the team’s outfielders who has the speed to cover all that ground.

* * * * *

Okay. . . I’m calm. And I probably wouldn’t even rip Reed’s story except that I saw some other upsetting stuff about Number 28 [Saturday]. (That, and he stole my nickname for Daniel Descalso.)

Unless they get all their news from the watered-down, who aren’t allowed to post any fun news, Cards fans know that Colby’s dad Tony Rasmus is highly involved with both the way his son swings and the media that talk about the way his son swings. So much so that he even commented on [my] site a few months ago in approval of that written defense of Colby. He talks to St. Louis reporters sometimes, but leaves his mark on fan sites and blogs such as [El Maquino], the Cardinal Nation Blog and HardballTalk, where I first found out he was doing this and how he got the link to EM. Anyways, it was discovered in a Riverfront Times blog that Colby was commenting on TCNB as “RCWarrior;” the same RCWarrior who said this a few days ago:

In my opinion Colby’s chameleon approach to playing baseball since he has reach St. Louis has doomed him….in St. Louis. He has tried to change most every facet of his game to please this person or that person. He never had throwing problems or fielding problems until he reached St. Louis. These changes have been bad judgement decisions by Colby and have hurt his game. The fans have noticed he is not the player that he was proclaimed to be. It sickens me that he chose against my advice I might add to change the way he played the game, lost his aggressiveness, and became a passive looking player that I find hard to watch. He has made bad decisions and forgot how to play the game. Thats my take on the situation and I believe the only way out for him is to start fresh somewhere else. He may forever be this boring player that doesn’t seem to care about the game even if he gets traded but he surely isn’t going to change the way he is viewed in St. Louis. I’d like to watch the kid that busted his [butt] when he played again one day. It may never happen again but a guy can dream can’t he?

At least Chris isn’t alone on the effort issue. Like I said, maybe he is lazy and maybe he isn’t. I tend to lean to the latter, but even his dad thinks he’s not trying hard anymore.

Maybe what troubles me the most is that Cards fans don’t seem to see the massive potential this guy’s got. 30-homer power, easy. He’s fast, can steal, get to fly balls, hit triples. The “chameleon approach” shows itself most at the plate: swing for the fences and strike out? Or hit for average and lose power? If he can choose either and stick with it, he can be the five-tool player I know he can be. Hopefully, he can so in St. Louis.

But the animosity towards him has spread so fast that fans on blogs, talk radio and Twitter have called for the trading of Colby Rasmus–so much so that Bernie Miklasz felt the need to pen a column insisting on the craziness of that conclusion.

My question as a Cards fan in Kansas City is this: Is the Colby bashing a St. Louis-area thing? Fans there seem to be overly critical of the guy for whatever reason (likely the perception of his effort, which I don’t agree with but understand) while I and other national writers think you’re nuts.

They can’t stand Colby, yet they had a love affair with Brendan Ryan: a great fielder but terrible hitter whose concentration was never not in question and a guy who is only a fraction of the player Razz is. And it appears, from Tony Rasmus’ comments, that those fans may be a key factor in driving him away.

Be careful what you wish for, Cardinal Nation. You just might get it.

Postscript: You can hit me up at my Cardinals site or Twitter. And no hard feelings, Chris!

15 thoughts on “Colby Rasmus Is A Good Centerfielder

  1. I actually love Colby, though I do see a difference in his play, The Cardinals have changed him, there are times he makes great plays and shows his arm has the ability to be like a cannon. Other times he just seems to be lost out there in Center. Who can say whether its his dad or the team. Of course his dad knows his play better then anyone, BUT he is not a pro and does not see Colby on a daily basis.
    I dont believe in trading him, he just needs some help from the veterans, One thing for sure, Colby is an extremely sensitive player, he CANT take things said personally, he must grow into his own, and hopefully that is in St. Louis.

  2. I’ve always liked Colby. I have a hard time, sometimes, watching him struggle to live up to all the potential that I see, but I really do like him. I wish Cardinal Nation would lay off a little because I’d hate for the fans to be any part of the reason we lose him in St. Louis.

  3. Well spoken by both of you! Nice to know there are still plenty of Cards fans that understand his value and want him to stay.

    John, your comment was interesting as to how the Cards have changed him. Since he came up, his dad says, he has been trying to adapt to what the team wants him to do. I suppose that’s just mixed him up or made him fed up (I can’t realls speculate). Maybe all of that pressure has drastically affected his game. But you’re right, he definately should stay and try to work things out in St. Louis if that’s at all possible.

    Tara, I’m glad you see the same potential I do. And I absolutely HATE it when I see fans bash the guy on Twitter or whathaveyou. I mean, he has the potential to be one of your top players!

