I can't believe that approximately half of the posts I have read about the St. Louis Cardinals since the 2014 campaign ended stick by the notion that outfielder Jon Jay is some sort of a liability for this club.
A large percentage of folks think that, in order to get better, St. Louis needs to part ways with Jay.
Do these people watch the games? I seem to recall that Jay not only was the team's lone .300 hitter during the regular season. But also that he hit an eye-popping .473 during the playoffs. That's even more remarkable because opponents attempted to stack the deck against St. Louis with as many lefty hurlers as possible during the post season.
Did Jay care? Did he whine and complain? No, he just kept on hitting.
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Still, his detractors would rather harp on the one ball Jay misplayed than recognize all the excellent plays he makes in the field.
I don't care what the statistical gurus have to say about Jay. I've watched him play long enough to know that:
- No one on the Cardinals roster out-hustles Jay.
- He continuously gets better. One excellent example is how he has managed to completely re-vamp his swing from the approach he used when he first arrived in the major leagues. He's coachable, he wants to get batter and he has the talent to be an impact player.
- Jay is a great teammate with an awesome attitude not often seen in major leaguers. When Peter Bourjos was handed his job, Jay didn't pout. He befriended Bourjos and tried to make him feel comfortable in the club house. And, oh yeah, he went out and won his job back with his actions on the field.
I disagree with the folks who say that Jay is a bad outfield. I'm not claiming he's the best outfielder who ever lived. Yes, he has a weak arm. But he's above average as a field, covering a lot of ground. He typically hangs on to what he can reach and he isn't afraid of the wall.
Jay is very capable of playing all three outfield positions and hitting both lefty and righty pitchers to the tune of a .300 average or better. What major league team couldn't use a guy like that.
It's very possible that, at some point, the Cardinals will have to deal away some of their outfield glut. But, with Peter Bourjos likely gone after a crummy season and a whiny interview while he cleaned out his locker in which he complained that he wants to go somewhere next year where he can be a starter (may I suggest the Texas League) the Cardinals need the versatility and the stability of Jay.
Don't believe the hype that the Cardinals can't afford Jay. Besides shedding the salaries of Jason Motte, Mark Ellis, Justin Masterson and likely Pat Neshek, the Redbirds payroll was about $30 million less in 2014 than the team could have afforded because it has so many young players on the roster.
Jay will get a bump next year because of where he is in the arbitration path. But He's not going to make big money, relative to MLB pay. He'll probably easily be covered by Ellis' salary slot.
Most importantly, let's not forget that Jay is a fan favorite. I'm not talking about the keyboard jockeys who are always looking for something to criticize but, rather, the people who pay for tickets. He's well worth the investment the Cardinals will have to make in 2015.
And I think it would greatly damage the team chemistry if he was subtracted from the roster.
I don't think GM John Mozeliak owes Jay an apology or anything like that for trying to replace Jay. Fighting for your job is what being a major leaguer is all about. But I do hope that at some point Mozeliak pats Jay on the back and tells him he's impressed with how he's handled the 2014.
I was at an autograph session Sunday with Kolten Wong and Jay. I didn't buy a Jay autograph because I already have his signature. But I felt compelling to stick around to tell him thanks for being such a good example of a Cardinals ballplayer.