Despite winning their final four games of the regular season, the St. Louis Cardinals (86-76) did not quality for the playoffs. They finished one game behind the Mets and Giants, who both went 87-75 and will square off in the NL Wild Card on Wednesday.
It was a frustrating end for St. Louis, especially for Matt Holliday, who missed seven weeks with a broken thumb before returning for the Cardinals’ final series of the year. Who knows? If Holliday hadn’t gotten hurt, maybe the Cardinals would be in the playoffs.
“It’s tough,” Holliday said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “As an athlete, you want to be on the field. To have that taken away by a hit by pitch, it was disheartening, especially in the last year of my contract. I’d have liked to had seven more weeks to try to make it a tougher decision on the Cardinals with my option. So yeah, it was disheartening and unfortunate. The Cubs have played great obviously and who knows if we’d have been able to even hang with them. But to miss the playoffs or to miss the opportunity to play in the Wild Card game by one game is pretty frustrating.”
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told Holliday last Friday that the Cardinals wouldn’t be bringing him back in 2017.
“He just basically came down and told me, ‘Look, we’re not going to pick up the option. We’d like to do something nice . . . and get you an at-bat before the weekend is out and let the fans cheer for you and show you some appreciation,’” Holliday recalled. That wasn’t necessarily the reason I wanted to know. I didn’t feel like that was something that I absolutely needed. Obviously I’m very grateful for the way it turned out and everything that happened. But really, (I wanted) to be able to thank (everyone I’ve worked with and gotten to know) the right way.”
Holliday did that and more last Friday night, hitting a solo home run in the seventh inning of the Cardinals’ 7-0 win over the Pirates.
“I didn’t know when that at-bat was going to come – or if,” Holliday said. “It was kind of unexpected and very much appreciated in the way it was handled. It couldn’t have turned out any better. It was super exciting.”
It was Holliday’s first at-bat since breaking his thumb against the Cubs on Aug. 11.
“I just felt like it was really meant to be,” Holiday said of the homer. “Sort of an outer-body type experience. Just real thankful for that moment. It was almost like, ‘Wow, that’s got a chance to go over the fence.’ As you’re running, you’re watching it. I guess you’re just hoping for a positive result at first. It’s got a chance to be a home run, and then holy crap, it’s a home run. For a whole bunch of reasons, it just felt really surreal.”
Holliday was greeted at home plate by Matt Carpenter and near the dugout by Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina.
“It was pretty emotional and a pretty surreal moment,” Holliday said.
Holliday, 36, hit .246 with 20 homers and 62 RBIs in 110 games this season. He doesn’t know where he’ll play in 2017, but he’s looking forward to it.
“You own it,” said Holliday, who also had a pinch-hit RBI single in the Cardinals’ 4-3 win over the Pirates on Saturday. “You look at it and say, ‘They’re going in a different direction. It may be time for me to go in another direction.’ While I’m super thankful and appreciative of how I was treated (during my time in St. Louis), it is fun to think about maybe a new opportunity and where my next set-up will be.”