One of the better Halloween costumes at my annual party this year was Matt Holliday. Pretty simple, actually. But clever.
A guy just wore a Holliday jersey tee with baseball pants that had a Wiffle ball sewn into the crotch. It was funny because it was reductively true. Matt Holliday had indeed defined his 2009 season with one ill-timed nut shot and turned a routine fly out into a holiday meme.
Now he’s preparing to turn this moment of failure into a legacy. Move over Don Denkinger—here comes Matt Holliday.
I’m sure that fateful October night the 45,000 or so Cardinal fans that stood and cheered Matt Holliday after his monumental gaffe thought they were being good people. And to a certain extent they are and they were.
But they also were inadvertently playing a role in what will be another fateful night in 2010 when things will be decidedly more ugly.
Matt Holliday isn’t going to re-sign with the Cardinals.
And it’s going to be awlward turtle times 10 when he comes back to St. Louis to stand in front of many of the same 45,000 or so Cardinal fans to try and beat the team he ruined in 2009.
Sometimes sports are unpredictable. Most of the time they aren’t. We expected the Yankees and Phillies to be good and challenge for a World Series when the season started and by Thursday one of those teams will have indeed won a World Series.
So when the lure of big money takes Holliday away from St. Louis and over to a team with deeper pockets, Cardinal fans will feign surprise.
They will be "outraged" at such a betrayal. They will cry that Holliday is the "downfall of sports" and "what’s wrong with our country?"
But that’s what we knew would happen when he got that cheer. Deep down we had a feeling that Holliday would betray us. That he’d listen to his agent Scott Boras and forget the warm fuzzies from Busch Stadium and be a slave to the greenback.
And deep down we wanted it.
Without conflict, there is no drama. If Albert Pujols hit a home run every single time he batted, baseball would be less fun. We need those pop outs and strike outs or we don’t have anything to cheer for. And Matt Holliday was sent here to be the protagonist.
Allow me to break it down:
1) We admire him from afar, wishing he was ours. Somehow this happens. The Cardinals surrender many parts to get him. But he is one of us now. We love that.
2) He dominates as much as any superstar in sport can dominate for a club over a three month span once we get him. We are in love. We have found the one. He falters at the end, but we show that we’re committed to him with a show of support no other fan base would ever provide a multi-millionaire that ruined a season.
3) He leaves. He has no compunction about leaving. He doesn’t care. And it hurts. Bad. Thus becoming the embodiment of everything that a sports fan loves to hate.
It’s all so obvious. Matt Holliday was sent to this earth to give us something to root against, and his destiny will not be denied by "love" or "support." He needs to take some other team's money so 2010 will make more sense. So we’ll have something to rally around.
Obviously, nothing has happened yet. If you talk to his people they will say that they want to stay in St. Louis and blah, blah, blah.
Matt Holliday will not be a Cardinal in 2010 because he needs to not be a Cardinal in 2010.