What Happened to the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals? Matt Holliday Edition
Brought in for a handful of prospects in 2009, Matt Holliday went on to become one of the Cardinals‘ greatest acquisitions in franchise history–playing no small part in the championship run of 2011. Since then, what has he been up to? In the second edition of the series, we look to cover the later career and many exploits of the great Matt Holliday. If you’d like to check out the first edition where we cover the careers of Skip Schumaker, Ryan Theriot and David Freese, you can find it right here.
Matt Holliday’s incredible journey in baseball began when he was drafted in 1998 as a member of the Colorado Rockies. Promoted in 2004, Holliday’s first career hit, first three, in fact, came on April 18 of that year–ironically in an 8-5 victory against the Cardinals. Holliday would follow up this success, slashing .290/.349/.488 to finish the season, earning himself the honor of coming 5th place in “rookie of the year” voting.
Over the next three years, Holliday would see rapid improvement at the plate, culminating in his fantastic 2007 season when he led the league in hits, doubles, RBIs, batting average, and total bases. Despite this, Holliday was edged out in MVP voting by the Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins, who squeaked by with the prize. Holliday and his Rockies would get the last laugh, however, sweeping the Phillies in the divisional series and running away with the National League pennant with another sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks. With a stellar performance against Arizona, collecting two home runs and four RBIs, Holliday was named NLCS MVP.
The Rockies’ incredible playoff run would come to a screeching halt however as the team went as ice cold as their namesake. The opposing Boston Red Sox put up nearly three times as many runs as the Rockies, quickly disposing of them in a 4-game sweep. Despite the Rockies’ bats mostly falling silent during the series, Holliday nevertheless finished with a respectable five hits, which included a home run.
Holliday continued to put up a strong performance through the 2008 campaign, though the same couldn’t be said for the Rockies as the team experienced a heavy regression, finishing the year with a 74-88 record.
Unable to work out a new contract with Holliday the following offseason, the Rockies decided that it was time for him to go, and he was shipped off to Oakland for a package of RHP Houston Street, LHP Greg Smith, and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who turned out to be an excellent successor for Holliday in the lineup.
Holliday wouldn’t be with the Athletics for long however as he was quickly turned around at the deadline for a handful of prospects, this time to the St. Louis Cardinals where he would go on to become a legend in a franchise already stuffed to the brim with heroes. Having worn number 5 his entire career, Holliday was forced to relinquish it (big shocker) in favor of number 15–last worn by Jim Edmonds, who interestingly enough had just been traded for another key piece in years to come: David Freese.
Placed fourth in the lineup behind perpetual MVP candidate Albert Pujols, the duo produced a spine-chilling threat for any opposing pitcher unlucky enough to face them. Holliday was an instant hit with his new team, going 4-5 in his Cardinals’ debut. This game featured a start by J. A. Happ for the Phillies, who in a remarkable turn of events would wind up playing for the Cardinals an entire 12 years later.
Holliday’s addition to the lineup was a much-needed boost to the team and was a significant contributor to the Cardinals’ winning their first division title since 2006. It wasn’t enough for a playoff run, however, as the Cardinals were promptly sent packing at the hands of the Dodgers in the divisional series.
2010 was a frustrating campaign for the Cardinals, riding a painful losing streak to get eliminated from playoff contention. Despite this, Holliday once again earned himself a spot in the MVP discussion, coming 12th in voting, alongside winning what was then his fourth silver slugger.
To this point, Holliday had put in the work, put up the numbers, but had only seen a glimpse of playoff success. Coming into his eighth season, Holliday wouldn’t have to wait much longer to finally be crowned a World Series champion.
The Cardinals were able to sneak by the Braves in an incredible September surge for the Wild Card spot, with another All-Star caliber season by Holliday playing no small part. Though his bat fell relatively quiet in the divisional series against the Phillies, Holliday couldn’t be held down for long as he made an electric appearance in the NLCS, shredding the Brewers’ pitching with a slash line of .435/.500/.652.
Though his typical production was absent from the 2011 World Series, the Redbirds nevertheless pulled out on top in an instant classic against the Texas Rangers. Holliday was finally a champion, and he wasn’t planning on throwing in the towel any time soon.