Tonight, the Cardinals open a four-game series with the San Diego Padres. It marks the return to St. Louis of former Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay.
Now, to be clear, Jon Jay will not play in the series, as he is on the Disabled List with a broken forearm. In fact, for all I know, he isn't even going to travel to St. Louis, though he probably will. But this is all besides the point, which is that Jon Jay is one of my favorite Cardinals ever and I feel like writing about him.
Jon Jay is not an all-time great St. Louis Cardinal. His 11.4 career Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement ranks 64th among Cardinals position players. Limiting it to 21st century Birdos batters and he ranks 10th, sandwiched between two men traded to make room for Jon Jay in the everyday Cardinals lineup, Ryan Ludwick and Colby Rasmus. And that sums up why I have such affection for Jon Jay. Because he was a survivor.
Following the 2009 season, Derrick Goold did not rank Jon Jay among the organization's top ten prospects. That he did grade Jay as being the best hitter for average, if anything, drives home that Jon Jay was considered but ultimately fell short of the prospect grades of Daryl Jones and Robert Stock. And when Jon Jay was called up from Memphis with a perfectly fine but hardly otherworldly 129 wRC+, it didn't exactly cause the same excitement as the promotion of Oscar Taveras, or anything close to what we will eventually see with Alex Reyes. He was supposed to be a utility outfielder at best.
And from the beginning, Jon Jay exhibited the style he would continue to exhibit throughout his Cardinals career: high batting average with a low-ish walk rate which led to an above-average on-base percentage, not much power, and competent defense which acted as a veritable Rorschach test for Cardinals fans (his below-average arm and so-so speed caused some frustration, but he rarely made major defensive mistakes and the numbers suggest overall competence).
But at the trade deadline, Jay was elevated from utility outfield to starting right fielder when Ryan Ludwick was dealt in a multi-team trade known outside of St. Louis as "the Corey Kluber trade" for Jake Westbrook. After a solidly competent rookie campaign, the Cardinals acquired Lance Berkman to play right field and once again, it appeared Jon Jay would be relegated to purely substitution duty.
But then near the 2011 deadline, Colby Rasmus was traded for pitching help (oh, and Corey Patterson), and Jay became the everyday center fielder. That Rasmus had a poor stretch run with the Toronto Blue Jays helped obscure it a bit, but Jay did not have his finest two months in late 2011. His postseason was far from spectacular, either, culminating in Skip Schumaker taking away some of his starts in the World Series, though Jay did get this well-timed hit in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. Sure, it was pretty BABIP-y, but hey, he had to make the contact. So there's that.
(Skip to 4:39:32 for the aforementioned hit. Or just skip around to your preferred moments of the game. Why yes, I did get sidetracked from writing this to skip around to different parts myself.)
But anyway, with Rasmus gone, Jay was thrust into a full-time starting role in 2012, and he performed well. He continued to produce at the plate, even if in a low-power way, and while some traditionalists overrated his defense by virtue of his zero errors, it was still quite good. But in 2013, he fell somewhat out of favor. Both his offense and defense fell off a bit, and calls increased for Shane Robinson to start more regularly in center field. In the off-season, the Cardinals acquired Peter Bourjos, and Jay's future as a starter seemed once again in doubt.
But after Bourjos initially started games in 2014, Jay eventually regained the job, hitting and fielding at levels much closer to 2012 than 2013. His starting role was questioned, but there was no debating that, independent of other players, Jay's individual performance had improved.
2015 did not go so well for Jon Jay, as his hitting performance bottomed out. He was always a BABIP-dependent hitter, though he had the batted ball profile indicative of a naturally high-BABIP player: his 2015 BABIP of .246 was not even close to good enough. When the Cardinals were at full strength, or at least relatively close to it, Jay was replaced in center field by Randal Grichuk. And in the off-season, he was traded for Jedd Gyorko.
The Jon Jay era did not end well, but the fact that it lasted six years is in and of itself an accomplishment. Not everybody gets six years with one MLB team. And at the end of the day, Jon Jay had more plate appearances as a St. Louis Cardinal than Ken Oberkfell, or John Mabry, or Mark McGwire, and nothing can take that away from him.
Anyway, as for actual current Cardinals, here is what unfolded over the weekend.
Selling at the deadline
Ben Markham wrote about how the Cardinals should not be sellers at the deadline. He correctly notes that players the Cardinals would be trading are almost uniformly players who are underperforming, and thus the team would be selling low on them. Also, the article's picture is Matt Carpenter, whom the Cardinals should probably not trade.
Multipurpose infielder Greg Garcia is having a good season in small doses and the red baron did some contemplating of what Garcia is. He is probably not the top-ten MLB hitter that his current stats would pin him as, but it is hard not to be impressed by what he has done.
The Cardinals won 5-0 on Saturday in a wonderful Adam Wainwright-fueled moment, as recapped by IHeartBoog. They lost in a less fun 6-3 game on Sunday, as recapped by WyoCardsFan.