Why are St. Louis Cardinals fans so impatient with Allen Craig?

Posted by Scott Wuerz on July 13, 2014 

I've heard that the St. Louis Cardinals have the opportunity to acquire a clean-up hitter who in his average season hits .293 with 20 homers and 102 RBIs over a 162-game season.

What an opportunity it would be to add that sort of production to the middle of the line-up. The only question is: "Who would the Redbirds have to give up to get this guy?" The answer is no one.

He's already on the roster and his name is Allen Craig. The Cardinals don't have to trade for him. All they need to do is straighten him out. So why does it seem that so many people in St. Louis are eager to get rid of Craig, a 2013 All-Star who finished in the top 20 of the Most Valuable Player balloting, after a bad half a season? 

I checked out Twitter this morning to find a bunch of St. Louis fans expressing nothing short of rage that Craig, who hasn't started in the past two days, is in the lineup Sunday. For the last couple of weeks people are bemoaning their conviction that his team-friendly contract was a mistake.

Sure Craig has been in a slump for more than half of this year so far. Sure, he's not hitting a lot of homers lately. But, as tough as it can be to work through, things like that happen. It's not as if he hasn't shown signs of life. He hit .293 for the month of June with eight of his 30 hits going for extra bases.

In 1985 Willie McGee hit .353 and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award. In 1986 he hit nearly 100 points worse, .256. I don't recall Cardinals fans demanding he be sent away. And it's a darn good thing they didn't because he rebounded to hit .285 or better in four of his next five seasons and he had 10 .285 or better seasons left in his career.

Jim Edmonds in 1999 had his worst season as an Anaheim Angel. He hit .250 with five homers and 18 RBIs, limited to 55 games. Edmonds turned 30 that year, the exact same age that Allen Craig is now. Despite the fact that he was a career .290 hitter to that point, Anaheim dumped him. Edmonds went to St. Louis where he hit .285 and an average of 27 homers a year for the next eight seasons. I wonder if Anaheim ever regretted being so short-sighted.

Craig isn't done. There is no reason to even think that his career is over and he doesn't need a "change of scenery." He's a young man in his prime. He's just having a bad year for whatever reason. Maybe his ankle injury from 2013 messed up his base and screwed up his swing mechanics. Maybe Torty has been sick and it's weighing on him. But the guy has a proven history of being an elite hitter, batting for both average and power. It would be stupid to give away an asset like that.

The only way he's going to get better is to keep working through things. You can take as much batting practice as you want. But it's no substitute for live pitching. Until he faces real MLB hurlers, Craig has no way to tell if what he's working on is moving him in the right direction.

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