It was not too long ago that the mere mention of Jon Jay’s name sparked a conversation about every way that he could be replaced. But within the last few weeks, nobody has been more responsible for the turnaround of the Cardinals than him. And now, with the Cardinals back to a comfortable 20 games over .500 and firmly on the heels of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jay continues to be the most unlikely, occasionally most undesirable, catalyst of the year.
From the beginning, Jay has been a bit of a stepbrother. He slid into becoming a full-time part of the lineup two years after Colby Rasmus was hastily escorted out of Busch Stadium boundaries. And starting then and since, he’s proved his worth as a stabilizer of sorts for the team. Whether it has been as a leadoff or bottom of the order bat, or making the quick transition from plug in corner outfielder, to major landowner in an outfield devoid of much range otherwise, Jay has been a glue stick for the Cardinals over the past three years.
But despite all of this, there has been no player that has been outwardly yearned to be replaced more than Jay has over the past two years. He’s the most pedestrian of the regular Cardinals, and an era of Trouts, McCutchens and Harpers, the public opinion search for more in middle of the outfield has singled out Jay as the odd man out. Whether it is idea that Carlos Beltran could have something left in the tank to take to centerfield, a trade needs to be made or that Oscar Taveras is already much better suited for the team already, there are no shortage of reasons of somebody, anybody, else should be in his place.
But in the month of August, there’s been no more impactful of a player on the roster. For the month, his 26 hits are tied for the most in the National League, and he leads the Cardinals with a .377 average and 15 RBI in 18 games. The bottom-line: when Jay got going, the team started looking like it had a clue again. July was the worst month of the season for the team, and it wasn’t until their season-worst losing streak hit seven games, that an understated two hit game by Jay got at least one part of the lineup moving.
It was the first of what are now nine multi-hit games Jay has accumulated over the past 20 days. And it seems that the multitude of hits have all come at just the right time. He scored three runs and drove in two more in the 13-0 win in Pittsburgh which ended the club’s slide on August 1st. Then next night he turned in his second three RBI night of the season, contributing to second straight 13 run night for an offense that had scored just 10 runs over the previous week. The next week, he turned in three, three-hit games before plating a career-best four hit effort versus the Pirates back at Busch, which included him scoring the game winning run in the bottom of the 14th inning in a tight slide continued the club’s recent run of tough wins over their immediate superiors in the Central. In the last two days, he’s even added power to his recent show, notching home runs in back-to-back games for the second time in his career.
It’s been a tedious process, but Jay is quieting the bad-tempered mob against him. While has had a year that’s mostly been below the standard he’s set at the plate, his timing has once again been impeccable. He’s now at a career-best 54 RBI, and his on-pace for new high marks in runs scored, doubles and hits. And in a season where on average, four All-Stars are in the daily mix, it’s been the ultimate role player that’s stepped up the highest when nobody else could answer the call.
Sometimes, less truly is more.