On Monday night St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay seemed to put an exclamation point on his argument to be the starting centerfielder for his club.
Jay got on base three times, two by hit and one by a walk, and scored in all three instances. He's batting .307 for the season, nearly 100 points better than his chief competitor for the job, Peter Bourjos who's batting .206 in roughly the same amount of at-bats. Jay's getting on base at a .367 clip while Bourjos has a .279 on base percentage.
It's obvious that the Cardinals have responded to Jay's offensive spark. They've won their last four games -- in which Jay is batting .400. And they have won eight of 11. Over that span he's hitting .406 with a .457 on-base percentage and nine runs scored.
So why do I wake up this morning to read web posts from Cardinals fans who complain that he was unable to throw a runner out at the plate on a sacrifice fly and, therefore, his defense is "killing" the Redbirds?
I'm not up on the Common Core math standards. But my old school calculations tell me that Jay's three runs produces are roughly three times more valuable than the one run the complainers say he cost his team. But let's be realistic, when's the last time you saw a runner thrown out on a sacrifice fly? Does it happen once in 50 attempts? 100? It's obvious the Jay haters are grasping at straws on this occasion.
Earlier this season the contingency of people convinced that Bourjos is the superior player blamed manager Mike Matheny for not giving the imported former Anaheim Angels outfielder enough playing time to get into a groove. So Matheny gave Bourjos a second chance and he still couldn't produce.
From May 17-30 Bourjos played in nine games and had at least three plate appearances in eight those nine contests. He batted .182 with seven strikeouts and two walks. Since then, Bourjos has played about every other day, amassing 34 at-bats in a part time role. He's batting .176. Still he has his faithful supporters.
I remember sitting in the bleachers at a recent game hearing one fan say to another after Jay hit a grounder and got nipped at first by the throw "Bourjos would have beat that out."
The fan on the receiving end of the comment replied "Bourjos would have struck out."
Potential is one thing. Practice is another.
Anyway... I am not here to rip Bourjos. I am here to question why fans are so hostile toward a guy who was good enough to start for two St. Louis teams that made it all the way to the World Series.
I'm tired of hearing about what a superior outfielder Bourjos is. Regardless of his reputation, I can count his great plays this season on one hand. I am running out of fingers to count the times he's booted or dropped balls or laid up on balls in front of him that he had a chance to catch.
People act like Jay is the worst outfielder who ever lived. He's not, people. He's average at least. We're just spoiled from watching two of the greatest defensive centerfielders who ever lived, Jim Edmonds and Willie McGee. Those guys don't fall off of trucks everyday in front of the ballpark.
I don't want Bourjos to fail. I wish he would have even come close to his spring training boast that he was going to steal 30-40 bases this season. If he did, it would be good for the Cardinals as a whole because that would mean he was getting on base at an acceptable clip and the club would probably be scoring a lot of runs.
He just hasn't lived up to his billing. The season isn't over. Maybe he'll turn it around. But, in the meantime, can folks lay off Jay? Beyond the fact that he's played well enough in his four years in St. Louis to earn some respect from the club's alleged fans, it's obvious that not only has he been playing his butt off, but that he currently represents the best chance for this team to win. And if you've watched a Redbirds game over the last month and you don't realize that, you're in denial.