  4. For the record, I never used the word “lazy” and I never demanded Rasmus be traded. And if what the great Tony Rasmus says is true–that Colby has been forced to alter his game so severely it turned him into a lackluster defender–then that’s an entirely separate story altogether. But I went out of my way to classify my criticism as being solely on his defense as a centerfielder. I love Colby’s bat and I love his speed. But clearly his head is not always in the game when he’s patrolling the outfield. My issue with the Jay play Friday night had nothing to do with a presumption that Colby could have caught the ball (which I also spelled out quite clearly). It had to do with the fact that he lapsed on a fundamental that is demanded of every centerfielder from t-ball to over-40 beer league softball: Cover Your Fielders At All Times. Perhaps he’s better suited to play right field, where the pressure is a little lessened. And I don’t have an answer to who could take over center; that’s why I said next year they may have to reshuffle. But I think Jay or Schumaker could play center just about as well as Colby has this season.

    1. Never meant YOU in the Trade Colby category, but the guy is massively underappreciated by a lot of people and I just included that at the end. I never said you said he couldn’t hit. Basically, nothing after the jump was about you; it was about the theme of the article: Razz’s underappreciation.

      And I know you said Colby couldn’t catch that ball but should have ran for it (it’s right there in writing). You’ll notice that I didn’t DEFEND him for it, I just gave his reasoning–or lack thereof. (That’s in writing, too.)

      And there is no way an outfielder with his speed is playing anywhere else in the field for an extended period. Nor should he be moved. Skill is skill with or without mental errors; and it’s important to have one of baseball’s BEST centerfielders in centerfield. Otherwise, what else are you doing except A) Downgrading outfield defense (which is what will happen) and B) promoting that ‘chameleon effect’ once again?

  5. Rasmus is not one of baseball’s best centerfielders as long as he keeps spacing out in the field. How many times has he converged with another outfielder only to have the ball drop in between them? Direction, in that situation, is HIS responsibility. How many bad routes has he taken? And just what the hell was he doing during the Jay play? I don’t care if the ball looks like it’s going to be five rows deep…how can he not react at all? I don’t expect him to be perfect, but I do expect him to look like he’s done this before.

    For what it’s worth, I’m not your traditional Colby Basher. I don’t think they should give up on him and I would love nothing more than to see him become one of the elite centerfielders in baseball as a member of the Cardinals. But he has to get his head on straight in the field. Even Tony Rasmus has said that.

    1. Mental errors can get buffed out over time an probably will, but they aren’t enought to justify calling him THE WORST cf in the game. That itself is a false statement and the reason I even wrote this. The worst CF doesn’t have the talent to make big plays, which you conceeded that he does.

      He has more talent than almost every cf in the Majors: it’s the mental stuff that hurts him, but it doesn’t reduce his value THAT far. He’s at least top 5, maybe higher on MY list.

  6. I am a big Colby fan and agree with everything you said. The Colby hatred has reached monumental proportions and is absolutely uncalled for.

    However, your comparison to Brendan Ryan is unfair. Ryan suffers from ADD, which affects his focus. Colby is not so afflicted. Ryan hit .292 in 2009. Calling him a “bad hitter” because of a one year slump, especially since he had wrist surgery prior, is disingenuous. If one year of stats is all it takes to be a “bad hitter”, then Yadier Molina is a bad hitter because he hit .216 in 2006. Ryan is hitting .260 in Seattle and is wildly popular with the fans, his teammates and his manager. For some reason Ryan didn’t gel in St. Louis. His fault? Maybe, maybe not.

    1. Sure about the ADD thing? Never read anything about that.

      Hey, Brendan’s one of my favorite players still and I love the guy, but I see it more as his .292 season was one good year instead of his .223 season being one bad year. Best defensive SS in the game, but his hitting isn’t a major part of his game. Maybe it could be someday, but for now, the .292 was just a career year for his offense.

      And no, the fans DEFINITELY did not push Brendan out. They loved him! It’s what we didn’t see that pushed him out. He constantly ticked the team’s vets off:

      Trust me, I’d never bash Brendan Ryan! I just think that the only reason Cards fans like him and not Colby is because he was more fun.

      1. Yes, I am sure about the ADD thing.

        Brendan is hitting well this year in Seattle. He has hit as high as .282 and went 3 for 5 yesterday in Detroit. Why is 2010 the rule rather than the exception? The numbers don’t back you up. I think you are giving Brendan Ryan the same treatment you accuse others of giving Colby. Hey I am not disputing that there was some discord with Ryan in the clubhouse last year, though a well placed source told me it was not as bad as it was made out to be. Whatever, he is not having the same problems in Seattle. Whether that is because he cleaned up his act, or because his teammates in Seattle are not as finicky, I don’t know.

        1. Don’t hate Brendan or anything: if he hits well, God bless him. I hope he does. But he’s a career .259 hitter and has never driven in more than 37.

          2009 was a good year that shows he CAN hit well, but it is hidden in other low-hitting seasons. In his career his seasons have gone like this:
          .289 (180ABs), .244, .292, .223, .260 (192ABs).

          Hey, maybe you’re right and he does become a good hitter. He just hasn’t shown it a whole lot yet.

          (PS didn’t know he had ADD, thanks for that link.)

          1. I wasn’t suggesting you hated Ryan only that perhaps you were being a little close minded. Since when is .259 career a “bad hitter”? Not a good hitter, but not bad either, just average. It was your use of the term “bad” that suggested to me you were being unfair.

            Otherwise I am with you bro. :)

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