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02 April 2011

Matt Holliday and His Appendix Go On Holiday

Nice Dinger, Mr Holliday
Opening Day for the St. Louis Cardinals was a sloppy, frustrating affair.  Albert Pujols was great at being a rally-killer - grounding into 3 double-plays.  Ryan Theriot gained much hate from Cardinal twitter Nation for mishandling an absolutely horrendous throw from Jon Jay during the 11th inning disaster (why the hate on Theriot and not Jay confounds me.  Oh yeah, former Cub).  Skip Schumaker continues to show that the key to him continuing to be a second baseman will be his bat, not his glove.  And, of course, Ryan Franklin making a rather large mistake to Cameron Maybin with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Despite all the gaffs, there was some brights spots.  Lance Berkman was his usual, charming self as he introduced himself to Redbird fans, flying around the basepaths to score while sporting his new Birds on the Bat duds. Chris Carpenter was, well, Chris Carpenter.  Trevor Miller getting out of a tough eighth-inning jam by being a veteran LOOGY.  And David Freese showed us why the stories about his "old man" ankles should not have dominated spring training reports over his clutch batting.

But to this observer, the biggest bright spot was Matt Holliday.  Season after season, Holliday has been one of MLB biggest slow-starters, making his career by being an absolute rake once the weather heats up.  It is the slow starts that have kept him from ever being an MVP.  Holliday shouldered the load for the Colorado Rockies during their incredible 2007 September/October run to the World Series.  Holliday finished 2nd to Jimmy Rollins in the voting that year.  I've always thought that if the big, bald batsman would jump out of the gates and grab some early headlines, he would be NL MVP.  

Spring Training 2011 gave me great hopes that this could be the year.  Holliday was slugging well in Jupiter - a notorious wind-tunnel that keeps batters humble.  It appeared coming into Opening Day, Holliday was primed to make this his best season and win the MVP award missing from his substantial MLB career.  And Game #1 showed as much.  He went 3-4, including a dramatic HR in the 8th that looked at the time like a clutch game-winner. 

But Holliday felt discomfort in his abdomen Thursday evening and went to the hospital.  Sure enough, it was appendicitis, and surgery was performed.  Luckily it was caught early, and only required laproscopic surgery to remove the offending vestigial organ.  But the most optimistic timetable for a return would be 10 days, with 2-3 weeks recovery time a more normal expectation.

So much for his fast start. 

All this leads to another odd question - which player kicked a baby at Roger Dean Stadium as spring training began.  Pujols' contract, Wainwright's Tommy John surgery, Nick Punto's hernia, Carpenter's hammy, Boggs' back.  Misfortune has been the theme for 2011 so far.  The good Lord is not shining his graces on Cardinal Nation this spring.

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