Matt Holliday Ready to Step Up in 2012: A Fan's Take

Tom Verducci, the excellent baseball writer for Sports Illustrated, included an item of interest to St. Louis Cardinals fans in his latest column. He noted that Matt Holliday of the Cardinals recently invited some of the top prospects in the organization to visit St. Louis, join him in some workouts, and generally soak up some baseball knowledge.

This was terrific news for Cardinals fans.

The fact is that Holliday needs to produce for the team this year, and it's encouraging to see him take a leadership role with the younger players. He was signed in January of 2010, in part, as insurance against the possibility that the Cards might not be able to re-sign Albert Pujols. Obviously, that event has indeed come to pass, and now Holliday needs repay the faith the team displayed in him by giving him a seven-year contract. Five years still remain on that deal, plus the team holds an option for a potential sixth season, so Holliday is going to be batting third (my best guess, but not much of a reach) for the Cardinals for a long time.

The great news for Holliday is that he doesn't have to do it alone. Lance Berkman lived up to his reputation as a great teammate in 2011, and also showed a willingness to get out in front of things with the media. This could be a great asset for the laconic Holliday. New Cardinal Carlos Beltran also brings star power, and David Freese should continue his ascent, building off his phenomenal 2011 postseason. Allen Craig, after returning from off-season surgery, will help, assuming manager Mike Matheny finds the at-bats for him. But the reality is that Berkman and Beltran are approaching the ends of their illustrious careers, and neither Freese nor Craig has yet played a full season. Holliday will be around for many years yet.

History and statistics say that the Cardinals will get great results from Holliday. The outfielder's career 162-game averages include a .315 batting average, 192 hits, 110 RBIs, and an OPS of .929.

I hope the prospects listened attentively when they were in St. Louis. Or more to the point, I hope they watched closely and saw how a professional hitter goes about his business.

A native of St. Louis, Brad Boeker has rooted for the Cardinals for over 40 years.